“The Devil is in the Details”

By: Trish Fleming and Zach Jendro

                Buried within the volumes of the Warren Commission Report are countless insightful nuggets of information concerning the assassination of John Kennedy. Of particular interest to many researchers are the sworn statements that were taken in early 1964. It has been widely noted that not all potential witnesses of importance were called to testify; but, a great deal were. The fact that the questioning of these witnesses was sometimes tantalizingly incomplete is beyond question.  However, when confronted with inconsistencies, some investigators were not afraid to recall witnesses and ask repeated follow up questions in an attempt to sort out the truth.

Such is the case with the testimony of one of the most important individuals of that fateful day, Texas Schoolbook Depository superintendent, Roy Truly. His role in the assassination is well known: he hired supposed assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, he accompanied Officer Marrion Baker in the building when the two of them discovered Oswald on the second-floor lunchroom[1], and he reported Oswald as being missing from the premises[2], which seemingly gave investigators one of their first major leads of the case. Importantly, he also gave officers Oswald’s name and address, which, on the surface, may have given investigators an enormous clue as to where to find this crucial and missing suspect.[3] In the minds of many, this would seem to sew up the mystery as to how Officer J.D. Tippit arrived near the boarding house where Oswald had been staying at the time, 1026 North Beckley in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas. Indeed, many documentaries and mainstream articles about the assassination have cited Oswald’s absence from the book warehouse as the crucial lead that brought about his sudden apprehension. But, this was not the case. It has been widely noted that the office of the Texas Schoolbook Depository did not actually have the Oak Cliff address as Oswald’s primary residence; in fact, according to his testimony, Truly gave investigators an address in Irving, which was the residence of Michael and Ruth Paine.[4] Oswald’s wife, Marina, had been staying there, and her husband would visit this residence during the weekend. But, the discrepancies do not end there. Upon reading Truly’s Warren Commission testimony and comparing the timing of his account with other important events, serious questions begin to appear.

Assistant counsel of the President’s Commission, Mr. Joseph A. Ball, questioned Truly, under oath, on May 14, 1964, a follow up to another statement taken in March. During this May questioning, Ball asks Truly to recount details about several important facets of this case. He inquires about two rifles that were brought into the Schoolbook Depository by one Mr. Warren Caster days before the assassination.[5] He then changes the focus to an important detail of this research: the circumstances surrounding the moments when Truly first noticed Oswald was missing and his actions afterward. Below is Truly’s account of his action, paraphrased, with quotes, taken from his testimony.[6]

  1. Truly noticed that Oswald was missing. According to his testimony, he noticed Oswald was missing “10-12 minutes” after their encounter in the lunch room. He later corrects himself after retracing his actions, and states that it was at approximately 1:05 P.M. when he first notices Oswald’s absence, or about 30 minutes. He also notes that Charles Givens, another man working on the same floor as Oswald, the sixth floor, was missing, as Truly saw Givens, as well as Harold Norman and James Jarman (who, unbeknownst to Truly at the time of the crime scene investigation, claimed to have returned to the Depository during this period) walking down Elm Street, east towards Houston Street.

 

  1. Truly calls Mr. Akin at the other book warehouse to get Oswald’s description and address. Despite his recollections that at least three other employees were missing from the building (indeed, historical research has proven that several other employees were also absent[7]), Truly focused his attention on Oswald, who he had seen on the premises several minutes earlier. What made Oswald so suspicious in his mind is vague:

 

  • BALL. Did you make a check of your employees afterwards?

Mr. TRULY. No, no; not complete. No, I just saw the group of the employees over there on the floor and I noticed this boy wasn’t with them. With no thought in my mind except that I had seen him a short time before in the building, I noticed he wasn’t there.

 

  • TRULY. That’s right, and at such time that you have information of the officers taking the names of the workers in the warehouse over in and around the wrapping tables, it was at such time that I noticed that this boy wasn’t among the other workers.

 

It was at this time that Truly, without the direction of investigators, called a Mr. Akin at the other warehouse building owned by the same corporation, to get Oswald’s personal information.

 

  • TRULY. When I noticed this boy was missing, I told Chief Lumpkin that “We have a man here that’s missing.” I said, “It may not mean anything, but he isn’t here.” I first called down to the other warehouse and had Mr. Akin pull the application of the boy so I could get–quickly get his address in Irving and his general description, so I could be more accurate than I would be.

 

  • BALL. Now, did you tell Chief Lumpkin the man was missing before or after you called to the warehouse and got the name?

Mr. TRULY. No, I called the warehouse beforehand.

Mr. BALL. You didn’t talk to any police officer before you called the warehouse and got the address?

Mr. TRULY. Not that I remember.

Mr. BALL. You did that on your own without instructions?

Mr. TRULY. That’s right.

Truly also wrote this information down to present to the authorities.

  • BALL. So, when you talked to Chief Lumpkin, you at that time had in your possession there the address of Lee Oswald in Irving?

