Did Oswald Shoot Tippit?
A Review of Dale Myers' Book With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Revised and Expanded on 7/25/2009
It is a given among those who accept the Warren Commission's lone-gunman theory that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Officer J. D. Tippit after Tippit allegedly stopped him about a mile from Oswald's residence approximately 45 minutes after the assassination. For Warren Commission supporters the Tippit killing is a "Rosetta Stone" that proves Oswald must have been guilty of murdering President Kennedy. This is the view that author Dale Myers presents in his book With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J. D. Tippit (Milford, Michigan: Oak Cliff Press, 1998). But just how strong is the case against Oswald in the Tippit slaying? And even if Oswald did in fact shoot Tippit, would this prove he killed President Kennedy? In point of fact, the case against Oswald in the Tippit slaying is laced with holes and contradictions, and there is evidence that suggests Tippit was hunting for Oswald before anyone could have known Oswald was a suspect.
* On a technical note, Myers' book contains some rather basic grammatical mistakes. For example, Myers consistently misuses the word "inference" to mean something was implied, when in fact the word means the opposite. The word he should have used was "implication." In a couple places he mismatches nouns and verbs. He repeatedly misuses the word "none" when he says "none were." "None" is a contraction of "not one." The technically correct phrase is "none was," not "none were." In addition, Myers employs the errant phrase "the reason why," as in "the reason why Nelson proceeded" (the correct usage is "the reason Nelson proceeded" or "this was why Nelson proceeded"). Such errors in grammar should have been caught by the publisher's editor prior to publication.
* Myers repeatedly omits important information that contradicts his conclusions.
* On several occasions, Myers buries important contrary information in his endnotes, which he surely knows most readers will not bother to study.
* Myers often reaches conclusions that are contradicted by his own raw data.
* Some of Myers' speculations and theories are later stated as though they are established facts.
* Myers is noticeably harder on witnesses whose accounts contradict his views than he is on witnesses whose accounts he likes.
* Myers frequently relies on FBI interview summaries, but he never mentions that numerous witnesses complained that those summaries were inaccurate and incomplete.
* Myers fails to mention that many witnesses changed their stories in ways that favored the lone-gunman scenario by the time they testified before the Warren Commission months after giving their initial statements.
* Myers fails to mention that some witnesses, to include a former Marine sergeant and two former Kennedy aides, reported that FBI agents pressured them to change their stories because what they had to say tended to refute or contradict the lone-gunman scenario. Given Myers' frequent reliance on FBI witness statements, the reader would be well served to know this fact.
* Myers fails to inform the reader that
everything we know about what Oswald allegedly said during his interrogations
comes through the filter of
* Myers either ignores or only superficially deals with several well-known, widely discussed problems with the case against Oswald in the Tippit slaying.
* At times Myers contradicts himself.
Let us now examine some specific problems with Myers' claims.
Why Tippit Would Have Stopped "Oswald" and the Alleged Change in Direction
According to Myers, as the assailant approached the corner of 10th and Patton, he saw Tippit's car coming up the street in his direction and therefore suddenly spun around and started walking in the opposite direction, which made Tippit suspicious of him (pp. 64-65). Myers cites William Scoggins' Warren Commission (WC) testimony, which does in fact imply a change in direction. However, Scoggins initially said nothing about any change in direction. When he was interviewed by the Secret Service on 12/2/63, he said,
I noticed a man walking west on 10th Street. . . . The man walking west on 10th Street stopped at a point just about directly in line with the front bumper of the police cruiser.
And just a second or two after the man stopped near the car's front bumper, he began talking with Tippit. Not a word or hint about any change in direction.
In a message in the JFK Research Forum, Myers protested that Scoggins said the man never passed his cab. But this is not what Scoggins said in his first sworn statement. As noted above, Scoggins said the man was walking west and that as he was walking west he stopped near the front bumper of the patrol car. All the initial police and federal reports on the shooting paint the same picture.
Myers cites Mrs. Helen Markham to support his change-in-direction theory. But, Mrs. Markham, like Scoggins, initially said nothing that would support the idea that the killer suddenly changed direction. The first time Mrs. Markham said anything that could be viewed as possibly supporting a change in direction was months later--in her Warren Commission testimony. The police interviewed Mrs. Markham extensively on the day of the shooting, yet all the initial law enforcement reports on the slaying state the killer was walking west when Tippit stopped him. Furthermore, not one of Mrs. Markham's early sworn statements on the slaying says or suggests the killer suddenly changed direction.
Myers' last change-in-direction witness is Jack Tatum. But Tatum didn't give his story until 14 years after the fact. Also, Tatum's story includes an incident that no other witness reported seeing. Tatum said the gunman walked over to Tippit as he lay on the ground and shot him in the head. No other witness reported seeing anything like this happen. Tatum also said the killer was walking east. This claim is powerfully contradicted by the available evidence. The initial police and Secret Service reports on the shooting said the killer was walking west, toward the patrol car. Scoggins said the same thing in his first sworn statement. It would appear that Mrs. Markham said the same thing when she spoke with police right after the shooting. Two other witnesses likewise said the killer was walking west, not east, and thus toward the patrol car, not away from it. If the police or the Secret Service found a single witness who said the killer was walking away from the patrol car, they failed to say a word about it in any of their reports. Additionally, not one of the initial sworn statements from any of the eyewitnesses says the killer was walking east or that he suddenly changed direction as the patrol car approached.
But Myers needs this change in direction in order to try to explain why Tippit would have stopped the assailant, especially if the assailant was in fact Oswald. By all accounts, the man was walking along normally. And Myers admits it's unlikely Tippit would have stopped the man on the basis of the vague description that went out over the police radio. So if the man didn't suddenly change direction when he saw the police car coming his way, why, then, would Tippit have stopped him, since he was just walking along in a normal manner? Myers doesn't want to answer this question, so he assumes the assailant suddenly turned around when he saw the approaching police car and that this was what caused Tippit to stop him. The weight of the evidence, however, indicates the assailant was walking west, toward the car, when Tippit stopped him.
Did Tippit really "stop" the man? The witness accounts can be quite reasonably interpreted to mean both men recognized the other and began to have what Mrs. Markham described as a "friendly" chat. But Myers can have none of this because he must assume Tippit stopped the man because he suddenly turned around and started walking the other way.
Myers' change-in-direction theory
contradicts what he says elsewhere about Oswald. Later in the book Myers
describes Oswald as "a master at self-control" (p. 308) and
"normally calculating" (p. 359). Myers also observes that
More can be said about Oswald's demeanor under pressure. When Officer Marrion Baker stopped Oswald in the Book Depository's second-floor lunchroom about 90 seconds after the assassination, pointed a gun at him, and demanded to know who he was, Oswald was calm and relaxed. Are we really supposed to believe this is the same man who allegedly spun around and changed direction simply because he saw a police car coming up the street in his direction?
It should be emphasized that all the initial police and federal reports on the Tippit slaying say the killer was walking west when Tippit encountered him.
The Tip to Officer McDonald in the Theater
Myers attempts to explain the early account from Officer M. N. McDonald, which he gave to a journalist just two days after the slaying, that he was tipped off to Oswald's location in the Texas Theater by a man who was sitting in one of the theater's front rows.
In the story, which was published in the Dallas Morning News just two days after the shooting, McDonald was quoted as saying, "A man sitting near the front . . . tipped me the man I wanted was sitting on the third row from the rear on the ground floor and not in the balcony." Myers knows this account suggests Oswald might have been set up. So, he opines that McDonald was actually referring to Jimmy Brewer, and that McDonald simply didn't know Brewer's name at the time he spoke with the journalist (pp. 623-624 n 495). This is what McDonald told the WC months later. But Myers should know this explanation doesn't fit what McDonald told the journalist. Brewer was not sitting in any of the seats: He was standing near the rear door looking through the curtains that were draped around the screen. (By the way, Sylvia Meagher said McDonald signed the story that appeared in the newspaper.)
