Oswald and Officer McDonald:
The Arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald

Copyright © 1999, 2000 by David Reitzes

 

 

The Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy, attempted to shoot Officer Maurice N. McDonald when McDonald approached him in the Texas Theatre. Was the commission justified in reaching this conclusion?

 

The Warren Report

At 1:45 p.m., the police radio stated, "Have information a suspect just went in the Texas Theatre on West Jefferson." Patrol cars bearing at least 15 officers converged on the Texas Theatre. Patrolman M. N. McDonald, with Patrolmen R. Hawkins, T. A. Hutson, and C. T. Walker, entered the theatre from the rear. Other policemen entered the front door and searched the balcony. . . . [Johnny] Brewer met McDonald and the other policemen at the alley exit door, stepped out onto the stage with them and pointed out the man who had come into the theatre without paying. The man was Oswald. He was sitting alone in the rear of the main floor of the theatre near the right center aisle. About six or seven people were seated on the theatre's main floor and an equal number in the balcony.

McDonald first searched two men in the center of the main floor, about 10 rows from the front. He walked out of the row up the right center aisle. When he reached the row where the suspect was sitting, McDonald stopped abruptly and told the man to get on his feet. Oswald rose from his seat, bringing up both hands. As McDonald started to search Oswald's waist for a gun, he heard him say, "Well, it's all over now." Oswald then struck McDonald between the eyes with his left fist.; with his right hand he drew a gun from his waist. McDonald struck back with his right hand and grabbed the gun with his left hand. They both fell into the seats. Three other officers, moving toward the scuffle, grabbed Oswald from the front, rear and side. As McDonald fell into the seat with his left hand on the gun, he felt something graze across his hand and heard what sounded like the snap of the hammer. McDonald felt the pistol scratch his cheek as he wrenched it away from Oswald. Detective Bob K. Carroll, who was standing beside McDonald, seized the gun from him. . . . Some of the officers saw Oswald strike McDonald with his fist. Most of them heard a click which they assumed to be a click of the hammer of the revolver. Testimony of a firearms expert before the Commission established that the hammer of the revolver never touched the shell in the chamber. Although the witnesses did not hear the sound of a misfire, they might have heard a snapping noise resulting from the police officer grabbing the cylinder of the revolver and pulling it away from Oswald while he was attempting to pull the trigger.

Two patrons of the theatre and John Brewer testified regarding the arrest of Oswald, as did the various police officers who participated in the fight. George Jefferson Applin, Jr., confirmed that Oswald fought with four or five officers before he was handcuffed. . . . John Gibson, another patron in the theatre, saw an officer grab Oswald, and he claims that he heard the click of a gun misfiring. . . . Johnny Brewer testified he saw Oswald pull the revolver and the officers struggle with him to take it away but that once he was subdued, no officer struck him.(1)

 

Officer Maurice N. "Nick" McDonald

Mr. McDONALD. . . . [J]ust as I got to the row where the suspect was sitting, I stopped abruptly, and turned in and told him to get on his feet. He rose immediately, bringing up both hands. He got this hand about shoulder high, his left hand shoulder high, and he got his right hand about breast high. He said, "Well, it is all over now."

As he said this, I put my left hand on his waist and then his hand went to the waist. And this hand struck me between the eyes on the bridge of the nose.

Mr. BALL. Did he cock his fist?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir; knocking my cap off.

Mr. BALL. Which fist did he hit you with?

Mr. McDONALD. His left fist.

Mr. BALL. What happened then?

Mr. McDONALD. Well, whenever he knocked my hat off, any normal reaction was for me to go at him with this hand.

Mr. BALL. Right hand?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes. I went at him with this hand, and I believe I struck him on the face, but I don't know where. And with my hand, that was on his hand over the pistol.

Mr. BALL. Did you feel the pistol?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. Which hand was -- was his right hand or his left hand on the pistol?

Mr. McDONALD. His right hand was on the pistol.

Mr. BALL. And which of your hands?

Mr. McDONALD. My left hand, at this point.

Mr. BALL. And had he withdrawn the pistol.

Mr. McDONALD. He was drawing it as I put my hand.

Mr. BALL. From his waist?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. What happened then?

Mr. McDONALD. Well, whenever I hit him, we both fell into the seats. While we were struggling around there, with this hand on the gun --

Mr. BALL. Your left hand?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir. Somehow I managed to get this hand in the action also.