Mr. TRULY. That’s right, I had scribbled it down on a piece of map or something so I would remember it.

Mr. BALL. That is the address that he had put on his application form for employment?

Mr. TRULY. That’s right.

Mr. BALL. And did you know of any other address

Mr. TRULY. I didn’t know of any other address at all.

 

  1. Truly notifies the investigators of Oswald’s absence and presents the address.

The timing of this detail was of particular interest to Ball, for he asks Truly several times to clarify when exactly he informed authorities that Oswald was missing.

 

  • BALL. Now, you told Chief Lumpkin that there was a man missing?

Mr. TRULY. Yes; and he said, “Let’s go tell Captain Fritz.” Well, I didn’t know where Captain Fritz was.

 

  • BALL. Where was Captain Fritz when you saw him?

Mr. TRULY. He was on the sixth floor in the area where they found the rifle.

Mr. BALL. And was the rifle there at the time?

Mr. TRULY. No, I never saw the rifle.

 

Whether or not the rifle had already been found is crucial, for it places a specific time frame for when Truly informed the police that Oswald was missing.

  • BALL. Was this after or before the rifle had been taken from the building?

Mr. TRULY. It was before the rifle had been taken from the building.

Mr. BALL. And do you know whether it was before or after the rifle was found?

Mr. TRULY. Apparently the rifle had been found before I got to the sixth floor, but just how early, I don’t know.

Mr. BALL. But you had heard that the rifle was found, had you, by your talk with Fritz?

Mr. TRULY. That’s–I don’t know–I learned it was found while I was on the sixth floor.

Mr. BALL. While you were on the sixth floor?

Mr. TRULY. While I was on the sixth floor.

Mr. BALL. In other words, you went with Chief Lumpkin to the sixth floor, didn’t you?

Mr. TRULY. Yes.

Mr. BALL. And what was your purpose of going there?

Mr. TRULY. My purpose in going there was to inform Captain Fritz that this boy was missing and give him his telephone number, and his Irving address, at the suggestion of Chief Lumpkin, who accompanied me.

Mr. BALL. Did you give Captain Fritz this name and address?

Mr. TRULY. Yes, I did.

Mr. BALL. Was it while you were there that you learned the rifle had been found?

Mr. TRULY. I don’t remember who I learned this from—-

Mr. BALL. I didn’t ask you that, I’m talking about time only.

Mr. TRULY. That was while I was on the sixth floor is when I learned the rifle was found, but I did not see it.

 

The Warren Commission Report states that the rifle had been found at 1:22 P.M., which means, as clearly stated by Truly, that he presented the possibility of Oswald as a suspect within minutes of this event, since he didn’t see the rifle, itself. A reasonable time frame for Truly’s interaction with Fritz would be between 1:22 P.M. and 1:30 P.M.

Why is this timing so important? When compared to the known actions of Dallas police, particularly J.D. Tippit, Truly’s statements should have caused an enormous problem for investigators. Tippit’s activities that day, and the activities around the Oak Cliff rooming house have been thoroughly documented by William N. Drenas.[8] A brief timeline of these events is as follows:

12:45 P.M. Squads 78 and 87 (Tippit) are ordered to the “Central Oak Cliff Area” to provide backup support for that district in case of emergency.[9] Tippit goes nowhere near that area, neither immediately or anytime that day, thereby ignoring orders.[10] (When asked in his Warren Commission testimony whether or not the area in which Tippit was shot is in “Central Oak Cliff,” Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry does not conclusively answer.[11])

12:45 P.M.-12:54-1:00 P.M. Five witnesses placed Tippit at the GLOCO Service Station, 1502 North Zangs Boulevard, near the Houston Street Viaduct (Northeast Oak Cliff). He stays there for about 10 minutes, then tears off down Lancaster at high speed. Police Dispatcher asks Tippit’s location, he responds, “I’m about Keist and Bonnie View (within Tippit’s regular patrol district, about 4 miles away, which, according to Drenas, was “Highly improbable”)[12]

12:54 P.M. Dispatcher asks Tippit’s location, he responds, “Lancaster and Eighth.”[13]

1:00 P.M. Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper at Oswald’s rooming house states that she noticed a police car with two officers pull up in front of the house while Oswald was in his room, honk “several times”, then leave.[14]

1:00-1:05 P.M.  Tippit makes hurried phone call at The Top Ten Record Shop, 338 West Jefferson, near the corner of Bishop Ave (Northeast Oak Cliff).[15]

1:03 P.M.  Dispatcher calls Tippit, Tippit does not respond.[16]

?????  Tippit, driving erratically, forces driver James A. Andrews off the road. Tippit exits his car in a panic, and without saying a word, returns to his car and speeds off.[17]

1:10-1:15 P.M.  Tippit shot to death near corner of East Tenth Street and Patton Avenue (Northeast Oak Cliff). The exact time is in dispute. The Warren Commission Report states it happened at 1:15.[18]

If Truly was telling the truth to the Warren Commission about when he noticed Oswald missing and when he informed police, how is it that any officers would have appeared outside of Oswald’s rooming house, an area where no officers were ordered to go, before 1:25? Truly was quite clear about his actions. How is it possible that any policemen could have considered Oswald a suspect before 1:30?