There are other problems with the argument that McDonald's mystery tipper was Brewer. Apparently Brewer never spoke with McDonald alone, but to a group of police officers which included McDonald. When Brewer gave his description of the man whom he had followed into the theater to Captain Westbrook and the others, the lights had not been turned on yet. The lights only came on as McDonald and Officer Walker stepped out from behind the exit curtains. Brewer had not pointed out Oswald to anyone--he merely gave his general location and a general description.
It was after this point, i.e., after McDonald stepped out from behind the curtain, that McDonald, according to the news story that he signed, said a man sitting in one of the front rows tipped him to the exact row where Oswald was sitting. Brewer had only told the police officers that the man he had followed was sitting toward the rear of the theater and that he was wearing a brown shirt. Again, when Brewer spoke with Westbrook, McDonald, and the others, the lights hadn't been turned on yet.
The above information is based on Myers' own treatment of the events that came just before McDonald started going up the aisle inside the theater (see With Malice, p. 173). Apparently Brewer simply gave Oswald's general location and described the shirt he was wearing, but did not actually "point him out" to the policemen, possibly because it was still dark.
As mentioned, according to the 11/24/63 news story, it was after this point, after McDonald began heading up the aisle, that McDonald encountered the tipper who was sitting in one of the front rows. This man, said McDonald, told him the exact row on which Oswald was seated.
Attacking Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig
Myers says Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig's
account of seeing Oswald get into a station wagon that left
In his attack on Craig's linkage of the
station wagon to Oswald, Myers fails to bring to the reader's attention the
fact that another witness said the man who got into the station wagon was the
spitting image of Oswald. As he so often does with data he doesn't like, Myers
buries this information in an endnote (pp. 634-635 n 604). The other witness
was Mrs. James Forrest. Mrs. Forrest said the man she saw get into the station
wagon so closely resembled Oswald that, "If it wasn't Oswald, it was his
identical twin." Why doesn't Myers mention this even once in his
discussion of Craig's account? I suspect he doesn't mention it because it would
tend to discredit his rejection of Craig's linkage of the station wagon to
Oswald, and because it might tip the reader to the possibility that someone was
impersonating Oswald. Myers never once mentions the possibility that Oswald was
being impersonated in
Myers doesn't dare acknowledge that Craig saw Oswald get into the station wagon, because throughout his book Myers accepts the Warren Commission's version of Oswald's movements after he left the Book Depository. Therefore, Myers accepts the story that Oswald returned to his house by riding in William Whaley's cab. If Craig's story is true, it can only mean one of two things: either the cab-ride story is false or an Oswald look-alike was seen leaving the Book Depository and getting into a waiting station wagon fifteen minutes after the assassination. There is good evidence that supports Craig's account, as Dr. Michael Kurtz explains:
The Warren Report mentions that Dallas Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig claimed that about fifteen minutes after the assassination, he saw Oswald run from the rear of the Depository building, scamper down an incline to Elm Street, and enter a Rambler station wagon driven by a dark complected man. According to the commission, "Craig may have seen a person enter a white Rambler station wagon 15 or 20 minutes after the shooting . . . but the Commission has concluded that this man was not Lee Harvey Oswald, because of the overwhelming evidence that Oswald was far away from the building by that time."
What was that "overwhelming evidence"? It should be mentioned that even if the commission's version is accepted, Oswald was not "far away from the building by that time." According to the commission, at 12:44 Oswald was getting off McWatters's bus only five blocks east of the Depository building. He then walked for four minutes to the Greyhound bus station only four blocks away. The "overwhelming evidence" is the testimony of William Whaley [the cab driver]. Remember that Whaley failed to select Oswald out of police lineup as his taxicab passenger. He also testified that Oswald was wearing TWO jackets, while the commission claimed that he wore none. In his taxi logbook, Whaley recorded the time of his pickup at the bus station as 12:30, yet the commission said that the real time was 12:48.
Let us now examine
Roger Craig's testimony in order to determine if it is consistent and accurate
and supported by other evidence. Deputy Craig watched the motorcade in front of
the Criminal Courts building on
There is, in fact,
substantial evidence that provides far more corroboration for Craig's testimony
than for the totally unsubstantiated statements of Whaley. Carolyn Walther was
watching the motorcade from
Carr watched the motorcade from
Mrs. James Forrest was standing in a group of people who had gathered on the incline near the grassy knoll. As she was standing, she saw a man suddenly run from the rear of the Depository building, down the incline, and then enter a Rambler station wagon. The man she saw running down and entering the station wagon strongly resembled Lee Harvey Oswald. "If it wasn't Oswald," Mrs. Forrest has declared, "it was his identical twin." The testimony of Walther, Worrell, Carr, Robinson, and Forrest all provide strong substantiation for Roger Craig's story.
Craig's story is also supported by photographic evidence. One photograph shows Deputy Craig running toward the grassy knoll. Another shows him standing near the grassy knoll. Another shows him standing on the south side of Elm Street looking toward the Book Depository building. In the same photograph, a light-colored Rambler station wagon can be seen heading west on Elm Street. In another photograph, Craig is seen looking toward Elm Street in the general direction of the station wagon. . . .
Despite the impressive corroboration for Craig's testimony, the Warren Commission chose to reject it. Instead, it accepted the unsubstantiated and contradictory testimony of taxi driver William Whaley. There is no corroboration for Whaley's story. Whaley did tell the commission that when Oswald entered his cab, an elderly lady tried to enter it from the opposite side. Oswald volunteered to let her have the cab, but the lady refused because another taxi was waiting just behind Whaley's. There is no indication that the commission attempted to locate the other cab. Both the driver and the lady could have supported Whaley's observations. By studying the logbook of the other cab, it would be possible to attempt to trace the lady. Neither the police nor the commission did so.
Whaley testified that Oswald "had on two jackets." The commission decided there was none. At the police lineup, Whaley picked out eighteen-year-old David Knapp instead of twenty-four-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald (Knapp did not even resemble Oswald). Whaley registered 12:30 p.m. in his logbook as the time when his passenger entered the cab. This, of course, eliminated Oswald, since Oswald was in the Depository building at that time. The commission attempted to explain this by noting that Whaley recorded all trips in fifteen-minute intervals, regardless of how long the actual trip took. Since the commission decided Oswald entered the cab at 12:47 or 12:48, it did not explain why Whaley entered 12:30 instead of 12:45 in his book. Nor did it explain why other trips were entered at 6:20, 7:50, 8:10, 9:40, 10:50, and 3:10, rather than regular quarter-hour intervals. In his original log, Whaley entered 500 North Beckley as the spot where he let Oswald out. The commission decided that Whaley was wrong here, also.
It should be obvious to the disinterested observer that the Warren Commission was trying to fabricate a case against Oswald as a lone assassin and murderer. There is not one iota of evidence to substantiate Whaley's testimony about the cab ride. Deputy Sheriff Craig's story is supported by the testimony of five other witnesses as well as five photographs. (Crime of the Century, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1982, pp. 130-133, original emphasis).
Another reason lone-gunman theorists reject Craig's account is that, if true, it could mean Oswald never boarded Cecil McWatters' bus. Myers accepts the WC's claim that Oswald rode on McWatters' bus and that he boarded it at 12:40 P.M., ten minutes after the assassination. Myers mentions the report that McWatters' bus transfer and five bullets for the pistol were found in Oswald's pockets (p. 349). Yes, they were supposedly "found" in Oswald's pockets—two hours after Oswald was arrested. So we're supposed to believe that Oswald, whom Myers describes elsewhere as cool, cunning, and calculating (pp. 199, 208, 359, 363), was so stupid that he failed to dispose of the bus transfer and the bullets after he allegedly shot Tippit, even though he had ample time to do so.
