Witness to History: The Shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald

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Witness to History: The Shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald

Two days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, then Detective James R. Leavelle, Dallas (TX) Police Department, found himself handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald as they were escorting him to the county jail. Because they were shackled so closely to one another during the transport, Mr. Leavelle turned to him and said, “Lee, if anybody shoots, I hope they’re as good a shot as you are.” According to Mr. Leavelle, he (Oswald) kind of laughed and said, “Well nobody’s going to shoot at me.”

The shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald was captured by a Dallas Times-Herald Pulitzer Prize winning black and white photograph picturing Detective Leavelle handcuffed to Oswald—a photograph that undoubtedly made him one of the most famous police officers in America.

Mr. Leavelle made the trip from Texas to visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and provided an oral history for the National Law Enforcement Museum, to permanently record his law enforcement service and ensure his story will be shared with everyone that visits the Museum.

Mr. Leavelle also served as the first guest in the National Law Enforcement Museum’s, Witness to History discussion series.

Mr. Leavelle, along with his wife and daughter, visited the Memorial for the first time. Fittingly, Mr. Leavelle saw the name of his former colleague with the Dallas (TX) Police, JD Tippit, etched on to Panel 63-E, Line 9 of the marble walls. JD Tippit was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald minutes after President Kennedy was killed.

This program was originally recorded and hosted by C-SPAN.

To watch this program, please visit here.



  • Detective James R. Leavelle, Dallas (TX) Police Department, retired

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