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Jim Leavelle



Detective Jim Leavelle, Dallas Police Department, March 1964. Pic.: DONALD UHRBROCK/TIMEPIX

Jim Leavelle is key to this part of the investigation for few reasons: for starters he was involved with the Tippit shooting, then he was inside the DPD and was involved taking statements, and also escorting Lee Oswald inside the building. And more importantly he was involved with Oswald’s line-ups.

And finally he was present during the interrogations on Nov. 24th and consequently been recorded being on Lee’s side when he got shot by Jack Ruby. Leavelle is one of the few Dallas police detectives doing publicity in the past 50 odd years, and there are quite a few questions regarding these interviews.



Jim Leavelle in the DMN in 1959, thanks to Steve Roe.

Jim Leavelle is probably one of the most famous Dallas cops to come out of this tragedy and like Elmer Boyd is still alive! He is seen on video, furthers down, claiming that he interrogated Oswald regarding the Tippit murder, The strange thing is, is that there is no mention whatsoever of this in his statement nor in his W.C. testimony! No evidence exists at all that he interrogated Oswald, besides Leavelle’s own say so in later years after the assassination.

When Leavelle testified before the Warren Commission, he claimed that the first time he had ever sat in on an interrogation with Oswald was on Sunday morning, Nov. 24th, 1963. When Joseph Ball asked Leavelle if he had ever spoken to Oswald before this interrogation (page 269), he stated; “No, I had never talked to him before“. Leavelle then stated during his testimony that “the only time I had connections with Oswald was this Sunday morning [November 24, 1963]. I never had [the] occasion to talk with him at any time…”

Compare the above with a part of a transcript from an interview with Joe Nick Patoski published in Texas Monthly at least 30 years later.

TM: Where were you on November 22?

Jim: Since my partner was on vacation, I was assigned to cover anything that came in the office. And all my other cohorts in homicide were given different assignments, some of them on the street, a lot of them out at the trade mart, and two of them [were] in the motorcade.

TM: You had work to do on the 22nd. At what point did you come in contact with Lee Harvey Oswald?

Jim: After he was arrested, they brought him in and set him in the interrogation room and I talked to him strictly about the shooting of Officer Tippit. I didn’t have any idea he was going to be a suspect in the Presidential assassination.

TM: As the reports of the crime came in, did it seem clear that this guy did the crime?

Jim: We didn’t know at the time. ‘Course, another thing that we didn’t know was whether he was acting alone or had somebody with him and it took a lot of legwork and time for us to determine he actually was alone.

TM: So you had an opportunity to interrogate him?

Jim: I talked to him, yeah, about 10, maybe 15 minutes one-on-one before Captain Fritz and the other officers came back from the book depository, preparatory to going [to] look for him, and found out he was already there. When the Captain [came] in and asked me what his name was, and I told him, he asked me where he worked, and he said the book depository, he said, ‘You’re the one I want to talk to.’ So, in essence, they took my prisoner away. I lost my prisoner. He and Chief Charles of the Secret Service.

TM: When did you see him again?

JimOh, I saw him off and on for the next day or so, but I didn’t talk to him because the powers that be were talking to him. But I spent my time making a case on it for the shooting of the officer.

Beck, Leavelle and Sims sitting at the table inside the Robbery and Homicide Bureau. Standing in the doorway of Fritz’s office is M.G. Hall. Pic.D.T. Herald. Click pic to enlarge.

Joseph McBride in his book Into The Nightmare manages to interview Jim Leavelle in the early nineties, and at this interview he lets his guard down a tad.

 “Now the thing was, the Captain (Will Fritz, the Head of Homicide, who was running the interrogation of Oswald) asked me if I had enough to make a case on him for the Tippit killing. And I said, “OH yeah. I got plenty on that.” I had him identified by about three or four people. And so Cap said, “Well go ahead and make a tight case on him in case we have trouble making this one on the presidential shooting.” “So that was one reason he was arraigned early on the Tippit shooting. But I was thinking that we also arraigned him somewhere down the line on the shooting of the president. But I wouldn’t swear to that offhand.”  (P.235/236).

When asked by Joseph McBride in his book Into The Nightmare, how his department had reacted to the shooting of the president Leavelle said: “As the old saying goes back then, “it was no different than a South Dallas nigger killin’” When you get right down to it – because it was just another murder inside the city lines of Dallas that we could handle. It was just another murder to me. And I have handled hundreds of ‘em. So it wasn’t no big deal.” (P 240).

In this oral history video from the 6th floor museum, the conversation turns very interesting at 14:55.

Leavelle walked into the office on the third floor and Oswald was already sitting there. He claims that he interviewed Oswald for 15 minutes before Will Fritz took him away from him. Leavelle said he interviewed Oswald only about the Tippit shooting and when he relayed this info he stated that Oswald was telling lies and so on.