Though one would never know it from reading Myers' discussion on Oswald's movements, the bus-ride story, like the cab-ride account, is open to doubt. The bus transfer is of questionable evidentiary value. As mentioned, it wasn't supposedly "found" on Oswald until some two hours after he arrived at the police station, and we have only the Dallas Police Department's word on its discovery, which is hardly reassuring. For one thing, it seems a little hard to believe the police waited two hours before searching Oswald. Didn't they search him when they arrested him? And, again, why didn't the calm, cunning, calculating Oswald have the brains to dispose of the transfer and the bullets after he supposedly shot Tippit? On the one hand, lone-gunman theorists claim Oswald disposed of his jacket after the Tippit shooting. Then why on earth wouldn't he have disposed of the bus transfer and the bullets, not to mention the revolver itself? If nothing else, one would think Oswald would have at least tried to get rid of the revolver and the bullets once he saw the police enter the theater. For that matter, in the two hours before the police supposedly finally got around to searching him, Oswald could have asked to use the bathroom and then, once inside the toilet stall, flushed the transfer and bullets down the toilet.
Moreover, McWatters' WC testimony suggests he gave the bus transfer to a young passenger named Roy Milton Jones, not to Oswald. The day after he viewed the police lineup, McWatters recognized one of his regular passengers, the teenager Jones, as the man who had boarded his bus at 12:40. McWatters only gave out two transfers on that trip, one of them to a woman. The WC asked McWatters if he could identify Oswald as the man who had boarded his bus and to whom he had given a transfer. McWatters answered that he could not make that identification (2 H 370). McWatters even denied telling the Dallas police that the number two man in the lineup, i.e., Oswald, was the same man who boarded his bus. Since McWatters said the man who boarded his bus at 12:40 and who asked for a transfer was Jones, not Oswald, and since McWatters only gave out two transfers during that trip, the logical conclusion is that one of the transfers was given to Jones and the other to the woman.
Did anyone see Oswald on McWatters' bus? Myers cites three witnesses as seeing Oswald on the bus, a woman named Mary Bledsoe, the abovementioned Roy Milton Jones, and, misleadingly enough, McWatters (p. 281). Even the WC declined to cite McWatters as a witness to place Oswald on the bus, saying McWatters' "recollection alone was too vague to be a basis for placing Oswald on the bus," and the commission admitted McWatters "said he had been in error [in identifying Oswald] and that a teenager named Milton Jones was the passenger he had in mind" (Warren Commission Report, p. 159). The Dallas police falsely listed McWatters as having positively identified Oswald in the police lineup as the man who had boarded his bus at 12:40. As mentioned, McWatters later said Jones was actually the person who had boarded the bus. Myers doesn't mention any of this.
Myers matter-of-factly says Jones told the FBI he believed he had seen Oswald on the bus. Says Myers,
Roy Milton Jones, a passenger on McWatters' bus, told the FBI that the man he believed was Oswald was wearing a "light blue jacket." (p. 281)
Myers is giving a misleading picture by omitting relevant information. Even a casual reading of Jones' statement reveals Jones was not at all sure the man was Oswald, that he didn't get a good look at the man, and that it didn't even occur to him the man "might" have been Oswald until McWatters--yes, McWatters-- suggested this to him. I quote from the FBI report on the interview with Jones:
Jones stated he did not observe this man closely since he [the man] sat behind him [Jones] in the bus, but, on the following Monday when he caught the same bus going home from school with the same driver [McWatters], the driver told him he thought this man might have been Lee Harvey Oswald.
Jones said that after the driver mentioned this, and from his recollection of Oswald's picture as it appeared on television and in the newspapers, he thought it was possible it could have been Oswald. He emphasized, however, that he did not have a good view of this man at any time and could not positively identify him as being identical with Lee Harvey Oswald. He said he was inclined to think it might have been Oswald only because the bus driver told him so. (CE 2641, p. 2)
And, as mentioned, the bus driver, McWatters, later insisted it was Jones, not Oswald, who boarded his bus at the time in question.
Jones said the man in question was wearing a light blue jacket. But, according to Myers, Oswald left his blue jacket at work when he left the Depository after the assassination. Furthermore, Oswald's blue jacket was not light blue.
The one and only witness who firmly put Oswald on McWatters' bus was Mary Bledsoe. Her testimony is lacking in credibility. Mrs. Bledsoe had been Oswald's landlady for a brief time before the assassination. She made it clear in her testimony that she disliked Oswald. Numerous authors have discussed the questionable nature of Mrs. Bledsoe's story, and I would refer the reader to their critiques (see, for example, Kurtz, Crime of the Century, p. 127; Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, New York: Vintage Books, 1976 edition, pp. 76-82; and Harold Weisberg, Selections from Whitewash, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1994, pp. 110-112). I'll quote one brief section from Harold Weisberg's analysis of Mrs. Bledsoe's testimony:
Most of Mrs. Bledsoe's answers were: "I don't know." "I didn't pay any attention." "I didn't care." "I didn't look." "I didn't even look." "I couldn't tell you," and other such "valuable" contributions. At one point, following one of her nonresponsive answers, [WC attorney] Ball interrupted her to say: "But, before you go into that, I notice you have been reading from some notes before you." Her reply was: "Well, because I forget what I have to say." (Selections from Whitewash, p. 110)
It should be mentioned that both McWatters and Jones said the man who boarded the bus at the time in question was wearing a jacket. As mentioned, Jones said the jacket was light blue in color. Interestingly, the cab driver initially said the man who rode in his cab during the time in question was wearing a faded blue jacket. The WC said the man in both instances was Oswald, but the commission also insisted Oswald wasn't wearing a jacket after he left the Book Depository. The commission had to deny the accounts of the light blue jacket because it claimed Oswald left his blue jacket at work that day, where it was allegedly "found" weeks later, and because that jacket was not light blue.
Deputy Sheriff Craig's account of seeing Oswald get into a waiting station wagon is more credible than the bus-ride and cab-ride stories that Myers and other lone-gunman theorists accept. It should be added that Craig had won an award for outstanding performance as a law enforcement officer and had an excellent record.
Several people reported seeing a man who looked like Oswald at times and places when the real Oswald was known to be elsewhere. It is possible that the real Oswald rode in Whaley's cab and on McWatters' bus, and that Deputy Sheriff Craig saw an Oswald imposter. It is also possible, if not somewhat more likely, that Oswald did not ride in the cab nor on the bus, and that Craig either saw the real Oswald or an imposter—and if Craig saw an imposter, then Oswald simply got home by other means.
Myers' Treatment of Oswald
Myers' portrait of Oswald (pp. 47-49, 345-364) is grossly biased and incomplete. Compare Myers' comments on Oswald's character with those found in my section on Oswald in my online manuscript Hasty Judgment.
Myers matter-of-factly assumes Oswald attempted to kill General Edwin Walker (p. 49), without mentioning any of the problems with the case against Oswald in the Walker shooting.
Myers paraphrases Howard Brennan as saying the sixth-floor gunman slowly withdrew the rifle from the window and then paused a second as if to assure himself that he had hit his target (p. 41). Myers should know that no other witness who saw a gunman or rifle in the window saw the gunman pause in the window. Myers should also know Brennan said the gunman was wearing a light-colored shirt, whereas Oswald wore a reddish-brown shirt to work that day. (The four other witnesses who saw the sixth-floor gunman likewise said he was wearing a light-colored shirt.) And Myers certainly should know there are serious problems with other aspects of Brennan's story.
