Who killed Officer J. D. Tippit? Anyone but Oswald
There has never been any doubt about the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald got on a bus after he left the Texas School Book Depository. When arrested, he had on his person a transfer from that bus, punched with bus driver Cecil J. McWatter's unique, identifiable punch-mark. An eyewitness previously acquainted with Oswald testified to Oswald's presence on the bus. When the bus was halted in traffic, Oswald requested a transfer and walked to the nearby Greyhound Bus terminal, where he got in a taxicab driven by William Whaley, who picked Oswald out of a lineup that afternoon. Whaley drove Oswald to Oak Cliff.(2)
JIMThe story gets pretty confusing now -- more twists in it than a watersnake. Richard Carr says he saw four men take off from the Book Depository in a Rambler that possibly belongs to Janet Williams. Deputy Roger Craig says two men picked up Oswald in the same Rambler a few minutes later. Other people say Oswald took a bus out of there, and then because he was stuck in traffic, he hopped a cab to his rooming house in Oak Cliff . . .(1)
Richard Randolph Carr was a crackpot witness whose story changed dramatically between 1963 and his 1969 testimony at the trial of Clay Shaw, where his testimony made him a laughingstock.(3)
Ruth Paine ("Janet Williams" in JFK) did not own a Nash Rambler; she owned a 1955 Chevrolet station wagon, which was parked outside her home at the time of the assassination.(4)
There is little doubt that Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig saw a young man fitting Oswald's general description leave Dealey Plaza in a station wagon sometime around 12:40 PM; in fact, other witnesses support Craig. But it was not Lee Harvey Oswald.(5)
FLASHBACK TO: Oswald's boarding house. Oswald enters his room, passing Earlene Roberts, the heavyset white housekeeper.What evidence does Oliver Stone present that Lee Harvey Oswald had an "intell team"? He presents none. He is speculating to account for the otherwise inexplicable fact that Oswald walked off his job immediately following the assassination.
JIM (VOICE OVER). . . we must assume he wanted to get back in touch with his intell team, probably at a safehouse or at the Texas Theatre, but how could he be sure? He didn't know who to trust anymore . . .(6)
This is one of the most enduring myths surrounding the assassination, but new research from author Dale Myers has put it to rest.The camera closes in on Oswald's perplexed face. Earlene peeks out the shades as she hears two short honks on a horn.
ROBERTS (watching TV)My God, did you see that, Mr. Lee? A man shot the President.
Outside is a black police car driven by Tippit. Also in the car is the fence shooter, dressed as a Dallas policeman. The car drives by, honks twice, waits, then moves away. During this visual, we see the fence shooter changing his uniform into civilian clothes.
JIM (VOICE OVER)Oswald returns to this rooming house around 1 PM, half hour after the assassination, puts on his jacket, grabs his .38 revolver, leaves at 1:04 . . . Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper, says she heard two beeps on a car horn and two uniformed cops pulled up to the house while Oswald was in his room, like it was a signal or something . . .(7)
Although Earlene Roberts was besieged by reporters soon after Oswald was apprehended, nearly a full week passed before she mentioned anything to anyone about a police car stopping by the house.
Other details in Roberts's story prove her to be anything but a credible witness. For example, she claimed that when she saw the alleged police car out front of the roominghouse, she initially assumed its driver was one of two police officers with whom she was friendly, an Officer Burnley or Officer Alexander.
Until recently, no one ever bothered to verify whether or not Roberts did indeed know Dallas police officers by these names. Dale Myers tracked down Charles T. Burnley, the one and only "Burnley" on the police force in 1963, who told Myers he'd never so much as heard of Earlene Roberts until being informed of her "police car honking" story around 1991-92. Roberts did know a DPD officer named Floyd J. Alexander, Sr., though, the man she describes in her testimony as a former employer. Myers found Alexander and confirmed this. The only problem is that Alexander had resigned from the force in 1957, leading one to wonder why Mrs. Roberts would be expecting him to visit in a squad car in 1963.
Perhaps it isn't so strange, then, that Alexander recalled Roberts as someone who wasn't "very bright, had a limited number of friends, and would do almost anything to get attention." This dovetails nicely with the testimony of Roberts's former employer, Gladys Johnson, who recalled having fired Roberts "a time or two" for some of her strange habits, one of which, Mrs. Johnson told Myers, was "[j]ust sitting down and making up tales."(8)
Either way, J. D. Tippit's whereabouts and movements have been meticulously chronciled by researchers like Bill Drenas; Tippit was miles away from Oswald's roominghouse at the time Oliver Stone places him there, had not been anywhere near Dealey Plaza to pick up any shooter, and had no other officer in the car with him at any time that afternoon. Stone is making all of this up.