Mr. BALL. Your right hand?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir. Now, as we fell into the seats, I called out, "I have got him," and Officer T. A. Hutson, he came to the row behind us and grabbed Oswald around the neck. And then Officer C. T. Walker came into the row that we were in and grabbed his left arm. And Officer Ray Hawkins came to the row in front of us and grabbed him from the front.

By the time all three of these officers had got there, I had gotten my right hand on the butt of the pistol and jerked it free.

Mr. BALL. Had you felt any movement of the hammer?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir. When this hand -- we went down into the seats.

Mr. BALL. When your left hand went into the seats, what happened?

Mr. McDONALD. It felt like something had grazed across my hand. I felt movement there. And that was the only movement I felt. And I heard a snap. I didn't know what it was at the time.

Mr. BALL. Was the pistol out of his waist at that time?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. Do you know any way it was pointed?

Mr. McDONALD. Well, I believe the muzzle was toward me, because the sensation came across this way. To make a movement like that, it would have to be the cylinder or the hammer.

Mr. BALL. Across your left palm?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir. And my hand was directly over the pistol in this manner. More or less the butt. But not on the butt.

Mr. BALL. What happened when you jerked the pistol free?

Mr. McDONALD. When I jerked it free, I was down in the seats with him, with my head, some reason or other, I don't know why, and when I brought the pistol out, it grazed me across the cheek here, and I put it all the way out to the aisle, holding it by the butt. I gave the pistol to Detective Bob Carroll at that point. . . .(2)

 

Some confusion would result because McDonald later signed off on the V510210 revolver, despite the fact that it had been out of his possession for several hours.

Mr. BALL. Later you went downtown?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. And did you put a mark on the revolver?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir; I did.(3)

 

Had Oswald been tried for Tippit's murder, McDonald's carelessness could have gotten the revolver ruled inadmissible. There is also a discrepancy in the record about whether or not the revolver misfired when Oswald attempted to shoot McDonald. It did not, but there seems to have been some confusion, as there was talk of one of the bullets in the revolver being slightly dented, as if from a misfire.

 

Mr. BALL. And did you look at the ammunition in the revolver, the six rounds in the cylinder?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. Did you notice anything unusual about any one of them?

Mr. McDONALD. I noticed on the primer of one of the shells it had an indentation on it, but not one that had been fired or anything -- not that strong of an indentation.

Mr. BALL. . . . Now, on one of the cartridges that have come from Commission's Exhibit 145, consisting of two cartridges, one of these you identify as a cartridge with a dent in it?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. How can you tell this?

Mr. McDONALD. From the center of this -- of the primer there -- it is a small indentation, and some of the metal is blurred or not polished.

Mr. BALL. And your mark is on one of these cartridges?

Mr. McDONALD. Yes, sir.(4)

 

Article continues below.

 


M. N. "Nick" McDonald on Nov. 22, 1963

 

 

Officer Ray Hawkins

Mr. HAWKINS. I was about three rows from -- still in the same aisle, on the left aisle and about three rows from McDonald and Oswald when I heard him say, "I've got him," or "This is it," or some words to that effect.

Mr. BALL. Did you hear Oswald say anything?

Mr. HAWKINS. Not at that time; no, sir; I did not.

Mr. BALL. . . . Now, did you see Oswald strike Officer McDonald?

Mr. HAWKINS. Yes, sir; I did.

Mr. BALL. With what -- with his fist?

Mr. HAWKINS. It appeared he struck him with his fist.

Mr. BALL. Which one?

Mr. HAWKINS. Right fist.

Mr. BALL. What was Officer McDonald doing at that time?

Mr. HAWKINS. I remember seeing him standing beside Oswald, and when I arrived where they were, both of them were down in the seat -- Oswald and McDonald had both fallen down into the seat, and very shortly after I got there, a gun was pulled, came out of Oswald's belt and was pulled across to their right, or toward the south aisle of the theatre.

Officer McDonald grabbed the pistol, and the best I can remember, Sergeant Hill, who had gotten there, said, "I've got the gun," and he took the gun and we handcuffed Oswald.

Mr. BALL. Did you hear any snap of the hammer?

Mr. HAWKINS. I heard something that I thought was a snap. I didn't know whether it was a snap of a pistol -- I later learned that they were sure it was.