The Descriptions of Tippit's Assailant and the Possibility of Two Assailants and/or An Accomplice
Myers stares straight at evidence that two people might have been involved in Tippit's death, and/or that the killer didn't resemble Oswald and was not Oswald, and/or that there was an accomplice, but he apparently fails, or refuses, to recognize it as such. He dismisses all of it as being the result of mistakes and faulty memories.
What is this evidence? For example, several witnesses said the assailant was wearing a jacket that was darker than the light-gray jacket that the WC claimed the killer was wearing. Yet, other witnesses said the man was wearing a light-colored jacket. (For that matter, the jacket was initially described as "white.") At least two witnesses, and quite possibly three, said two men were involved in the Tippit slaying, and one of them saw the gunman jump into a car that proceeded to speed away from the scene. The police were searching for a car that was reportedly connected to the Tippit shooting. There is a credible report that a second man was arrested and removed from the Texas Theater.
An experienced policeman and a former combat Marine both said an automatic pistol was used (as opposed to Oswald's revolver). Moreover, the policeman, Sgt. Gerald Hill, based his automatic-pistol identification on the shell casings. As any firearms expert can attest, it's very easy to distinguish between automatic shells and revolver shells. What's more, in a 1986 interview, Hill said he knew the shells were .38-caliber shells because he picked one of them up and examined it. This is significant because .38 automatic shells are marked ".38 AUTO" on the bottom. Hill specifically said he looked on the bottom of the shell that he examined. It is no wonder, then, that Hill got on the radio and said "the shells at the scene indicate that the suspect is armed with an automatic .38."
In reading Myers' book, one finds good documentation of the fact that two witnesses said the killer's hair was "bushy" (pp. 117, 118, 487, 636). The problem is that Oswald's hair certainly was not bushy, as any number of photos of him readily prove.
Buried in one of Myers' endnotes is the fact that a key witness to the Tippit shooting, William Smith, initially said the killer was not Oswald (p. 615 n 390). An anonymous person informed the FBI that Smith had been at the Tippit scene, that he'd seen the killer, and that Smith had said the man was "not Oswald." Like some other witnesses, when Smith was questioned by the FBI, he changed his tune and gave a story more in keeping with the lone-gunman scenario. Smith told the FBI he initially didn't think the gunman was Oswald because when he first saw Oswald on TV after the assassination it looked like Oswald had light-colored hair. This strikes me as a dubious explanation for Smith's change of story. I've watched much of the post-assassination TV footage of Oswald, and I would invite anyone to find a clip from that footage in which Oswald seems to have light-colored hair. (Of course, Smith might not have said this--we have only the word of the FBI agent who interviewed him that he in fact gave this explanation. Numerous witnesses complained that the FBI agents who interviewed them misrepresented what they said or only mentioned selected parts of their accounts. This is not to say that all FBI agents did this. Some FBI agents apparently did not distort what witnesses told them.)
Furthermore, what about the killer's facial features, and his height, weight, and so forth? Given the fact that Smith got a good look at the killer, one would think he should have been able to base his initial opinion on more than just the appearance of hair on a black-and-white TV screen.
The Police Lineups
Incredibly, Myers opines that the infamous police lineups at which Oswald was "identified" as Tippit's killer were fair (pp. 229-230). Those lineups were grossly unfair. At one of the lineups, while the other men were neatly dressed, Oswald had on a worn, stretched-out, and torn T-shirt, not to mention the fact that he had a bruised and swollen face. Oswald himself complained bitterly about the contrast between how he was dressed and how the other men in the lineup were dressed, as Myers himself admits in a comment buried in an endnote (pp. 637-638 n 645). Myers should have mentioned Oswald's protest about the clothing disparity in his discussion on the lineups, instead of burying this information in an endnote.
The unfairness of the police lineups has already been documented by many authors (see, for example, Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, p. 257; Henry Hurt, Reasonable Doubt, pp. 146-147). For example, lineup participant Detective William Perry was wearing a dress shirt and a sports coat (7 H 233), and presumably did not have a bruised and swollen face as did Oswald. Similarly, lineup member Detective Richard Clark was wearing a white dress shirt and a sports coat (7 H 236). Presumably, Clark didn't have a bruised and swollen face, either. How can Myers label such lineups as "fair"?
Myers suggests Oswald was not asked his name and place of employment during any of the lineups (p. 228). But Detective Richard Sims told the WC that Oswald was asked his name at the second lineup:
Mr. BALL. How did you conduct it?
Mr. SIMS. Well, they are all under a number and I would have them---one, two, three, and four, and No. 1 stand on that center black square there and give their names and age and address and if they own a car, where they went to school, where they were born, where they were raised. (7 H 170)
What about the first lineup? Detective Sims' statement about the second lineup, along with the testimony from the other lineup members, suggest Oswald was in fact asked his name and place of employment at the first lineup as well (see, for example, 7 H 234, 237-239, 241-242). How could such lineups have been fair when by that time practically the whole world knew Oswald was the prime suspect in the assassination?
Myers cites cabdriver William Scoggins' "identification" of Oswald from one of those police lineups (p. 226). Myers neglects to mention that Scoggins selected the wrong photo when asked to identify Oswald from photos after the lineup (3 H 335). Law enforcement agents asked Scoggins to pick Oswald from among various photos following the lineup. After Scoggins made his selection, the agent showing him the pictures told him "the other one was Oswald" (3 H 335). Myers mentions none of this.
The Rapid Departure from the Gloco Gas Station and a Suspicious Phone Call
Myers labels as "a mystery" the fact that Tippit sped off from the Gloco gas station at right around the same time the housekeeper at Oswald's rooming house said Oswald left the house (pp. 55-56). Myers just can't seem to connect the dots. Is it just a coincidence that Tippit sped off from the gas station at right around the same moment Oswald reportedly left his residence?
Why was Tippit waiting at the Gloco gas station to begin with? Perhaps to spot Oswald coming home. One of the witnesses who saw Tippit at the gas station said he was sitting in his car watching traffic coming from downtown Dallas over the Houston Street viaduct. The Gloco gas station was located at the south end of the viaduct. A glance at a map of Dallas reveals this is the street Oswald would have most likely taken to return home from the downtown area. What a coincidence.
Tippit didn't answer the dispatcher's call during this time period. Then, at about 1:06, just a few minutes after he arrived at the gas station, Tippit suddenly sped off and headed south. Again, this was right around the same time Oswald reportedly left his rooming house.
A short time later, according to two witnesses, Tippit hurried into the Top Ten Record Shop on Jefferson Street, asked customers to step aside as he made his way to the phone, dialed a number, let it ring about seven or eight times, hung up, and then hastily left without saying a word (p. 56). The two witnesses who reported this event were J. W. Stark, the shop owner, and his clerk, Louis Cortinas. Cortinas thought Tippit's actions were rather strange because Tippit had never tried to use the phone in the shop before. The Top Ten Record Shop was only a mile from the location where Tippit would be shot a few minutes after he left the store.
Myers waffles on whether or not the phone-call incident event occurred. He says a document that surfaced in 1996 "raises questions" about the phone-call story, and he quotes two Tippit associates as saying they didn't think Tippit would have gone into a place of business to make a call (p. 56). But Myers allows the event may have occurred, saying "if Tippit did stop to place a phone call, the reason is unknown" (p. 57). Myers himself cites strong evidence that Stark and Cortinas's story is credible. Myers notes the following:
* Cortinas knew Tippit.
* Cortinas and Stark gave similar accounts of the incident, even though they hadn't seen each other in ten years.
* The timing of the incident is consistent with Tippit's known movements.
* A document released in 1996 reports that twelve days after the assassination a man named John Whitten told the FBI that he'd heard Tippit had been in the record shop on the morning of the shooting.
Why would Stark and Cortinas have invented a story about Tippit making a phone call in their shop? How would they have been "mistaken" about this? There can be no credible doubt that Stark and Cortinas's story is factual.