First of all, Oswald was walking away from Ruby's apartment at the time he encountered J. D. Tippit.(10) What evidence does Oliver Stone present that Oswald even knew Ruby? Only the claims of Beverly Oliver, who not only claims that Oswald knew Ruby, but that David Ferrie (who lived and worked in New Orleans) was in Ruby's Carousel Club so often she mistook him for an assistant manager; who claims to have been the so-called "Babushka Lady" in Dealey Plaza, and claimed to have been filming the motorcade with a Yashica Super 8 movie camera, until being informed that no such camera was manufactured until years later, when she suddenly started denying she'd ever said such a thing; who claims that her film was subsequently confiscated by FBI Special Agent Regis Kennedy, who is documented to have been in New Orleans at that time, interviewing witnesses such as Jack Martin and Dean Andrews; who claims that she and her gangster husband, George McGann, met with Richard Nixon for several hours during the 1968 presidential campaign; and who claims, among other things, to also have known James Earl Ray's purported conspirator in the Martin Luther King, Jr., assassination, "Raoul."
JIM (VOICE OVER)Officer Tippit is shot between 1:10 and 1:15 about a mile away. Though no one actually saw him walking or jogging, the Government says Oswald covered that distance. Incidentally, that walk, if he did it, is in a straight line toward Jack Ruby's house.(9)
That's the best Oliver Stone can do to link Lee Harvey Oswald to Jack Ruby.
Oswald had nearly fifteen minutes to cover nine-tenths of a mile; investigators reconstructing his route estimated he could have walked it in twelve minutes without difficulty.(12) Over the years, numerous assassination researchers have personally retraced Oswald's steps; researchers Russ Burr, Greg Jaynes, and Cecil Jones walked the route with a camcorder in under twelve minutes.(13)
JIM (VOICE OVER)Giving the government the benefit of the doubt, Oswald would have had to jog a mile in six to eleven minutes and commit the murder, then reverse direction and walk 3/5 of a mile to the Texas Theatre and arrive sometime before 1:30. That's some walking.(11)
On a street, Oswald walks alone, fast. A police car pulls up alongside him on 10th Street. Oswald leans on the passenger side of the window. Officer Tippit, suspicious, gets out to question him. Oswald pulls his .38 revolver and shoots him down in the street with 5 shots.Here Stone is apparently growing desperate.
JIM (VOICE OVER)It's also a useful conclusion. After all, why else would Oswald kill Officer Tippit, unless he just shot the President and feared arrest? Not one credible witness could identify Oswald as Tippit's killer.(14)
Mrs. Helen Markham saw Oswald murder Officer Tippit, and picked him out of a lineup only hours later. Despite endless attacks on her credibility, she has never wavered in her identification of Oswald as the murderer.(15)
Domingo Benavides saw Oswald shoot Tippit; Benavides was not taken to a lineup, but positively identified Oswald as the culprit during his Warren Commission deposition.(16)
William Scoggins saw Oswald approach Tippit's patrol car; his view obstructed by shrubbery, he did not see Oswald fire, but he heard the shots and saw Oswald flee the scene. The following day, Scoggins picked Oswald out of a lineup.(17)
Jack Ray Tatum saw Oswald shoot Tippit, and, though he did not come forward with his story at the time, supplied key details of the shooting that confirm his presence at the scene.(18)
No less than six additional witnesses positively identified Lee Harvey Oswald as the man they saw flee the murder scene, revolver in hand.(19) Several of these witnesses saw Oswald unload spent cartridges from his revolver and drop them on the ground; these shells were later linked ballistically to the revolver owned by Lee Harvey Oswald, to the exclusion of all other weapons.(20)
J. D. Tippit
Domingo Benavides, hidden in his truck only a few yards away, watches as another unidentified man (not seen before) shoots and walks away.This is absolutely false. Benavides never "refused to identify Oswald as the killer"; under oath, Benavides positively identified Lee Harvey Oswald as the man he saw murder J. D. Tippit.(22) He originally told police at the murder scene he wasn't sure whether he could identify the killer or not, and, in their infinite wisdom, the officers decided not to take him to view a lineup.(23)
JIM (VOICE OVER)Domingo Benavides, the closest witness to the shooting, refused to identify Oswald as the killer and was never taken to a lineup.(21)
We see Acquilla Clemons, a black woman, looking on. She watches as two men kill Tippit. One of them resembles the fence shooter. The other one is a mystery figure, seen before in the fringes. The men walk off quickly in opposite directions. We notice a policeman's uniform hanging in the back seat of Tippit's car.Among those dedicated to exonerating Oswald of Tippit's murder, Acquilla Clemons is easily the most popular witness. But she did not come forward with her story until later, and there is considerable doubt that she even witnessed the events she described. The first investigators to interview Clemons, George and Patricia Nash, came away with the impression that Clemons "may have based her story on second-hand accounts of others at the scene."(25)