Leavelle himself during his W.C. testimony, used “I do not recall” 30 times in two testimony sessions and “I don’t remember” 9 times. Quite a few instances of failed memory when it comes to his actions during that big important day only about 4 months later. But in later years he was able to give precise details surrounding all this without any trouble. This btw, is something that seems to be present with almost all D.P.D. law enforcement officers’ memories during their Warren Commission testimonies; collective amnesia when it comes to remembering details of Oswald’s interrogations.

Yet at the same time these D.P.D. detectives managed to make stuff up without any evidentiary support whatsoever, a great example is that Leavelle said that when Oswald, when asked to produce his ID, he panicked and killed the cop with four shots at point-blank range. There is absolutely nothing present to support this and if from reading other detectives statements one thing becomes more than abundantly clear, the last person to panic in Texas was Lee Oswald!

Leavelle is quoted by Joseph McBride’s Into The Nightmare on page 319, it says ”When I walked in (to Captain Fritz’s office to help interrogate Oswald) and I started talking to him about the shooting of officer Tippit, I had no idea whatsoever that he was going to be a suspect in the presidential shooting. Not one bit.”

Leavelle is spotted during the press conference very early on Nov 23rd.

Jim Leavelle next to Winston Lawson of the USSS while Oswald is leaving the room. Click to enlarge.

In the next oral history video from 2008 (at 10:45) he also states that Oswald stated “I did not shoot anybody”

During his W.C. testimony, Jim Leavelle talks more about the interrogation on Sunday morning the 24th. The interrogation he was actually present at. Ask yourself this, had he interrogated Oswald at the very beginning he would have said something about this and also would have asked additional follow-up questions that morning about it. Yet there is no mention of this anywhere to be read in his testimony.

Mr. RALL. Now, on November 24, on Sunday morning, did you return to work about the same time, 8 o’clock, or so?

Mr. LEAVELLE. Little before 10, I believe, or something.

Mr. BALL. And, were you ordered by Captain Fritz to get Oswald?

Mr. LEAVELLE. Yes; I don’t-I see here it says 9:30 whaterer the official time was, I think it probably was maybe about that time.

Mr. BALL. Where did you go to get Oswald?

Mr. LEAVELLE. I had to go to the fourth floor jail.

Mr. BALL. Did you handcuff him?

Mr. LEAVELLE. Yes; I did.

Mr. BALL. Were his handcuffs in the front or in the rear?

Mr. LEAVELLE. In front.

Mr. BALL. Where were you taking him?

Mr. LEAVELLE. Took him down the inside elevator to the third floor into Captain Fritz’s office.

Mr. BALL. Who was present at that meeting in Captain Fritz’s office?

Mr. LEAVELLE. Well, I can recall, I believe during that time I was there, there were several people in and out. I believe primarily myself and Mr. Graves and Dhority and L.D. Montgomery were in there most of the time, I don’t know. We were in, probably might have stepped outside the door at one time or another but primarily we were around and also Mr. Kelley, Secret Service, and a man from the postal inspector’s office. I cannot recall his name at this time. He should be on here–oh, yes, Mr. Sorrels and Holmes of the postal department. So, those people and Chief Curry came in once or twice. All those people may not have stayed in there constantly during the time but they were in there at some time or other.

Mr. BILL. Did these various people ask questions of Oswald?

Nr. LEAVELLE. I know Mr. Sorrels did and I know Mr. Kelley did. I do not recall whether Mr. Holmes asked any questions or not and Captain Fritz asked him some.

Mr. BALL. Do you remember what Mr. Sorrels asked him?

Mr. LEAVELLE. No; I don’t.

Mr. BALL. Remember what Mr. Kelley asked him?

Mr. LEAVELLE. I can only remember one question Mr. Kelley asked him and that was whether or not he thought the attitude of the U.S. Government toward Cuba would be changed since the President has been assassinated. To my knowledge, that is the only one I can recall.

Mr. BALL. What did Oswald say?

Mr. LEAVELLE. Oswald turned and asked Captain Fritz, said “I am filed on for the President’s murder, is that right?” And, Captain Fritz told him yes and he told Mr. Kelley, he said “under the circumstances. I don’t believe that it would be proper.” That might not be the words he used, hut wouldn’t he right, anyway, for him to answer that question because whatever he said might be construed in a different light than what he actually meant it to be, but he went on to say he felt like when the head of any government died or was killed, whatever, there was always a second in command who would take over and he said in this particular instance it would he Johnson. He said “So far as I know, Johnson’s views and President Kennedy’s views are the same”, so. he would see no particular difference in the attitude of the U.S. Government toward Cuba. That’s about the main-the only one, because he went into such detail on it, the only one I thought was a little elaborate for him to go into that type of answer, the reason I remembered it.

Mr. BALI,. Do you remember any question Captain Fritz asked him?