Clearly, something very strange was going on here. Myers himself notes Tippit could have used the special police phones that were installed at every fire station in Dallas. Reportedly Tippit wasn't in the habit of using phones in businesses while on duty. Whom was Tippit trying to call? Why was he in such a rush? Is it just a coincidence that only a few minutes later he just happened to end up driving around in an area that was less than a mile from Oswald's rooming house? Let's review the events and facts under discussion and try to put them in the context of other puzzling facts:
* At 12:45 Tippit was supposedly ordered to leave his assigned area by the police dispatcher. Of all the areas to which he could have been sent, he was allegedly told to go to central Oak Cliff, the same area where Oswald's rooming house was located.
* Of all the places he could have parked or visited, Tippit chose the Gloco gas station at the south end of the Houston Street viaduct, where he sat and watched traffic coming from the downtown area. He was watching the very street Oswald would have been expected to use to return home.
* During this same period of time, and just after Oswald walked into his rooming house, a police car drove up to the house, tapped its horn a couple times, waited briefly, and then drove off, according to the housekeeper. The housekeeper indicated Oswald was inside the house for only a few minutes before he departed.
* A few minutes after arriving at the gas station, and at right around the same time Oswald reportedly left his rooming house, Tippit suddenly and inexplicably sped off from the gas station.
* A few minutes later Tippit hurried into the Top Ten Record Shop, dialed the phone, let it ring several times, hung up, and then hastily departed without saying a word. Why didn't he use the police phone at the local fire station? Why did he need to use the phone at all? Supposedly Tippit was in central Oak Cliff to be on hand for a potential "emergency." So what was he doing leaving his patrol car without checking in with the dispatcher, in order to use a phone in a record shop?
* A mere matter of minutes after he rushed out of the record shop, Tippit was shot dead on 10th and Patton.
What is especially intriguing about the record shop incident is that the owner, Stark, also said that Oswald was waiting at the shop when Stark arrived that morning. Stark said Oswald bought a ticket to a concert and then left. Interestingly, the abovementioned 1996 document also reports John Whitten told the FBI he'd heard that Oswald was in the Top Ten Record Shop twice on the morning of the assassination. Myers deals with this by noting that Whitten said Tippit was in the shop during Oswald's second visit, that Stark said Tippit was not in the shop when Oswald was there, and that although Whitten's story places Tippit in the record shop, "details about a frantic phone call are curiously absent" (p. 57).
Myers notes the FBI dismissed the account of
Oswald's visit to the record shop "because Oswald is known to have been at
work all morning" (p. 57). Ok, then why isn't this same reasoning applied
to the money order that Oswald supposedly purchased in order to buy the alleged
murder weapon? Oswald's time sheet shows he was at work when the money order
was purchased. Furthermore, since Myers
dismisses the reports that suggest Oswald was being impersonated in
Mrs. Roberts and the Police Car that Stopped in Front of Oswald's Rooming House
According to Mrs. Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper at the rooming house where Oswald rented a room, a few minutes before Tippit sped off from the gas station, and just after Oswald entered the house at around 1:00, a Dallas police car pulled up to the house, tapped its horn a couple times, waited a moment, and then casually drove off. Myers dismisses Mrs. Roberts' account because supposedly she waited five whole days before giving it, because her memory wasn't perfect (for example, she wasn't certain about the police's car number), because the Dallas police said all their cars were accounted for, and because the rooming house landlady and a pro-WC journalist claimed Roberts liked to "spin tales" (pp. 52-55).
Myers cites Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander's negative assessment of Mrs. Roberts' credibility (p. 54). Myers neglects to mention that Alexander was hardly an impartial witness and that he certainly had his own credibility problems. Alexander later admitted to doing some tale spinning of his own: He claimed he made up a story about Oswald working for the FBI because he "never much liked the federals" and because he wanted to see if the FBI was tapping Dallas police phones. Alexander also denied that Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby, was in the Mafia, a claim that was specious even when Alexander made it.
And what about the rooming house landlady, Gladys Johnson, whom Myers cites to impugn Mrs. Roberts' veracity? Five months after the fact, Mrs. Johnson claimed to the WC that Mrs. Roberts liked to tell tales. Why hadn't Mrs. Johnson said anything about this earlier? Myers takes note that Mrs. Roberts supposedly waited a whole five days before mentioning the police car incident, but apparently he isn't bothered that Mrs. Johnson waited five months before saying anything to anyone about Mrs. Roberts' alleged story telling.
It's entirely possible that Mrs. Roberts simply didn't see any importance in the visit of the police car. She probably thought it was an unimportant, minor detail. She certainly can't be accused of being a "conspiracy witness" who was trying to help Oswald, because she accepted the case against Oswald without question.
It's also possible that Mrs. Roberts mentioned the police car visit along with the rest of her story when she was interviewed by the Dallas police, but that the police ignored it. After all, one of the Dallas law enforcement officials who interviewed her was the abovementioned Assistant DA Bill Alexander. The Dallas police would not have wanted it known that one of their cars had stopped in front of Oswald's house so soon after the shooting. Also, it should be kept in mind that several witnesses complained the Dallas police ignored certain parts of their stories. For example, Frank Wright, who saw Tippit's killer jump into a car and speed off, said he tried to tell two or three policemen about this, "but they didn't pay any attention" (Anthony Summers, Not in Your Lifetime, New York: Marlowe & Company, 1998, p. 71).
Myers notes that pro-WC journalist Hugh Aynesworth claimed Mrs. Roberts said nothing about the police car visit when he interviewed her on the afternoon of the assassination. This is hardly a compelling point. Aynesworth was a staunch WC supporter who proved time and again he was not above bending the facts. When New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison investigated the assassination a few years later and charged New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw with involvement in the assassination plot, Aynesworth made maliciously false charges against Garrison and ignored all evidence against Shaw (Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins, New York: Warner Books, 1988, pp. 187-188; James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed: Jfk, Cuba, and the Garrison Investigation, New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1992, pp. 159-165; and William Davy, Let Justice Be Done: New Light on the Jim Garrison Investigation, Reston: Jordan Publishing, 1999, pp. 131-135). A 1969 article on the Garrison investigation in the Columbia Journalism Review identified Aynesworth as one of three journalists who had gone "beyond the normal bounds of journalistic interest in the story." The authors of the article even suggested Aynesworth, because of his obvious bias, should have considered taking himself off the case as a journalist and simply joined the Shaw defense team (see Davy, Let Justice Be Done, pp. 134-135, citing Columbia Journalism Review, Spring 1969, pp. 38-41). In later years it came to light that Aynesworth acted as an informant on the JFK case for the FBI.
Myers accepts Mrs. Roberts' statements about Oswald entering the house, about his hurried manner, about his wearing a jacket, and about his zipping up the jacket as he exited the house, but he rejects her report about the police car stopping in front of the house. I think anyone who listens to the interview that Mrs. Roberts gave on radio station KLIF a few hours after the assassination will conclude she sounded like a sincere, down-to-earth person who was simply telling what she had seen and heard.
It's worth pointing out that the FBI believed Mrs. Roberts' account of the police car visit. The FBI even opined the car was there because the police had learned of Oswald's address and were waiting to see if he came home.
The Fake Oswald Wallet and the Fake Hidell ID Card
Myers refuses to admit that someone clearly planted a fake "Oswald" wallet, complete with a fake Hidell ID card, at the Tippit murder scene, even though former FBI Special Agent Robert Barrett adamantly insists an Oswald wallet with both Oswald ID and fake Hidell ID was found at the scene, and even though Barrett clearly recalls that he was asked if he knew who Oswald or Hidell was by the policeman who was examining the wallet. In addition, former FBI Special Agent James Hosty confirmed that Barrett told him about the finding of an Oswald wallet at the Tippit scene, and there is newsfilm footage of policemen examining a wallet right next to Tippit's patrol car (pp. 287-303).