I didn't know whether it was a snap of the gun or whether it was in the seats someone making the noise.

Mr. BALL. There was some noise you heard?

Mr. HAWKINS. Yes, sir; there was.

Mr. BALL. You couldn't identify it?

Mr. HAWKINS. No, sir; I don't think so -- I don't think I could say for sure.(5)

 

Officer C. T. Walker

Mr. WALKER. McDonald approached him, and he said, I don't know exactly, I assumed he said, "Stand up!" And Oswald stood up.

Mr. BELIN. Did you hear Oswald say anything?

Mr. WALKER. No.

Mr. BELIN. Was Oswald facing you as he stood up?

Mr. WALKER. No; he faced McDonald.

Mr. BELIN. All right.

Mr. WALKER. He put his hand up, not exactly as you would raise your hands to be searched, but more or less showing off his muscles, what I call it, kind of hunching his shoulders at the same time, and McDonald put his hand down to Oswald's pocket, it looked like to me, and McDonald's head was tilted slightly to the right, looking down in the right hand.

Mr. BELIN. Looking in whose?

Mr. WALKER. McDonald's right hand as he was searching, and he felt of his pocket, and Oswald then hit him, it appeared, with his left hand first, and then with his right hand. They was scuffling there, and Officer Hutson and I ran toward the back of Oswald and Hutson threw his arm around his neck, and I grabbed his left arm, and we threw him back over the seat.

At this time I didn't see any gun that was involved. I don't know whether we pulled Oswald away from McDonald for a split second or what, but he was thrown back against the seat, and then the next thing I saw, Oswald's hand was down on the gun in his belt there, and McDonald had came forward again and was holding his, Oswald's hand.

Mr. BELIN. When you saw Oswald's hand by his belt, which hand did you see by his belt?

Mr. WALKER. I Saw his fight hand. I had his left hand, you see.

Mr. BELIN. When you saw Oswald's hand by his belt, which hand did you see then?

Mr. WALKER. He had ahold of the handle of it.

Mr. BELIN. Handle of what?

Mr. WALKER. The revolver.

Mr. BELIN. Was there a revolver there?

Mr. WALKER. Yes; there was.

Mr. BELIN. All right.

Mr. WALKER. And it stayed there for a second or two. He didn't get it out. McDonald had come forward and was holding his hand.

Ray Hawkins was behind me to my left at that time, and whether or not he came at the same time we did or not, but he was there, and there was a detective.

Oswald had ahold of my shirt and he practically pulled off my nameplate by gripping it with his hand, and I was bent over, and I was in an awkward position, and I could see several hands on the gun.

The gun finally got out of his belt, and it was about waist high and pointed out at about a 45 degree angle.

I turned around and I was holding Oswald trying to get his arm up behind him in a hammerlock, and I heard it click. I turned around and the gun was still Pointing at approximately a 45 degree angle. Be pointed slightly toward the screen, what I call.

Now Hawkins was in the general direction of the gun.

Mr. BELIN. When you heard a click, what kind of click was it?

Mr. WALKER. A real light click, real light.

Mr. BELIN. Was it a click of the seat?

Mr. WALKER. Well, I assume it was a click of a revolver on the shell, and that is when the gun was doing the most moving around. It was moving around in the general area, and they were still fighting. And some one said, "Let go of the gun," and Oswald said, "I can't."

And a detective, I don't recall who it was, there were so many people around by that time, the area was bursting with policemen, and it appeared to me that he reached over and pulled the gun away from everybody, pulled it away from everyone, best I can recall.

Mr. BELIN. Okay, what happened then?

Mr. WALKER. Ray Hawkins was on my left. He said, "Bring his arm around," and said, "I have the handcuffs."

He said, "Bring his arm around so I can get the cuffs on him."

I finally got his left arm around and I snapped the cuffs on it, and Hawkins went over the seat there and picked up, someone pulled his right arm around there, and Hawkins snapped the handcuffs on him, and turned him around and faced him, Oswald, north.

And Detective Bentley got on his left arm and I took his right arm, and we went out the aisle that I, which would be the left aisle, that I had came in, with Oswald, and walked him out the front.

