Jim Leavelle

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Jim Leavelle
Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby as Oswald is being moved by police, 1963.jpg
Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963. Leavelle is at the left side of the photograph, in the light suit.
Born James Robert Leavelle
(1920-08-23) August 23, 1920 (age 96)
Red River County, Texas
Nationality American
Jim Leavelle sign.jpg

James Robert "Jim" Leavelle (born August 23, 1920) is a Pearl Harbor veteran and the former Dallas, Texas, homicide detective who was escorting Lee Harvey Oswald through the basement of Dallas Police headquarters when Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby. Widely distributed photographs of Oswald shortly before the shooting, depict Leavelle standing to Oswald's right and wearing a light-colored suit with matching hat.

Early life and military service[edit]

Leavelle was born and raised in Red River County, Texas. He served in the United States Navy during World War II, and was a sailor on board the USS Whitney during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.[1]

Police career[edit]

Leavelle became a homicide detective after World War II ended. He joined the Dallas Police Department in April 1950 and retired in April 1975.[2][3]

Kennedy and Oswald[edit]

Leavelle later said to author Joseph McBride that to him, the murder of President John F. Kennedy was "no different than a south Dallas nigger killing".[4]

After the Kennedy Assassination occurred, Leavelle was in charge of escorting the suspect Lee Harvey Oswald through the Dallas Police Headquarters. Handcuffed to Oswald, Leavelle led Oswald towards an escort car through the basement of the Dallas Police Department, where Jack Ruby, fatally shot Oswald.

Doctor Robert Mcelland who treated Oswald after he was shot, noticed Leavelle waiting outside the hospital room and says that Leavelle told him that after Oswald was shot, he claimed to have "leaned over Oswald and said, 'Son, you're hurt real bad. Do you wanna say anything?' He looked at me for a second. He waited, like he was thinking. Then he shook his head back and forth just as wide as he could. Then he closed his eyes."[5]

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, November 24, 1963. When Counsel Joseph Ball asked Leavelle if he had ever spoken to Oswald before this interrogation, 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..."[6]

In a 2006 interview, Leavelle said that he was the first to interrogate Oswald after his arrest (contrary to his Warren Commission testimony); he said that he joked with Oswald before the transfer, saying "Lee, if anybody shoots at you, I hope they're as good a shot as you are," meaning that the person would hit Oswald instead of Leavelle. Oswald smiled and said, "You're being melodramatic. Nobody's going to shoot at me."[1]

Leavelle said in a 2013 interview that the way Oswald acted "was not the actions of someone who just killed the most powerful man on the planet."

Leavelle believes that Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy, and said in a 2006 discussion, that he was told by Oswald's brother Robert that he believes the same thing, "because I knew my brother."[1] Leavelle has also refuted conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination. He does not believe that Oswald and Ruby knew each other and that Oswald recognized Ruby before he was shot; "Some people have said that they could tell by the expression on Oswald's face that he knew Ruby when Ruby lunged forward at him with a gun. Oswald didn't recognize Ruby, he recognized the sight of a gun and showed fear of that."

On March 25, 1964, Leavelle provided testimony to Warren Commission assistant counsel Leon Hubert at the Post Office Building in Dallas.[7] He provided additional testimony there to assistant counsel Joseph Ball on April 7.[6]


The suit Leavelle wore on November 24, 1963, the handcuffs used to restrain Lee Harvey Oswald and the grey fedora Jack Ruby wore when killing Oswald are now on display at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas.[citation needed]