Myers says that although the wallet in the newsfilm resembles Oswald's arrest wallet in a number of features, "photographs show that the Oswald arrest wallet is not the same billfold" that's seen in the news footage (p. 298, original emphasis). Myers argues that the metal band on the arrest wallet's leather flap is not quite the same as the band on the newsfilm wallet's flap, and that the arrest wallet's leather flap is shaped slightly differently than the leather flap of the wallet in the newsfilm. I dispute both arguments.
The photos in question by no means clearly establish either of these claims. It is hard to make out the exact length and shape of the metal band on the flap of the newsfilm wallet. Allowing for a modest amount of sun reflection and the somewhat grainy nature of the newsfilm, the news footage wallet's metal band might very well be identical to the arrest wallet's metal band. As for the argument about the length of the bands, Myers fails to consider the fact that in the photo of the arrest wallet the flap is lying down flat and is apparently snapped shut, whereas in the newsfilm the wallet's flap is unsnapped and partially up. Also, the top left edge of the newsfilm wallet's flap is somewhat obscured by a plastic photo sleeve beneath it, and it's hard to determine the exact shape of the other edge of the flap because of the grainy nature of the newsfilm, because of the camera angle, and because the flap is up and not lying flat. The two flaps look to me like they could very well be identical. For that matter, the wallets look identical in size and in all their essential features.
However, even if the wallet in the newsfilm footage isn't Oswald's arrest wallet, the fact remains that former Special Agent Barrett insists an Oswald wallet with both Oswald ID and fake Hidell ID was found at the scene, and that Barrett clearly recalls that he was asked if he knew who Oswald or Hidell was by the policeman who was examining the wallet. Nor does it change the fact that former Special Agent Hosty confirmed that Barrett told him about the finding of an Oswald wallet at the Tippit scene. Nor does it change the fact that there is newsfilm footage of policemen examining a wallet right next to Tippit's patrol car. The Dallas police said they found Oswald's "real" wallet on his person while they were driving him to the police station. So the Oswald wallet that was found at the Tippit scene was fake and was planted there in an effort to frame Oswald.
Why Tippit Was in Central Oak Cliff and Not in His Assigned Area When He Allegedly "Stopped" Oswald
There is a severe problem with Myers' explanation for Tippit's presence in central Oak Cliff. Tippit's assigned area was miles from central Oak Cliff. Myers quotes dispatcher Murray Jackson's story that he assigned Tippit to central Oak Cliff because "we were draining the Oak Cliff area" and because he supposedly realized there wouldn't be any policeman there if anything happened there (pp. 43-44). But, this won't work: There was already a patrol car assigned there.
Tippit was gunned down in District 91. Officer Mentzel was already assigned there. John Wassell says the police tape for Channel 1 contains a transmission at about 12:33 in which Mentzel asks for permission to take a break. Wassell says Mentzel was on a lunch break from about 12:33 to 1:07. The dispatcher made no effort to contact Mentzel during this period. Wassell further says the dispatcher acknowledged without comment a check-in transmission from Mentzel at 1:07.
One could argue that technically District 91 was "uncovered" during this time. But in the aftermath of the assassination Districts 88, 89, and 98 also appear to have been "uncovered." Also, many patrol cars appear to have been covering two districts. So why would central Oak Cliff have been singled out for such special attention? Moreover, it should be kept in mind that just moments before the belatedly discovered 12:45 instruction for Officers Tippit and Nelson to move to central Oak Cliff, the dispatcher had radioed "all squads" to proceed to Dealey Plaza:
Attention all squads, report to downtown area code 3 to Elm and Houston, with caution. (CE 705, p. 8, 17 H 397)
In light of the these facts, it is very hard to understand why central Oak Cliff would have been singled out for special attention. Why would two out-of-area patrol cars have been sent to central Oak Cliff when all squads had just been ordered to go to Dealey Plaza (i.e., Elm and Houston), and when there was already a patrol car assigned to that area? Is it sheer coincidence that Oswald "just happened" to live in central Oak Cliff?
If nothing else, dispatcher Jackson would have known that Mentzel would be back in his patrol car soon. There was no need to send two additional patrol cars to central Oak Cliff.
Myers fails to explain why central Oak Cliff would have been singled out for special attention. Why the need for three patrol cars in the one area where, by cosmic coincidence, Oswald "just happened" to live, especially given the fact that there had been no disturbance of the peace in that area whatsoever, and that during this same time officers from the outermost areas were being sent to the Book Depository?
Disturbingly, nowhere in his section on why Tippit was in central Oak Cliff does Myers mention that Officer Mentzel was already in District 91. Not one solitary word. Why not? Because that would cast doubt on his explanation for Tippit's presence in central Oak Cliff?
Myers discusses a number of things that policemen and others said were broadcast over the police radio but which are not found on the existing police tapes. Interesting. This raises the possibility that the tapes have been altered or faked. Critics have long suspected that the 12:45 order sending Tippit and Nelson to central Oak Cliff was dubbed onto the tape after the fact. No such order appeared in the first Dallas police transcript of the police dispatch tapes, even though that transcript was prepared with the instruction to note all transmissions that related to the deaths of Tippit and Kennedy.
Former HSCA deputy chief counsel Gary Cornwell points out that the police tapes in question might be copies (Real Answers, p. 113). So does Carl Oglesby (The Jfk Assassination: The Facts and the Theories, p. 251). Says Oglesby,
. . . there are indications that other police dictabelts were tampered with (in connection with Patrolman J. D. Tippit) and the NAS panel did not look into these. Third, the chain of custody of this particular piece of evidence, this particular dictabelt, leaves its authenticity open to challenge. One of the committee's scientific experts said outright, though not for attribution, that the discovery of the apparently simultaneous voice transmission from one minute after the transmission means that this dictabelt could not be the original. (The JFK Assassination, p. 251)
Dr. Paul Hoch wrote to Dr. James Barger, one of the HSCA's acoustical scientists, and suggested the dictabelt recording may have been altered. Hoch was skeptical of certain parts of the recording relating to Tippit's presence in Oak Cliff, such as the transmission telling Tippit to be on hand for any "emergency." Hoch discussed this in a 1986 review of Henry Hurt's book Reasonable Doubt:
I suggested that both the tone and wording of two key messages [that supposedly explain why Tippit was in Oak Cliff] were in the "formal mode" which one would expect only in important messages -- or in a later re-creation. "You are in the Oak Cliff area, are you not?" seemed significantly more formal than "What's your location?", "Are you en route to Parkland, 601?", and similar inquiries recorded that day; it resembles "You do not have the suspect. Is that correct?", where the "formal mode" is expected. Similarly, "You will be at large for any emergency that comes in" contrasts with "Remain in downtown area, available for call" and "Stand by there until we notify you."
This kind of analysis has been of evidentiary value in at least one other case, involving a tape (released by Larry Flynt) purportedly of a conversation between John De Lorean and FBI informant James Hoffman. Jack Anderson reported that psycholinguist Murray Miron was able to establish that the tape had been faked. (24 May 84, SFC, #1986.2) In addition to the anomalously unresponsive content of "Hoffman's" remarks, his "speech cadences... `are consistent with those to be expected from one who has rehearsed or is reading from a script.'" Anderson described Miron as a "longtime FBI consultant." The Justice Department should certainly sponsor that kind of analysis of the Tippit messages. . . . (Echoes of Conspiracy, Vol. 8, No. 1, February 28, 1986)
Dr. Hoch sent his analysis to Professor Miron, in light of Miron's work on the Flynt tape. Several months later, Dr. Hoch wrote the following:
One reason for questioning the authenticity of the DPD Dictabelt is the presence of certain messages relating to Officer Tippit. Basically, the following exchanges are suspect because of their content, the formal tone of transmissions 590 and 592, and the apparent absence of the expected reaction. The message numbers and the transcriptions are from the Kimbrough transcript.