He was hollering, "I protest this police brutality."(6)

 

Detective Bob K. Carroll

Mr. CARROLL. Well, I started down the stairs and was going back down to the lower floor when I heard someone holler something -- I believe it was "Here he is," or something like that. I mean, it was a loud holler, you could tell it wasn't just someone talking, and I started running, and Lyons fell -- he sprained his ankle and I started running and I came up to the right of Oswald. I came up to the right and Sergeant Hill to the left, and then Ray Hawkins was in the aisle behind him -- he come up in the aisle behind from the left.

Mr. BALL. You came from the left aisle, did you, down the row of seats?

Mr. CARROLL. No, sir; facing the screen, I came from the right aisle and then come up on Oswald's right.

Mr. BALL. Who came from Oswald's left, facing the screen?

Mr. CARROLL. Jerry Hill -- Sgt. Jerry Hill.

Mr. BALL. And then, who came from behind?

Mr. CARROLL. Ray Hawkins.

Mr. BALL. Where were you when you heard the sound "I've got him"?

Mr. CARROLL. Just coming off of the stairs from the balcony.

Mr. BALL. And you ran to the orchestra entrance did you -- to the aisle?

Mr. CARROLL. To the aisle from the lobby -- you come downstairs into the lower lobby and the aisles lead off the lower lobby, and I come through the lobby and he was sitting rather close, I don't know exactly which row of seats it was, but it was back close to the back of the theatre.

Mr. BALL. And how many seats in from the right aisle, as you faced the screen?

Mr. CARROLL. It was approximately -- close to the center of the second bunch of seats.

Mr. BALL. What did you see when you came into the entrance to the aisle?

Mr. CARROLL. I saw standing up at the time Oswald was standing up there at that time. Several of us were converging at the same time upon him.

Mr. BALL. Where was McDonald?

Mr. CARROLL. He was on Oswald's, let me see, the first time I think I saw Nick was, I believe he was on Oswald's right side.

Mr. BALL. Were they struggling?

Mr. CARROLL. Everyone was struggling with him -- yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. I mean, were Oswald and McDonald struggling together?

Mr. CARROLL. Yes, sir; and then when I got up close enough, I saw a pistol pointing at me so I reached and grabbed the pistol and jerked the pistol away and stuck it in my belt, and then I grabbed Oswald.

Mr. BALL. Who had hold of that pistol at that time?

Mr. CARROLL. I don't know, sir. I just saw the pistol pointing at me and I grabbed it and jerked it away from whoever had it and that's all, and by that time then the handcuffs were put on Oswald.

Mr. BALL. Who put them on him?

Mr. CARROLL. I'm not sure who actually put the handcuffs on -- I think it was Ray Hawkins.

Mr. BALL. Put them on from behind?

Mr. CARROLL. Yes, sir.(7)

 

Officer T. A. Hutson

Mr. HUTSON. I saw this person stand up, and McDonald and him became engaged in a struggle.

Mr. BELIN. Did you see who hit whom first?

Mr. HUTSON. No. . . . The lights were down. The lights were on in the theatre, but it was dark. . . . Visibility was poor.

Mr. BELIN. Then what did you see happen?

Mr. HUTSON. I saw McDonald down in the he seat beside this person, and this person was in a half standing crouching position pushing down on the left side of McDonald's face, and McDonald was trying to push him off.

Mr. BELIN. This person was right-handed? You have used a motion here that he was pushing on the left side of McDonald's face?

Mr. HUTSON. Right.

Mr. BELIN. All right.

Mr. HUTSON. And McDonald was trying to hold him off with his hand.

Mr. BELIN. All right.

Mr. HUTSON. I reached over from the back of the seat with my right arm and put it around this person's throat.

Mr. BELIN. All right.

Mr. HUTSON. And pulled him back up on the back of the seat that he was originally sitting in.

At this time Officer C. T. Walker came up in the same row of seats that the struggle was taking place in and grabbed this person's left hand and held it.

Mr. BELIN. Okay.

Mr. HUTSON. McDonald was at this time simultaneously trying to hold this person's right hand. Somehow this person moved his right hand to his waist, and I saw a revolver come out, and McDonald was holding on to it with his right hand, and this gun was waving up toward the back of the seat like this.

Mr. BELIN. Now you had your left hand, or was it McDonald's left hand, on the suspect's right hand?

Mr. HUTSON. McDonald was using both of his hands to hold onto this person's right hand.

Mr. BELIN. Okay.

