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Dallas policeman who was escorting Kennedy assassin when he was shot dies at 99

Jim Leavelle was escorting Lee Harvey Oswald, arrested for the murder of the US president in 1963, when gunman Jack Ruby killed the suspect.

Jim Leavelle holding the 1963 photograph, as he escorted Lee Harvey Oswald moments before he is shot in Dallas (Sandra J. Milburn/AP)
Jim Leavelle holding the 1963 photograph, as he escorted Lee Harvey Oswald moments before he is shot in Dallas (Sandra J. Milburn/AP)

By David Warren, Associated Press

Jim Leavelle, the longtime Dallas policeman who was captured in one of history’s most famous photographs as he escorted President John F. Kennedy’s assassin moments before he was fatally shot, has died aged 99.

Mr Leavelle, distinctive in his light-coloured suit and white Stetson, is seen in the photograph with his hand on Lee Harvey Oswald, Mr Leavelle’s body stiffening as nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot the handcuffed presidential assassin at close range on live TV in 1963.

Mr Leavelle appears shocked as Oswald grimaces in pain.

Mr Leavelle’s daughter, Tanya Evers, said her father died on Thursday while visiting her sister in Colorado.

Jim Leavelle poses in the former book depository building, now known as The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots killing President John F. Kennedy, in Dallas (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

He fell earlier this week and broke his hip, requiring surgery at a Denver hospital, Ms Evers said Friday.

He responded well to the surgery, she said, but then later suffered a heart attack.

In the decades after the assassination, Mr Leavelle regularly spoke at schools and before various groups because he believed “he had a responsibility to share his story”, said Ms Evers, who lives in San Antonio.

Her father through the decades received mail nearly every day from people asking questions about the assassination or invoking any one of several conspiracy theories, she said.

“He really felt a need to address the theories,” Ms Evers said.

President Kennedy visiting New Ross, Co Wexford, Ireland (PA)

“He wanted to make sure that people knew there was no conspiracy and that one misguided person could take a shot at a president and succeed.”

Mr Leavelle joined the Dallas police force in 1950 and retired from active service in 1975.

He was among the lead detectives assigned to investigate Mr Kennedy’s November 22 1963, assassination.

In 2013, Dallas police commanders honoured Mr Leavelle with the Police Commendation Award and announced the department’s Detective of the Year Award would be named for him.

Jim Leavelle said he tried to shield Oswald (Devon Ravine/AP)

In accepting the honour, Mr Leavelle said he was thinking of other deserving officers, including J.D. Tippit, who was shot and killed by Oswald when Mr Tippit stopped Oswald to question him some 45 minutes after Kennedy’s assassination.

In comments after that presentation, Mr Leavelle said that when he saw an armed Ruby approach in the basement of Dallas police headquarters, he tried unsuccessfully to jerk Oswald behind him to shield him from harm.

“Him being real close all I did was turn his body so instead of the bullet hitting him dead centre it hit about three or four inches to the left of the navel,” Mr Leavelle said.

The photo that captured the attack won a Pulitzer Prize.



From Belfast Telegraph