JIM (VOICE OVER)Acquilla Clemons saw the killer with another man and says they went off in separate directions. Mrs. Clemons was never taken to lineup or to the Warren Commission.(24)
If indeed Clemons was telling the truth, then two factors must be taken into account: her distance from the crime scene, about three-quarters of a block away, and the timing of her account: she did not see anything until some seconds after the last shot was fired.(26)
Dale Myers, who has researched the Tippit murder exhaustively, believes that the man Clemons saw standing near Tippit's patrol car was Oak Cliff resident Frank Cimino, who ran out of his house when he heard the shots, spoke briefly with witness Helen Markham, and approached Tippit to confirm he was dead.(27)
Retired FBI agent Jim Hosty has a different opinion. In an interview with Steve Bochan, Hosty states, "Well, the ones that she saw leaving were the taxi cab driver [Scoggins] and the used car salesman [Ted Callaway] that took Tippit's pistol and went looking for Oswald. You know, they came over, got his gun, and tried to chase him down but lost him." This is possible, if Clemons missed seeing Callaway and Scoggins get into Scoggins's cab a moment later, and drive off in search of Oswald.(28)
Dale Myers notes that at least one part of Clemons's tale lacks credibility. She told a variety of stories about a man she claimed threatened her, warning her not to speak about what she had seen. To George and Patricia Nash, she claimed this man had been an FBI agent. (FBI files disclose no references to Mrs. Clemons.) To researcher Mark Lane, she claimed the man had been a gun-toting police officer. But in a portion of her interview that was cut from Lane's film, Rush to Judgment, Clemons describes the man carrying, not a gun, but a camera, suggesting that if Clemons was frightened by anyone, it may well have been a newspaperman.(29)
Either way, several witnesses saw one man, Lee Harvey Oswald, shoot J. D. Tippit; Clemons is the only witness who claims to have seen two men murder Tippit. Whatever it was that Clemons saw, if anything, she is simply not a credible witness.(30)
Wright's story contains numerous details that render it non-credible, such as Wright's claim that the killer escaped the crime scene in a gray automobile; he later altered his story, claiming that it was another man who drove off in the gray coupe, while the killer ran alongside, yelling back and forth with the driver. Either way, other witnesses state there was no such car near the crime scene.(32) (Although Wright was specific about the car being a gray coupe, one wonders if perhaps he did see witnesses Scoggins and Callaway take Tippit's gun and set out after Oswald in Scoggins's cab.)(33)
JIM (VOICE OVER)Mr. Frank Wright, who saw the killer run away, stated flatly that the killer was not Lee Oswald.(31)
Again, numerous credible witnesses saw Lee Harvey Oswald and no one else approach J. D. Tippit's patrol car; saw Lee Harvey Oswald and no one else shoot Officer J. D. Tippit; and saw Lee Harvey Oswald and no one else flee the scene, dropping a number of spent cartridges as he ran; these cartridges are linked ballistically, to the exclusion of all other weapons, to the revolver owned by Lee Harvey Oswald and taken from Oswald upon his arrest at the Texas Theatre a short time later.(34)
Oliver Stone does not report any of this.
Again, this is simply false. Lee Harvey Oswald's snub-nosed .38 Smith & Wesson revolver, serial number V510210, is the gun that killed Officer J. D. Tippit. It was ballistically matched, to the exclusion of all other weapons, to the expended cartridge cases recovered from the crime scene.(36)
JIM (VOICE OVER)Oswald is found with a .38 revolver. Tippit is killed with a .38 automatic.(35)
For his claim about the "automatic," Stone has seized upon a statement by Officer Gerald Lynn Hill, who found one of Oswald's spent cartridges at the crime scene and radioed that the shell had come from a .38 automatic. As Hill has explained many times, he simply assumed that the shell came from an automatic because it was found at the scene, inferring it had been ejected from an automatic. It is all but unheard of for a murderer to manually empty a revolver at the scene of a crime; yet that's precisely what numerous witnesses saw Oswald do.(37) It suggests he had a reasonable expectation of using the revolver again, and soon.
This is another favorite claim of conspiracy-oriented authors. Yet Officer Poe specifically testified he was not sure whether he initialed the cartridges or not: "I couldn't swear to it; no, sir," he said.(39)CUT TO: Policeman Poe marking the bullets.
JIM (VOICE OVER)At the scene of the crime Officer J. M. Poe marks the shells with his initials to record the chain of evidence.
