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PRESIDENT, VICE PRESIDENT SUFFERED GUNSHOT WOUNDS: FORENSICS EXPERT

2004-04-11 17:24:26

    Taipei, April 11 (CNA) A renowned forensics expert invited to Taiwan to help investigate the March 19 presidential election-eve shooting of President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu said Sunday that they did indeed suffer gunshot wounds.

    Dr. Henry Lee made the remarks at a press conference held at the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) prior to his departure after a whirlwind two-day stay.

    He said that the two bullets collected at the shooting scene in Tainan, southern Taiwan bore traces of clothing fibers and windshield glass, which Lee said shows that they were the two bullets that hit Chen and Lu. Chen was grazed on the lower abdomen, while Lu received a scratch to her knee.

    At the press conference in which Lee summarized the forensic evidence examination, he spoke on his team's progress with the bullets and the shells, the clothing worn by the president and vice president when the incident took place, an examination of their wounds, the bullet hole in the windshield of the jeep in which they were riding when they were shot, and a reconstruction of the trajectories of the bullets.

    He said that judging from glass shards found in the jeep, the bullets came from outside the jeep -- some skeptics believe bodyguards riding in the jeep shot the president.

    Showing pictures of Chen's bloodstained clothing, he said that there was little actual blood on the jacket and that some of the large blotches on Chen's jacket and shirt were in fact a petroleum-based ointment.

    Chen has said that after being shot, he thought he had been hurt by one of the firecrackers that the crowd was igniting to greet him, so he asked his bodyguards to help him apply ointment to the wound.

    Lee determined that the two bullets used in the shooting appear to have been home-made in the same illegal workshop because they bear similar marks left by machinery or tools.

    He suggested that CIB forensic personnel should trace the machine marks, carefully examine the ingredients of the gunpowder used, and conduct trial shooting on clothing and windshield glass. He also said that the attacker used a semi-automatic weapon.

    He was unable to speculate as to whether the shooting was carried out by a professional killer.

    Lee would not respond to questions of whether there is a possibility that the shooting was staged to win last-minute sympathy votes for Chen, saying only that he expressed his stance before coming to Taiwan that he is "coming to examine the physical evidence and not to conduct a criminal investigation." Before his arrival, some had doubted his impartiality, pointing out his support of the opposition "pan-blue alliance."

    He added that the knowledge that many people in Taiwan are pinning their hopes on his being able to shed more light on the case has made the case "the most daunting in terms of difficulty and pressure" since he started forensics work.

    Lee said he will further examine the evidence when he returns to the United States.

    He was very positive about the performance of the CIB, saying that it kept the evidence intact and that the "physical evidence collected has not been contaminated or replaced."

    Lee, who was involved in such high-profile cases as the O.J. Simpson murder trial, was invited by State Public Prosecutor General Lu Ren-fa to help with the case.

    Upon his arrival in Taiwan Friday morning, he went straight to the Presidential Office to examine the president's wounds. He then went to the CIB to listen to a briefing on the shooting and examine the evidence, traveling later to the Chi Mei Medical Center in Tainan County where the president sought medical treatment after shooting, where he viewed X-rays of the president. He went to the scene of the shooting in Tainan City later, where he determined a possible attack location by using a laser pointer.

    He returned from Tainan to Taipei Saturday afternoon and went straight to the vice president's residence to examine her wound.

    After a dinner hosted by the state public prosecutor general, he continued to discuss the case with his team.

    Accompanying him were Charles P. Illsley, who developed an alternative light source technology that is used to detect trace amounts of substances that are invisible to the human eye, as well as crime scene special photographer Calvin D. Ostler, legal consultant Austin J. McGuigan, and his assistant Dr. Jacob S. Loke.

    Lee said that during his two-day hours in Taiwan, he had slept for only 90 minutes and was "practically exhausted. "

(By Lilian Wu)

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