Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

JFK Assassination

The Arrest

Within minutes of the assassination, several eyewitnesses had pointed to the Book Depository building as the source of the gunshots.

One witness, Howard Brennan, said he noticed a man at a window of the building several times just before the motorcade passed. Brennan said he looked up after hearing the first shot and saw the same man fire a rifle, then disappear. Based on Brennans account, police at 12:45 p.m. broadcast a description: white male, slender, 165 pounds, 5-foot-10.

Cops flooded the building, and near a sixth-floor window they found three shell casings and a bolt-action rifle with a telescopic sight.

At 1:15 p.m., Dallas Patrolman J.D. Tippit noticed a man near 10th and Patton streets, a couple of miles from the assassination scene, who matched the suspects description. Tippit called the man to his patrol car. After a brief exchange through the window, the cop got out, apparently to question the man more closely.

The man pulled a pistol and fired four shots that struck and killed Tippit.

A dozen people witnessed the shooting. Someone called police, and heads turned to watch as radio cars raced to the location with sirens crying.

News of the presidents shooting had Dallas residents on high alert, and several people noticed a suspicious man duck into a doorway eight blocks from the shooting scene as cop cars passed.

One such witness was Johnny Brewer, a shoe store manager, who saw the man slip into the Texas Theater.

"He just looked funny to me, Brewer told the Warren Commission. His hair was sort of messed up and looked like he had been running, and he looked scared, and he looked funny."

Brewer spoke with the theaters box office clerk, Julia Postal. He told her, "I don't know if this is the man they want...but he is running from them for some reason."

Postal called police.

More than a dozen officers converged on the theater. They ordered the house lights turned up, and Brewer pointed out the suspicious character. As cops moved in, the man brandished his pistol but was subdued before firing a shot, although some officers said they heard the click of a misfire.

Eyewitness Brewer said fists flew while the suspect was being arrested. He heard one cop say, Kill the president, will you?

An officer later said the suspect was cursing a little bit and hollering police brutality.

The suspect was 24 years old, 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds. His name was Lee Harvey Oswald.

Dallas PD mugshot of Lee Harvey Oswald
Dallas PD mugshot of Lee Harvey Oswald
A misfit Marine Corps vet, the native of New Orleans had been hired as a $1.25-an-hour order-filler at the Texas School Book Depository six weeks earlier.

En route to the police station, Oswald asked over and over, "Why am I being arrested?"

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