Mr. HUTSON. And the gun was waving around towards the back of the seat, up and down, and I heard a snapping sound at one time.

Mr. BELIN. What kind of snapping sound was it?

Mr. HUTSON. Sounded like the snap of a pistol, to me, when a pistol snaps. . . . The gun was taken from the suspect's hand by Officer McDonald and somebody else. I couldn't say exactly. They were all in on the struggle, and Officer Hawkins, in other words, he simultaneously, we decided to handcuff him.

We had restrained him after the pistol was taken, but he was still resisting arrest, and we stood him up and I let go of his neck at this time and took hold of his right arm and attempted to bring it back behind him, and Officer Hawkins and Walker and myself attempted to handcuff him.

At this time Sgt. Jerry Hill came up and assisted as we were handcuffing.(8)

 

Sgt. Gerald Hill

Mr. HILL. . . . I saw some officers struggling with a white male.

I reached out and grabbed the left arm of the suspect, and just before I got to him I heard somebody yell, "Look out, he's got a gun."

I was on the same row with the suspect. The man on the row immediately behind him was an officer named Hutson. McDonald was on the other side of the suspect from me in the same aisle.

Two officers, C. T. Walker and Ray Hawkins, were in the row in front of us holding the suspect from the front and forcing him backwards and down into the seat. And to McDonald's right reaching over, and I don't recall which row he was on, was an officer named Bob Carroll. And then Paul Bentley and K. E. Lyons, who was Carroll's partner, they were both in the special service bureau, also was there. They came up at various intervals while all this was going on.

We finally got the man subdued to the point where we had control of him and his legs pinned and his arms pinned. I said, "Let's handcuff him." And being that I was working in plainclothes and working in personnel, didn't have a pair of handcuffs, and I asked Hawkins if he had. And he said, "Yes."(9)

Mr. BELIN. . . . All right; now, let's pick up what happened from the time you started, with the time you opened the doors of the car to put the suspect in the car.

Mr. HILL. Officer Bentley -- the suspect was put in the right rear door of the squad car and was instructed to move over to the middle. C. T. Walker got into the rear seat and would have been sitting on the right rear.

Paul Bentley went around the car and got in the left rear door and sat on that side. . . . As he started to get in the car, he handed me a pistol, which he identified as the one that had been taken from the suspect in the theatre.

Mr. BELIN. When did he identify this to you?

Mr. HILL. I asked him was this his. He said, "No, it is the suspect's."

Mr. BELIN. When did he do that?

Mr. HILL. As soon as he handed it to me.

Mr. BELIN. When was that?

Mr. HILL. Right as I sat down in the car, he apparently had it in his belt, and as he started to sit down, he handed it to me. I was already in the car and seated.

Mr. BELIN. Now I am going to hand you what has been marked Commission Exhibit 143. Would you state if you know what this is?

Mr. HILL. This is a .38 caliber revolver, Smith & Wesson, with a 2" barrel that would contain six shells. It is an older gun that has been blue steeled, and has a worn wooden handle.

Mr. BELIN. Have you ever seen this gun before?

Mr. HILL. I am trying to see my mark on it to make sure, sir. . . . Here it is, Hill right here, right in this crack. . . . It would be to the inside of the pistol grip holding the gun in the air. It would begin under the trigger guard to where the last name H-i-l-1 is scratched in the metal.

Mr. BELIN. Who put that name in there?

Mr. HILL. I did.

Mr. BELIN. When did you do that?

Mr. HILL. This was done at approximately 4 p.m., the afternoon of Friday, November 22, 1963, in the personnel office of the police department.

Mr. BELIN. Did you keep that gun in your possession until you scratched your name on it?

Mr. HILL. Yes, sir; I did.

Mr. BELIN. Was this gun the gun that Officer Carroll handed to you?

Mr. HILL. And identified to me as the suspect's weapon.

Mr. BELIN. This is what has now been marked as Commission Exhibit 143, is that correct?

Mr. HILL. Yes, sir; that is what it says. . . . Then I broke the gun open to see how many shells it contained and how many live rounds it had in it.

Mr. BELIN. How many did you find?

Mr. HILL. There were six in the chambers of the gun. One of them had an indention in the primer that appeared to be caused by the hammer. There were five others. All of the shells at this time had indentations.(10)

 

Johnny Calvin Brewer

Mr. BREWER. Well, I saw this policeman approach Oswald, and Oswald stood up and I heard some hollering. I don't know exactly what he said, and this man hit Patrolman McDonald.