Mr. LEAVELLE. I remember that the captain asked him about the shooting of the President and the shooting of the officer: I know he did ask him that and I know Oswald did deny it, both times.

Mr. BALL.. That he had shot President Kennedy and Tippit?

Mr. LEAVELLE. Yes; he denied shooting either am?. He did say this “If you want me to ‘cop’ out to hitting or pleading guilty to hitting a cop in the mouth when I was arrested”. he said “Yeah. I plead guilty to that” but he–I do know that he denied the shooting of both the President and Tippit.

Mr. BALL. Can you remember any other questions asked Oswald by Captain Fritz?

Mr. LEAVELLE. No. not offhand; I would probably remember them if I heard the questions but I don’t remember offhand.

Mr. BALL. Did anybody talk to him about the post office box?

Mr. LEAVELLE. Yes; Sir. Kelley asked him several questions and probably Mr. Sorrels about the post office box. Both here and one he had in Shreveport wherever it was.

Mr. BALL. New Orleans ?

Mr. LEATELLE. New Orleans, yes.

Mr. BALL. Do you remember what Oswald said?

Mr. LEAVELLE. Since you mentioned it, I do remember them talking to him about the New Orleans and he’s asking him about this other name, this

Mr. BALL. Alek Hidell?

Mr. LEAVELLE. Yes; and he asked him if he knew Alek Hidell; said he didn’t know if he ever heard of the name. He never heard of that and asked him several questions along that line and then after he had denied all knowledge of Alek Hidell, Mr. Kelley asked him, said “Well, isn’t it a fact when you were arrested you had an identification card with his name on it in your possession.” He kind of grunted, said “Yes that’s right” and he said “How do you explain that?” And. as best my knowledge. He said “I don’t explain it.”

Mr. BALL. Anybody ask him about a gun. Whether or not he bought a rifle?

Mr. LEAVELLE. I am sure they did. I remember some of them asking about the rifle and about it being sent to the box here in Dallas but I do not recall. I am not sure he denied it but I do not recall what his exact denial was.

Mr. BALL.. You say he denied it. Do you remember whether or not he denied that he had bought a rifle?

Mr. LEAVELLE. To the best of my knowledge I do. He did deny it hut I would not swear to it.

Mr. BALL. Was anything said about a revolver?

Mr. LEAVELLE. I am sure they asked him something about the revolver, too, but I do not recall what it was.

Mr. BALLL. Did he say whether or not he had a revolver in his possession at the time of his arrest?

Mr. LEAVELLE. I do not recall what the questions was along that line or even what the answers was. Like I say. I am sure that they did. It seems as though my memory tells me that he did not deny taking the revolver but there, again. I would not want to say definitely.

Mr. BALL. Did you make any notes of the conversation?

Mr. LEAVELLE. So I did not myself. That was the only time I ever sat in on the interrogations of him by Captain Fritz or anyone.

Oswald on Nov 23rd in the corridor of the D.P.D. Jim Leavelle 2nd from the left. Click picture to enlarge.

It is pretty clear that Jim Leavelle has been economical with the truth regarding his so called interrogation of Lee Oswald, this then creates a problem with believing anything this man puts forward.

In the Nov. 1998 issue of Texas Monthly Leavelle ‘remembers’: “I told him on the way down, ‘Lee, if anybody shoots at you, I hope they’re as good a shot as you are.’ Meaning they’d hit him and not me. And he kind of laughed, and he said, ‘Ah, you’re being melodramatic,’ or something like that. ‘Nobody’s going to shoot me.’  There is no corroboration for any of this from anyone else who was inside that elevator.

L.C. Graves who rode the elevator down with Leavelle and Oswald cannot remember anything being said of significance on that ride down as he says during his Oral History interview for the 6FM. “I did not say anything to him. Jim might have said something to him. I don’t feel it was significant, if he said anything at all.”

And here is another shining example of Leavelle’s truth economics during the same interview with Texas Monthly: “I could see Jack [Ruby] when he came out of the crowd with that pistol, but it took a little less than a second and a half, or like two seconds, for that to take place. You can’t do too much in that length of time.”   He even repeats the same claim during his Oral History Interview of the 6FM in 2002.

The Jack Beers photo below shows Leavelle had no idea what was overcoming him until the deed was truly done and recorded by Bob Jackson, below the Beers photo.

Leavelle is also involved with escorting Oswald to Parkland hospital, here he is seen with Charles Dhority  (holding Oswald’s hand) to the left of Leavelle and L.C. Graves to the right


Leavelle’s statement

Credit: Andy Jacobsohn/DMN.6th Floor Museum.

Credit: Andy Jacobsohn/DMN/6th Floor Museum.

Jim Leavelle interviewed by Mark Oakes May 15 1992.

Here is an old video featuring Leavelle (wearing a white hat).