It seems to be evident from the eyewitness testimony recounted by Drenas that Tippit left the Gloco Station at 12:54 with a purpose in mind, for he was seen “tearing off” down Lancaster, heading south in the direction of the Top Ten Record Store to make a phone call. This is despite the fact that police logs show no order for Tippit to move[19] and the record store was well outside his patrol district.[20] It appears by his behavior that Tippit had some emergency business that was not only unsanctioned by his superiors, but was outside of the area to which he was ordered, and that this business caused him to leave suddenly. What this business might be falls within the realm of speculation; however, after being unable to place his phone call, Tippit excitedly left the record store, headed northward in the direction of the boarding house, running a stop sign, eventually forcing driver James Andrews off the road and acting suspiciously while en route. He arrived in the area where he was to be slain (a few blocks from Oswald’s rooming house) at approximately 1:10 P.M. Through his actions, it is clear that he was not acting within standard police procedure, and apparently under some duress. Also to be considered is the testimony of Earlene Roberts, who states that a Dallas patrol car was outside Oswald’s residence, while he was there, temporarily stopped and honked repeatedly at approximately 1 P.M. The Warren Commission makes it quite clear that this was not Tippit’s car.

The Warren Commission Report states that Tippit was radioed to go to the “central Oak Cliff area” at 12:45 P.M..[21] According to Murray Jackson, the officer who made this announcement, this was not to respond to a manhunt for the assassin, but to cover officers that had been moved out of Oak Cliff as a result of the day’s events.[22] In fact, Tippit seems to have ignored this order altogether and stationed himself at the Gloco Station for some ten minutes.[23] Also, Tippit was nowhere near the “central Oak Cliff area,” as the service station, record store, and the Beckley address are in the northeastern corner of Oak Cliff. Tippit was clearly not following the orders he was given. The Warren Report also makes it quite clear that his actions leading up to this were within police regulations, but when Tippit’s overall activites of the afternoon are considered, this is quite clearly not the case.[24] It is uncertain as to how the activities that led up to the officer’s slaying occurred. The Warren Report states that a vague description of a suspect had been radioed to officers by 12:45; but, evidently Tippit was not part of a dragnet manhunt; he had very specific and unsanctioned locations that he was heading towards. It is not clear what made Oswald stand out from thousands of other young men of his general description that were in Dallas that day. The area in which he was murdered, East Tenth and Patton, is not a main thoroughfare, so it would seem that Tippit was in this area for a specific reason, a reason which will probably never be made clear. It is possible that Tippit saw Oswald acting suspiciously and pulled over to investigate, but his prior actions make this seem illogical. He was clearly heading to specific locations (the record store, Tenth and Patton) that he had no business being in, in a hurry and erratically, after disregarding orders and ignoring a request for his position. These do not seem like the actions of a patrolman performing a methodical manhunt within the rules of his job. These actions seem like the actions of a man who was performing unauthorized actions, in a hurry, and sloppily. He seemingly had activities other than his immediate duties on his mind at the time. However, this is speculation. What is beyond speculation is the presence of an additional patrol car at the Beckley address at 1:00 P.M., a half hour before Oswald should have been considered a suspect.

This raises a question that may be uncomfortable to some: How is it possible that two patrol cars were in the area of Oswald’s rooming house at 1:00 P.M. and 1:10, respectively, when he was not even considered a suspect by the police until approximately 1:22 P.M.? Even if Captain Fritz had immediate access to a radio to inform other officers of this suspect, this timing is clearly not possible.  With the evidence complied, the possibility that some members of the Dallas Police had foreknowledge of Oswald’s location and potential involvement must be considered. This possibility most certainly cannot be eliminated. The mysteries surrounding the deaths of both John Kennedy and J.D. Tippit will probably never be solved to everyone’s satisfaction, but through a careful examination of evidence, such as the testimony in the Warren Commission Report and other eyewitness accounts, we may be able to shed light on what might have happened on that tragic day.

 

 

 

 

[1] Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 263, Testimony of Marrion L. Baker.

[2] Warren Commission Hearings, Testimony of Roy Sansom Truly.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “The Ups and Downs of the TSBD,” The Dealey Plaza Echo, March 2008

[8] http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/car10.htm

[9] Warren Report, 4 H 179 (Curry)

[10] http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/car10.htm

[11] Warren Report, 4 H 179 (Curry)

[12] http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/car10.htm

[13] Ibid.

[14] Warren Commission Report, Page 281

[15] http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/car10.htm

[16] Ibid.

[17] http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/car10.htm

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Warren Report, 4 H 179 (Curry)

[22] http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/car10.htm

[23] Ibid.

[24] Warren Report, Page 397

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