Mr. BELIN. You say this man hit Patrolman McDonald. Did you know it was Patrolman McDonald?

Mr. BREWER. I didn't know his name, but I had seen him quite a few times around Oak Cliff. But I didn't know his name.

Mr. BELIN. Then you later found out this was Patrolman McDonald?

Mr. BREWER. Yes.

Mr. BELIN. Did you say this man was the same man?

Mr. BREWER. The same man that had stood in my lobby that I followed to the show.

Mr. BELIN. Who hit who first?

Mr. BREWER. Oswald hit McDonald first, and he knocked him to the seat.

Mr. BELIN. Who knocked who?

Mr. BREWER. He knocked McDonald down. McDonald fell against one of the seats. And then real quick he was back up.

Mr. BELIN. When you say he was --

Mr. BREWER. McDonald was back up. He just knocked him down for a second and he was back up. And I jumped off the stage and was walking toward that, and I saw this gun come up and -- in Oswald's hand, a gun up in the air.

Mr. BELIN. Did you see from where the gun came?

Mr. BREWER. No.

Mr. BELIN. You saw the gun up in the air?

Mr. BREWER. And somebody hollered "He's got a gun."

And there were a couple of officers fighting him and taking the gun away from him, and they took the gun from him, and he was fighting, still fighting, and I heard some of the police holier, I don't know who it was, "Kill the President, will you." And I saw fists flying and they were hitting him.

Mr. BELIN. Was he fighting back at that time?

Mr. BREWER. Yes; he was fighting back.

Mr. BELIN. Then what happened?

Mr. BREWER. Well, just in a short time they put the handcuffs on him and they took him out.(11)

 

George Jefferson Applin

Mr. APPLIN. The officer said, "Will you stand up, please."

Mr. BALL. What did the man say?

Mr. APPLIN. Well, he just stood up.

Mr. BALL. Did he say anything?

Mr. APPLIN. No, sir; I didn't hear him say anything at that time.

Mr. BALL. And what happened then?

Mr. APPLIN. Well, when he stood up, the officer stepped over to search him down. The officer, Oswald, or the man, took a swing at him. When he did, the officer grabbed him.

Mr. BALL. Took a swing at him with his fist?

Mr. APPLIN. Yes, sir; he did.

Mr. BALL. With his left or right?

Mr. APPLIN. Right fist.

Mr. BALL. Took a swing at him and what happened then?

Mr. APPLIN. Well, the officer, I heard him say, "Here he is." And during the proceeding of that, I guess about 5 or 10 seconds later, there was another -- I think it was two officers, or one, passed me and ran down there to him.

Mr. BALL. Did you see a gun?

Mr. APPLIN. Well, the gun didn't come into view until after about four or five officers were there.

Mr. BALL. Then did you see a gun?

Mr. APPLIN. Yes, sir; but only -- there was one gun. The pistol. It came into view before any of the other officers got there.

Mr. BALL. That is what I mean. What do you say happened about that? Who pulled a gun?

Mr. APPLIN. Well, anyhow, the officer was facing this way [indicating] and Oswald was facing this way [indicating]. And then the gun was pointed out that way [indicating].

Mr. BALL. Wait a minute. I can't follow you when you say it was "this way," sir. You told me that this officer asked Oswald to stand up?

Mr. APPLIN. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. Did he stand up?

Mr. APPLIN. Yes, sir; he did.

Mr. BALL. Then did he put his hand some place on Oswald?

Mr. APPLIN. Yes, sir; along about . . .

Mr. BALL. Where? Mr. APPLIN. I guess about his hips.

Mr. BALL. Then what did Oswald do?

Mr. APPLIN. He took a right-hand swing at him.

Mr. BALL What did the officer do?

Mr. APPLIN. The officer grabbed him then.

Mr. BALL. Had you seen the pistol up to that time?

Mr. APPLIN. No, sir; there was not one in view then.

Mr. BALL. How soon after that did you see the pistol?

Mr. APPLIN. I guess it was about -- I guess it was about 2 or 3 seconds.

Mr. BALL. Who pulled the pistol?

Mr. APPLIN. I guess it was Oswald, because -- for one reason, that he had on a short sleeve shirt, and I seen a man's arm that was connected to the gun.