389. [Disp.] 87, 78, move into central Oak Cliff Area.
390. [78 (Tippit)] 78, I'm about Kiest and Bonnie View.
391. [87 (Nelson)] 87's going north on Marsalis on R. L. Thornton.
392. [Disp.] 10-4....
588-589 [Disp.] 78.  78.
590. [Disp.] You are in the Oak Cliff area, are you not?
591.  Lancaster and Eighth.
592. [Disp.] You will be at large for any emergency that comes in.
583.  10-4.
I sent my analysis to Prof. Murray Miron, a psycholinguist whose work on another case was described in Echoes of Conspiracy, Vol. 8, No. 1, February 28, 1986. The following is from a letter I sent to the Justice Department on September 16, 1986, describing his independent analysis, which provided some support for my own work:
"Prof. Miron . . . has not yet prepared a formal report, but he has provided me with the following conclusions: 'Our preliminary findings... suggest that the communications directed to Officer Tippit are anomalously at variance with the other transmissions of the tape record.... The transmissions to Tippit are quite stilted. They have the appearance of transmissions made more for an audience's benefit than those for which the intent is to convey instructions. The query regarding Tippit's current position is rhetorical rather than questioning.'"
"Prof. Miron emphasized to me that his analysis does not preclude a quite innocent explanation for the anomaly. The messages could have been added to the recording after the fact, or they might have been made in 'real time' but sound anomalous because the persons involved knew that something unusual was going on."
"For example, if Tippit was taking time to attend to personal business (as suggested by Mr. Hurt's book), a dispatcher might have covered for him by assigning him to the Oak Cliff area, with his voice betraying his knowledge that the assignment was not routine but somehow designed to keep Tippit out of trouble. (This is clearly speculation, of course.)"
"Even alteration of the recording after Tippit's death could have been motivated by nothing worse than a desire to protect his reputation." (Echoes of Conspiracy, Vol. 8, No. 3, October 31, 1986)
When Was Tippit Killed?
The foundation of Myers' argument regarding when the Tippit shooting occurred is his "stop-watch analysis" of the police tapes. Although the DPD and FBI transcripts have Bowley calling the dispatcher at about 1:16, and even though Bowley said it was 1:10 when he first arrived to the scene, Myers says his stop-watch review of the tapes shows Bowley didn't make the call until 1:17:41 (p. 92). If Bowley didn't call the police dispatcher till 1:17:41, why did the Sheriff's Department dispatcher apparently begin to respond to the shooting at 1:16, as the Sheriff's Office tape transcript seems to show (17 H 372)?
Almost immediately after the 1:16 time notation, the Sheriff's dispatcher tells all units to stay off the radio unless they have important traffic. Then, the dispatcher tries to contact any squads in the area of "Jefferson and East 10th, 510 East Jefferson and 10th." This is significant because this address is a combination of the address that Bowley and dispatcher Hulse gave over the police radio. A deputy sheriff responds, and the dispatcher tells him to remain in the area and to be on the watch for emergency vehicles.
As mentioned, questions have been raised
about the authenticity of the police tapes. Myers never explains why it took
. . . the first transcript was prepared by the Dallas police and was supposed to highlight communications pertaining to the murders of Officer Tippit and President Kennedy, excluding other police matters. The Warren Commission staff studied the transcript futilely in an attempt to find some radio dispatch that could explain why Tippit had moved from his assigned district into the area where he was killed. Nothing could be found. The puzzle persisted.
The Warren Commission continued to struggle with the question throughout the sprint. It heard testimony from three supervisors from the Dallas Police Department who tried to explain why Tippit was in the wrong place. The reasons were purely speculative, vaguely suggesting the demonstrably absurd possibility that Tippit was heading for Dealey Plaza four miles away to be of assistance there. During this testimony, there was never any reference to the possibility that Tippit might have been ordered to go to central Oak Cliff by the police radio dispatcher. And, of course, the three supervisors were quite aware of the intense effort being made to find an answer to this riddle. (Reasonable Doubt, p. 160)
months after the assassination, the
Not only was such an inexplicable instruction believed to be unique in the Dallas Police Department, it also had not been in the first transcript. Moreover, none of the police supervisors who testified earlier indicated that they knew anything about it. . . .
From the beginning, there were peculiarities that surrounded not only the fortuitous emergence of the evidence but also the specific radio dispatch. As critic Meagher points out, the dispatch was made at the very height of the bedlam that engulfed the Dallas Police Department during the minutes following the assassination. No event in the city's history had created such frenzy. Not only was the police switchboard jammed, but police officers had difficulty getting through with crucially important radio messages concerning the state of emergency in the wake of the assassination of President Kennedy.
Yet, there was time, at the height of this turbulence, for the dispatcher to order Tippit and one other officer--who, if he heard the order, did not obey it--to move into central Oak Cliff, where at that time there was not a single significant crime that needed police attention. (Reasonable Doubt, pp. 160-161)
There is considerable evidence Tippit was shot several minutes earlier than Myers can allow. Myers sidesteps most of this evidence. For example, Myers fails to mention that Mrs. Markham felt certain Tippit was shot at around 1:06 or 1:07. Bowley's watch-checked time of 1:10 for his arrival matches perfectly with Markham's time of 1:06-1:07 for the shooting and with Benavides' account that he waited a few minutes before he approached the patrol car. It also corresponds with other eyewitness estimates of when the shooting occurred.
Perhaps Myers didn't think he could afford to mention Mrs. Markham's comments about when the shooting occurred because he had already noted that Markham was en route to her regular 1:12-1:15 bus when she witnessed the Tippit slaying. There are several other facts that support Mrs. Markham's statements about the time of the shooting.
Mrs. Markham she said she left her apartment building at 1:04, that it would have taken her about 2 minutes to walk from her apartment building to the Tippit scene, that she walked to her bus stop every day, and that she had a routine of leaving at 1:00 to catch her bus. Myers would have us believe that Markham erred substantially, by 7 minutes, in her recollection of when she left her apartment building, even though she noted that as she was leaving she glanced at the clock in the laundry room of her apartment building and that the clock read 1:04.
Mrs. Markham's time of 1:06 or 1:07 for the shooting is consistent with her testimony that she left the apartment building at 1:04; it's consistent with how long it would have taken her to walk from her apartment to where she was when Tippit was shot (right around 2 minutes); and it's consistent with her testimony that the laundry room clock read 1:04 when she departed for her bus stop. But Myers simply can’t afford to accept Mrs. Markham’s time because it destroys his version of the shooting.
Bowley's radio call to the dispatcher deserves further consideration. As mentioned, Bowley reported his watch read 1:10 when he drove up to the crime scene. Bowley then walked up to the car, took the radio mike from Domingo Benavides, and contacted the police dispatcher at 1:16 or 1:17. Note that this was after Benavides heard gunfire, ducked into his truck and waited there "for a few minutes" (out of fear the killer would return), got out of his truck, attempted to help Tippit, climbed into the squad car, and then fumbled with the radio as he tried to figure out how it worked. It was at this point that Bowley appeared inside the car, took the radio from Benavides, and contacted the dispatcher.
The standard lone-gunman explanation is that Benavides waited in his truck only for a matter of seconds and not for a few minutes. But this seems to fly in the face of common sense, not to mention that it ignores what Benavides himself initially said, which was that he waited in his truck for "a few minutes." If you were only 25-50 feet away from a shooting and feared you could be the next target, how long would you wait until coming out into the open again? Understandably, and by all accounts, Benavides was scared to death by the shooting. He told the WC he waited in his truck "a few minutes" after he heard the shots. According to fellow witness Ted Calloway, Benavides told him the day after the shooting that,
When I heard that shooting, I fell down into the floorboard of my truck and I stayed there. It scared me to death. (p. 220, emphasis added)
Years later Benavides changed his story and told CBS he only waited a few seconds, not a few minutes. Predictably, Myers chooses to accept Benavides' belated change of story (pp. 86-87).
