Jim Leavelle, the Dallas police detective who handcuffed himself to Lee Harvey Oswald in a useless try to guard him two days after Oswald had assassinated President John Kennedy, died on Thursday at age 99, his daughter stated.
FILE PHOTO: Former Dallas police detective Jim Leavelle stands in entrance of a Pultizer Prize successful picture at The Sixth Ground Museum in Dallas, October 15, 2002. REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz
Leavelle, who lived within the Dallas space, died in Colorado throughout a trip, Karla Leavelle stated by cellphone. He fell earlier within the week and broke his hip, surviving a subsequent medical operation however not the restoration, she stated.
Leavelle turned part of historical past with Oswald and Dallas nightclub proprietor Jack Ruby as they have been all captured in a dramatic snapped as Ruby fatally shot Oswald on Nov. 24, 1963.
Leavelle, who as a younger sailor had survived Japan’s assault on Pearl Harbor in 1941, was a 13-year veteran of the Dallas Police Division when he was put answerable for transferring Oswald, a 24-year-old former Marine, from police headquarters to the county jail because the nation grieved for Kennedy.
Leavelle had no qualms about defending the person accused of killing the president however earlier than Leavelle may get him to his armored transport automobile, Ruby fatally shot Oswald. The slaying was broadcast dwell to surprised tv viewers.
“He died, didn’t he?” Leavelle stated of Oswald in a 2013 interview with NBC Information. “So, I … so yeah, I failed.”
A Pulitzer Prize-winning picture by Bob Jackson of the Dallas Occasions Herald – snapped instantly after Ruby fired – captured the shock and drama of the second.
Leavelle, wearing a lightweight coloured swimsuit and high-crowned hat, is seen arching backward with a surprised look centered on Ruby. His left hand – the one handcuffed to Oswald – is greedy the waistband of Oswald’s pants. Oswald’s face is contorted as he cringes from the gunshot whereas a hunched-over Ruby is seen from the again, his pistol nonetheless pointed at Oswald.
Police had obtained dozens of loss of life threats towards Oswald so Leavelle determined to hold two handguns that day as a substitute of his regular one in case there was a shootout. As an extra precaution, he not solely handcuffed Oswald’s wrists collectively, he handcuffed his left wrist to Oswald’s proper.
‘NOBODY’S GONNA SHOOT AT ME’
“I stated, ‘Lee, if anyone shoots at you, I hope they’re pretty much as good a shot as you’re,’” Leavelle advised the New York Day by day Information in 2013. “I meant that they might hit him and never me.
“And he stated, ‘No one’s gonna shoot at me.’ Well-known final phrases.”
Leavelle’s mission was to information Oswald previous reporters and photographers so the world may see Oswald had not been injured in police custody. However as they went by way of the gang within the basement of the police headquarters, up stepped Ruby, who was a well-known determine to many Dallas cops. Leavelle stated he noticed Ruby’s .38-caliber handgun as he aimed it at Oswald.
“I didn’t have time to do something,” Leavelle advised Reuters in a 2002 interview. “I did attempt to pull him (Oswald) behind me. I had him by the belt as effectively. I turned to him and as a substitute of pulling him behind me, I turned his physique. As a substitute of that bullet hitting him lifeless middle, it hit about four inches to the left of the navel.”
After the shot, Leavelle used his free proper hand to attempt to comprise Ruby whereas different officers swarmed in. Leavelle rode within the ambulance with Oswald to Parkland Hospital – the identical place Kennedy had been taken two days earlier and the place Oswald died about two hours after the capturing.
The day after the Oswald killing, Leavelle transferred Ruby between services – this time in secret – and Ruby advised him he feared somebody would attempt to kill him, too.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning Information, Leavelle stated he advised Ruby, “Jack, you didn’t do any favors while you shot Oswald.”
He stated Ruby, who would die of most cancers in 1967, replied: “All I wished to be was a hero and it appears like I simply messed issues up.”
Leavelle retired in 1975 and 50 years after the Kennedy and Oswald killings, the Dallas Police Division gave him a commendation and renamed its detective of the 12 months award for him.
He was married to Taimi Leavelle for 73 years till her loss of life in October 2014.
Writing and reporting by Invoice Trott; Further reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Modifying by Diane Craft