Mr. BALL. What did the officer do?

Mr. APPLIN. Well, the officer was scuffling with him there, and --

Mr. BALL. Did you hear anything?

Mr. APPLIN. Well, about the only thing I heard was the snap of the gun and the officer saying, "Here he is."

Mr. BALL. You heard the snap of a gun?

Mr. APPLIN. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. Are you familiar with guns?

Mr. APPLIN. Well, yes, sir; I am familiar with a few guns.

Mr. BALL. Pistols? Have you ever shot a pistol?

Mr. APPLIN. Yes, sir; I have shot my daddy's nine-shot .22 pistol.

Mr. BALL. Sounded like a hammer of a pistol failing?

Mr. APPLIN. Yes, sir.(12)

 

John Gibson

Mr. GIBSON. Well, I was standing there watching all this going on and then the policeman started down the aisle -- I would say there was another -- I don't know, maybe six or eight--started down the aisles. . . . and then the next thing was -- Oswald was standing in the aisle with a gun in his hand.

Mr. BALL. . . . What was he doing?

Mr. GIBSON. Well, he had this pistol in his hand.

Mr. BALL. Was anybody near him?

Mr. GIBSON. Just the officers.

Mr. BALL. . . . Did they have ahold of him at the time?

Mr. GIBSON. No; I don't believe so.

Mr. BALL. Did anyone have ahold of him at that time?

Mr. GIBSON. I don't think so.

Mr. BALL. Did you see any officer grab hold of Oswald?

Mr. GIBSON. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. Which one can you describe where he was and what he did--just tell us in your own words what you saw him do?

Mr. GIBSON. Well, just like I guess you have heard this a lot of times -- the gun misfired -- it clicked and about the same time there was one police officer that positively had him.

Mr. BALL. What do you mean -- "had him"?

Mr. GIBSON. Well, I mean he grabbed ahold of him.

Mr. BALL. Did he grab ahold of him before you heard the click or afterwards?

Mr. GIBSON. Gee, that's a question that's kind of hard to answer because I would say possibly seconds before or a second -- maybe at the precise time the gun clicked. It happened pretty fast and like I say, I just went in to eat a hot-dog for lunch and I wasn't expecting any of this.(13)

 

FBI Special Agent Cortlandt Cunningham

Mr. EISENBERG. . . . Mr. Cunningham, returning to Exhibit 145, do either of the two cartridges in Exhibit 145 bear any signs of having suffered an impact from the firing pin in the revolver, Exhibit 143?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. An examination of these two cartridges, the primers of these two cartridges, reveals no marks that could be associated with the firing pin in Commission Exhibit 143, or any other weapon.

Mr. EISENBERG. Are there any nicks on either of those cartridges?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Yes. There is a small nick, an indentation, up near the edge of the primer in the Remington-Peters .38 Special cartridge.

Mr. EISENBERG. Could this nick have been caused by the firing pin?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. There was no indication, from an examination, that that nick had been so caused by a firing pin.

First of all, it is in the wrong position, it is not in the center of the primer. And, also, a microscopic examination of that nick gave no indication that it was made by a firing pin.

Mr. EISENBERG. Did you microscopically examine the bases of both cartridge cases?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Yes, sir.

Mr. EISENBERG. Now, turning to Exhibit 518, consisting of four bullets, which, as I mentioned earlier, were, like the two bullets in Exhibit 145, taken from the chamber of the revolver, did you find any nicks in any of these bullets, the bases of any of these bullets?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Just by handling, there are bound to be small microscopic scratches of one kind or other. But there was no indication that any of the primers in these four cartridges had been struck by a firing pin.

Mr. EISENBERG. Were these also examined microscopically?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. They were, individually.

Mr. EISENBERG. When you say there was no indication that they were struck by a firing pin, in your opinion, based on the construction of this weapon, if the firing pin had been drawn back to any extent and then released, would it have left a mark on one of the cartridges?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. That is -- yes and no. It depends on how far it is drawn back.

Mr. EISENBERG. . . . Now, Mr. Cunningham, to focus this line of questioning, Officer McDonald, who has reported that he was in a struggle with Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22d, while Oswald was in possession of this revolver, has stated that--I am reading now from an affidavit, from a letter from Officer McDonald to Mr. J. E. Curry, chief of police of the Dallas Police Force, dated December 3, 1963.