If, as seems likely, Benavides did in fact wait in his truck a few minutes after the shots rang out, then the case against Oswald collapses, unless one is willing to assume some unknown person gave Oswald a ride to the Tippit crime scene. Myers is willing to speculate that this might have happened, suggesting that a person who gave Oswald a ride would not have come forward to tell about it because he would have been too embarrassed (p. 352).
The problem of getting Oswald to the Tippit crime scene in time to commit the crime has always vexed the lone-gunman theory. Oswald's rooming house was nearly a mile from the spot on 10th and Patton where Tippit was shot, right around nine-tenths of a mile. Even walking at a brisk pace, it would have taken a minimum of 11-12 minutes to reach the Tippit scene, and bear in mind this isn't allowing time for Tippit's killer to walk a block and a half past 10th and Patton and then supposedly spin around upon seeing the police car approach. Mrs. Roberts said that when she looked out the window a short time after Oswald walked out the door, she saw him standing near the street. This was a few minutes after 1:00, around 1:03 or 1:04.
Myers says the shooting occurred at 1:14:30. A brisk pace would have put Oswald at the Tippit scene at right around 1:14, which wouldn't have left enough time for him to walk past 10th and Patton, spin around, start walking the other way, get stopped by Tippit, have a "friendly chat" with Tippit, wait while Tippit got out of the car, and then shoot Tippit. And note that this whole scenario assumes Oswald suddenly started sprint-walking toward the Tippit scene right after Mrs. Roberts saw him standing near the road in front of the rooming house. (It also assumes that Benavides waited only a few seconds before coming out from hiding and approaching the car.)
Lone-gunman scenarios of Oswald's movements strain mightily just to get Oswald to the rooming house by 1:00. They assume he rode on McWatters' bus and that he rode in Whaley's cab. They assume Whaley made the trip in under 6 minutes, even though Whaley said it took 9 minutes in the repeated reenactments that he did with the Dallas police--and the time of 9 minutes was when he "hit the lights right" (2 H 259). The time of 9 minutes was unacceptable (it was far too long), so Whaley was made to do yet another reenactment, this time with the Secret Service, and this time using a shorter route than the one Whaley described in his initial testimony in March 1964. It was this "simulation" that served as the basis for the commission's claim that the cab ride took no more than 6 minutes. An All-American Television team conducted a reenactment of Whaley's trip for the 1992 documentary The JFK Conspiracy. Hitting few if any red lights and with virtually no traffic, it took the team over 8 minutes to make the trip. Myers doesn't even address the problem of the widely varying times for Whaley's cab journey, not to mention the fact that it's by no means certain Oswald was Whaley's passenger.
The "Wrong" Fingerprints: More Evidence that Oswald Did Not Shoot Tippit
Myers admits the fingerprints on the front passenger door and on the right front fender of Tippit's patrol car were from one person, and that those prints are not Oswald's. One would think this would be evidence of Oswald's innocence. But Myers opines the fingerprints were made by a bystander and that the assailant didn't touch the car (pp. 274-278). The evidence suggests otherwise. The evidence indicates the assailant did in fact touch the passenger door. Mrs. Markham apparently said this to the police at the scene, and even demonstrated this to them, as we see in the WFAA footage. And, another witness reported the gunman put his hands on the front passenger door.
Furthermore, why would a bystander have touched the front passenger door and the right front fender? No witness reported touching the front passenger door or the right front fender, nor did any bystander report seeing another bystander do so. Additionally, the location of the passenger-door prints is significant: They were located just beneath the door's small vent window, and it was through this same window that the killer apparently spoke with Tippit, as Myers himself points out (p. 67). The vent window, moreover, was found open when police arrived to the scene. So the most logical conclusion is that the killer made the fingerprints that were found beneath the vent window as he spoke with Tippit through that window.
Eyewitness Jimmy Burt said the killer put his hands on the front passenger door. In the WFAA footage taken at the Tippit crime scene following the slaying, we see the following, according to Myers' own description of this footage: Eyewitness Helen Markham and DPD Captain W. R. Westbrook are standing near the passenger door of Tippit's car. Mrs. Markham appears to be showing Westbrook how the killer approached the car. Her arms move out in front of her in a gesture suggesting how the killer leaned on the car. Captain Westbrook leans down and looks at the area of the car near beneath the passenger side window. Westbrook jerks his head up and spots crime lab investigator Pete Barnes across the car and speaks to him. Barnes nods his head and starts off to apparently retrieve a fingerprint kit. Barnes was later photographed dusting the area Westbrook had indicated for prints!
Moreover, in this same footage we see Detective Paul Bentley, Sergeant Bud Owens, and Captain George Doughty investigating what apparently are fingerprints on the right front quarter panel of Tippit's car. This area was also dusted for fingerprints!
Incidentally, Myers does not say a word about either episode in his discussion on the fingerprints. He discusses these episodes in another part of the book, on p. 292, one chapter and 14 pages after he theorizes the prints were made by a bystander. It would have been nice if Myers had brought these filmed episodes to the reader's attention in his section on the fingerprints. But, of course, this would have tended to discredit his theory that the prints were made by a bystander.
Problems with the Ballistics Evidence
Myers admits the slugs from Tippit's body don't match the missile shells in evidence. To explain this, Myers posits a fifth shot (pp. 269-271). Yet, there's no physical evidence of such a shot, and only four shells were found on the day of the shooting.
Myers seeks to explain the fact that none of
the shells in evidence has Sergeant W. E. Barnes' or Patrolman J. M. Poe's
initials on it, even though both men said they marked two of the shells (pp.
260-265). Myers quotes two former DPD officers as saying marking evidence was
not viewed as vital at the time (which I seriously doubt). However, Sergeant
Gerald Hill testified he told Poe to be "sure" to mark two of the shells. If the
Myers quotes a former DPD detective as saying, decades after the fact, that Poe told him he really didn't mark the shells. However, Poe adamantly maintained in his Secret Service and FBI statements, and in his interview with Henry Hurt, that he marked the shells. He was certain he had marked the shells. Even in his WC testimony he indicated he believed he had marked them. Of course, the absence of Poe's initials on the extant shells suggests those shells are not the same shells that were found at the crime scene on the day of the shooting. But Myers can have none of this. So, he must argue that Poe somehow, for some reason, "failed" to mark any of the shells, even though Sgt. Hill had told him to be "sure" to mark two of the shells, and even though Poe initially said he was certain he had marked them.
Speaking of Sgt. Hill, it's worth repeating that Hill, an experienced policeman, initially said an automatic pistol was used in the shooting (as opposed to Oswald's revolver). Hill based his identification on the shell casings. As noted earlier, any firearms expert can attest that it's very easy to distinguish between automatic shells and revolver shells. In a 1986 interview, Hill said he knew the shells were .38-caliber shells because he picked one of them up and examined it. This is significant because .38 automatic shells are marked ".38 AUTO" on the bottom. Hill specifically said he looked on the bottom of the shell that he examined. It is no wonder, then, that Hill got on the radio and said "the shells at the scene indicate that the suspect is armed with an automatic .38."
In conclusion, Myers' book is hardly the definitive, case-closing book it has been touted to be. It is loaded with omissions, errors, and doubtful arguments.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael
T. Griffith holds a Master’s degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance
University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History from
American Military University, a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from
Excelsior College, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the
Community College of the Air Force. He
also holds an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of
Civil War Studies from