By: Brian Kendall
Casa Mañana is presenting Oswald: The Actual Interrogation from Nov. 9 – Nov. 17. This compelling performance examines the history and events surrounding the 48 hours that Lee Harvey Oswald was in the custody of the Dallas Police Department after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the momentous event.
Over the next few months leading up to the performance, we will be spotlighting individuals with a tie to those 48 hours in history.
High school classmates of retired homicide detective Jim Levealle, 92, could have never predicted how their friend would fulfill a youthful prophecy. “Of all things,” said Leavelle. “They had written that I would be a detective in a big city police department.”
Leavelle was handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald when Jack Ruby’s .38 bullet fatally struck the accused assassin. The sharply dressed man in the cowboy hat became one of the most recognizable police officers in history.
He was the first detective to question Oswald regarding the fatal shooting of Officer J. D. Tippit in Oak Cliff. “I didn’t shoot anybody,” said Oswald, who was cool, calm and collected. “I don’t know how he could be that calm after shooting two people,” said Leavelle. “He was pleasant.”
Just prior to Oswald’s transfer from the basement of the Dallas Police Department, Leavelle said in jest, “Lee, if anybody shoots at you, I hope they’re as good a shot as you are.” Oswald laughed and said, “Nobody’s going to shoot at me.”
It happened in the flash of an eye. Leavelle saw Ruby –– a man he knew well from years patrolling a district replete with dance halls and bars –– holding a gun tightly against his leg. “You don’t have time to think,” said Leavelle. “I tried to turn Oswald’s body behind me.” It was too late.
The bullet tore through Oswald’s body, shattering his left rib. “That rib saved my life,” said Leavelle, who habitually squeaked out of dire situations unharmed.
In an ambulance barreling toward Parkland Hospital, the detective held his prisoner’s wrist trying to find a pulse. Lee Harvey Oswald was pronounced dead at 1:07 p.m. CST.
“I would have wanted him to get the death penalty. I would have preferred him to go to trial,” said Leavelle.
The next day, the detective escorted a handcuffed Ruby. In Leavelle’s mind, Ruby and Oswald possessed a lot of the same qualities. “I knew him well enough to know what he was like and what he would do.”
Ruby wanted to be a hero. It was a sentiment the nightclub owner uttered to Leavelle 13 years earlier. “That’s exactly what he thought he would be.”
By: Brian Kendall