He states in this letter that as he came in contact with Oswald, "I managed to get my right hand on the pistol over the suspect's hand. I could feel his hand on the trigger. I then got a secure grip on the butt of the pistol. I jerked the pistol and as it was clearing the suspect's clothing and grip, I heard the snap of the hammer, and the pistol crossed over my left cheek. I marked the pistol and six rounds at central station. The primer of one round was dented on misfire at the time of the struggle with the suspect."

Now, in light of your examination of this weapon, and your discussion, could you comment on this statement?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. I personally have fired this weapon numerous times, as well as Special Agents Robert Frazier and Charles Killion. At no time did we ever attempt to fire this weapon that it misfired. It operated excellently and every time we have tried to fire it, it has fired.

It is very possible when he says that he reached across, and he grabbed it, that he locked the cylinder, which I think any trained police officer would do. You want to stop this cylinder from rotating. As soon as you do that, you have actually stepped the hammer falling on a live round, because if the hammer is allowed to go forward again, and it hasn't gotten into the cocked position, the rebound slide, as I was stating before, would block the firing pin from striking the primer of the cartridge.

Mr. EISENBERG. As I understand it, the cylinder is so interconnected with the trigger, that the trigger cannot be pulled all the way back when the cylinder has been firmly grasped?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. That is correct.

Mr. EISENBERG. And, if the hammer has not been pulled all the way back, the rebound slide will not allow the firing pin to strike the cartridge?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. That is correct.

Mr. EISENBERG. Now, Officer McDonald's statement that the primer of one round was dented on misfire: as far as you can tell, could this statement be confirmed?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. No, sir; we found nothing to indicate that this weapon's firing pin had struck the primer of any of these cartridges.(14)

 

On a television program in 1993, Officer McDonald stated that he had "wedged his hand between the hammer and cylinder of the pistol before Oswald pulled the trigger, and when he did, the hammer hit the officer's hand."(15)

This is contrary to what he said originally, when he said, "The primer was dented and it didn't fire."(16)

Today, Gerald Hill corroborates McDonald's account, stating that the snapping sound the witnesses heard was the hammer striking McDonald's hand, which he'd lodged in between the hammer and cylinder. Hill and other police officers saw the hammer mark on McDonald's hand.(17)

 

The Warren Report

Officer McDonald of the Dallas police, who arrested Oswald, stated that he had struggled with Oswald for possession of the revolver and that in the course of the struggle, "I heard the snap of the hammer, and the pistol crossed my left cheek . . . the primer of one round was dented on misfire at the time of the struggle." However, none of the cartridges found in the revolver bore the impression of the revolver's firing pin. In addition, the revolver is so constructed that, the firing pin cannot strike a cartridge unless the hammer (which bears the firing pin) has first been drawn all the way back by a complete trigger pull. Had the hammer gone all the way back and then hit the cartridge, it is unlikely that the cartridge would have misfired. It would be possible for a person to interject his finger between the hammer and the cartridge, but the spring driving the hammer is a very strong one and the impact of the firing pin into a finger would be clearly felt. However, the cylinder and the trigger are interconnected and the trigger cannot be fully pulled back if the cylinder is grasped. Therefore, if Oswald had pulled on the trigger while McDonald was firmly grasping the cylinder, the revolver would not have fired, and if the gun was grabbed away at the same time the trigger would have snapped back with an audible sound.(18)

 

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NOTES:

1. Warren Commission Report, pp. 178-79.

2.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. III, pp. 299-300.

3. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. III, p. 301.

4. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. III, pp. 301-02.

5.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VII, p. 94.

6.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VII, pp. 39-40.

7.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VII, p. 20.

8.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VII, pp. 30-33.

9.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VII, p. 50.

10.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VII, pp. 54-55.

11.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VII, p. 6.

12.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VII, pp. 88-89.

13.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VII, pp. 71-72.

14.Warren Commission Hearings Vol. III, pp. 460-63.

15. Walt Brown , "Top Cop" M. N. McDonald, Probable Cause, Issue 1, February, 1993.

16. Dallas Morning News, November 24, 1963; cited in Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, p. 259.

17. Walt Brown, "Talking with Gerald Hill," JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, July, 1998.

18. Warren Commission Report, p. 560.

 

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