JIM (V. O.)Those initials are not on the three cartridge cases which the Warren Commission presents to him.(38)
Poe later also clarified that the cartridges had so many identifying scratches on them from others at the DPD, that he could not tell whether his mark was present or not.(40)
Others at the Dallas Police Department flatly deny that Poe marked the hulls at all. Retired homicide detective Jim Leavelle says, "Some officers think they are doing the right thing and get in over their heads. But I talked to Poe. He said he didn't remember marking [the cartridges]. But that is something we didn't do back then. I didn't do it. [He] didn't do it. And I didn't ask [him] to do it. When I was out there and Poe offered the shells to me I said, 'No, just go ahead and put them in the envelope and send them on to the crime lab and let them work with them from there.' My intention was simply to cut down on the [number of officers involved in the] chain of evidence."(41)
Former Dallas crime lab Lieutenant J. Carl Day confirms that in 1963, the Dallas police had no consistent policy regarding the marking of evidence.(42)
Regardless, Dale Myers points out that there were four cartridges recovered from the crime scene, and only two of those were turned over to the crime lab by Officer J. M. Poe. The chain of evidence for the other two shells is rock-solid; there is absolutely no doubt they were fired from the revolver belonging to Lee Harvey Oswald.(43) Oliver Stone fails to mention this too in his movie.
Yet Stone has the nerve to accuse others of concealing and distorting evidence.
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1. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 170. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.
2. Warren Commission Report, pp. 157-63.
3. James Kirkwood, American Grotesque (New York: Harper, 1992), pp. 351-53.
4. Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. II, p. 506; Vol. VI, p. 271.
5. John Kelin, "Yet Another Eyewitness," Fair Play, No. 17. Craig's insistence that the man he saw was Oswald must be taken with a grain of salt. While at the time he was deposed by the Warren Commission there was scant reason to question his reliability, he later developed into one of the most notorious confabulators connected to the case. Among other things, he fed Jim Garrison a tremendous amount of false information, and fabricated testimony against one of Garrison's minor suspects. At one point he contacted the suspect and offered to recant his testimony for money. One of the most respected JFK assassination researchers of all, the late Mary Ferrell, knew Craig very well for years, and described him as "a very sick young man. He had made a name for himself as a very promising young law enforcement officer. When he came forward with some of the 'stories' he told following the events of that November weekend, he believed that he would be offered a great deal of money . . . I have made enemies because I have continued to say that I have never really believed him." Roger Craig's own daughter has called him "disturbed" and "unstable," and castigates conspiracy theorists for perpetuating the stories he told. Craig committed suicide in 1975, a broken man.
7. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 171. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.
8. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), pp. 50-55.
9. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 171. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.
10. Several witnesses saw Oswald walking west on Tenth Street at that time; Jack Ruby's apartment was to the east. (Myers, pp. 61-63.)
11. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 171. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.
12. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), pp. 664-65, fn. 984.
13. Russ Burr, newsgroup post of December 21, 1999.
14. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 172. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.
15. Warren Commission Report, pp. 167-68.
16. Warren Commission Report, pp. 166-67.
17. Warren Commission Report, p. 166.
18. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), pp. 71-72. Tatum is the only witness who saw Oswald walk over to Tippit and fire a bullet into his head at point-blank range, a detail confirmed by Tippit's autopsy. Oliver Stone incorporates this point-blank shot into JFK while simultaneously claiming no credible witness identified Oswald as the murderer, which Tatum certainly did.
19. Warren Commission Report, pp. 168-71.
20. Warren Commission Report, pp. 166, 168, 171-72. Revolver ownership: Warren Commission Report, pp. 172-74.
21. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 172. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.
22. Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. VI, p. 452.
23. Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. VI, p. 452. In his book, November 22, 1963: You Are the Jury, the Warren Commission staffer who deposed Benavides, David W. Belin, expresses his astonishment that any police officer would have declined to bring Benavides to a lineup. (David W. Belin, November 22, 1963: You Are the Jury [New York: Quadrangle, 1973], p. 42.)
24. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 172. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.
25. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), p. 72.
26. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), pp. 72-73.
27. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), pp. 72-73.
28. Warren Commission Report, p. 169.
29. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), pp. 72-73.
30. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), pp. 72-73.
31. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 172. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.
32. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), pp. 76-78.
33. Warren Commission Report, p. 169.
34. Warren Commission Report, pp. 165-74, 558-59, 570.
35. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 172. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.
36. Warren Commission Report, pp. 558-59. Because the revolver had been rechambered to fire .38 Special cartridges, it was impossible to draw definite conclusions as to whether the gun had fired the bullets recovered from J. D. Tippit's body. The recovered bullets were consistent in size and manufacturer with those fired from the revolver, however, and one ballistics expert, Joseph D. Nicol, did conclude from rifling characteristics visible on one bullet that it had been fired from the V510210 revolver.
37. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), p. 260.
38. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 172. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.
39. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), p. 261.
40. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), p. 261.
41. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), p. 265.
42. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), p. 265.
43. Dale K. Myers, With Malice (Milford, Mich.: Oak Cliff Press, 1998), p. 266-69.
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