Immediately after the shots had fired out and the presidential motorcade sped away, a man in the Texas School Book Depository, second-floor lunchroom was confronted by an armed Dallas policeman who had raced into the building. The man in question, Lee Harvey Oswald, was to become associated with Kennedy’s assassination for all time.
Twenty-four-year-old Oswald was identified by the superintendent of the building before being released. He then calmly bought a coke from a vending machine and left the building and into Elm Street.
The Warren Commission, which later investigated all aspects of the assassination, convened that Oswald had shot the president from the sixth floor window of the depository building and then hidden an eight pound, 1938, Mannlicher-Carcano, 6.5 mm rifle with power scope.
It was claimed that Oswald, immediately after shooting the president, then hid the gun before he took the descending lift and was confronted by the police officer. The gun was later found standing upright by Dallas police, around 1.22 pm, a good 20 minutes after Oswald had already returned to his boarding house.
During this time, the crime scene was searched by police, detectives and witnesses, all around the grassy knoll, parking lot and railroad yard. Interestingly, the area had not been sealed off immediately after the shooting and photographs show vehicles still driving down Elm Street only nine minutes after the assassination.
Oswald’s landlady testified that he was standing waiting for a bus around 1.04 pm. He then continued walking some distance and missed a Greyhound bus that was heading for Mexico. At 1.15 pm, 13 people witnessed Oswald either shooting dead Police Officer JD Tippet, or running away from the scene of the crime. Another witness then observed Oswald hiding from police cars and surreptitiously entering the Texas Theatre movie house.
Dallas police arrived outside the cinema at 1.40 pm. Inside patrons noted that Oswald had moved around the auditorium sitting next to different people. Two dozen policemen carried out the arrest. By now word about the president’s murder had reached the general population and an angry crowd gathered outside the cinema as Oswald was bundled out. As some yelled for his death, Oswald replied that he was a victim of police brutality.
At 7.05 pm and 11.36 pm respectively, Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with the murder of police officer J.D.Tippit and President Kennedy. He denied he had anything to do with the killings.
Doctors at Parkland Hospital had worked frantically to save the president’s life but at 1.00 pm, after all the heart activity had ceased, he was pronounced dead.
At 2.38 pm on Air Force One, Lyndon Johnson, in the presence of a blood stained Mrs Kennedy, was sworn in by as the 36th President of the United States of America. When the aeroplane arrived back in Washington, Jacqueline Kennedy stepped off still wearing her stained pink suit. She refused to remove her blood spattered attire until the early hours of the morning, saying to witnesses, “Let them see what they have done”.
Oswald was held at Dallas Police headquarters for interrogation. The room where he was questioned was swarming with FBI agents, Secret Agents and detectives. The suspect denied everything.
Oswald never reached trial, for just two days after the president’s assassination he was himself shot and killed in front of millions of television viewers.
Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner, self publicist and associate of the underworld, came to international attention when he gunned down Oswald on Sunday, 24th November, at 11.21 am.
Oswald was in the process of been transferred by car from police headquarters to a nearby jail when Ruby suddenly stepped out and aiming a Cobra 38, shot Oswald fatally, as television cameras were broadcasting the scene.
On being arrested Ruby, who had changed his surname from Rubenstein, told witnesses that he killed Oswald to show that ‘Jews have guts’ and to help Dallas ‘redeem’ itself in the eyes of the public.
Many theories have been mulled over regarding possible motivations. The main ones being that Ruby was put up to do the job by mafia mobsters or by certain figures who did not want Oswald to testify. Neither theory has ever been proved. What is a known fact is that Ruby had close ties to many Dallas police officers who frequented his nightclubs.
Ruby was found guilty of ‘murder with malice’ and sentenced to death. However, his lawyers successfully managed to apply for a re-trial on the basis that their client should have been tried outside Dallas. While the retrial was in process, Ruby fell ill and died of a pulmonary embolism on 3rd January 1967. Before he passed away he declared that he had not been part of a conspiracy or involved with others, regarding his shooting of Oswald, despite previously making claims to the Warren Commission that he and his family were in danger of their lives.
Lee Harvey Oswald had a history of volatile behaviour and an unsettled upbringing. Before the age of 18, he had lived in 22 different residences and attended 12 different schools. As a teenager, he threatened his sister-in-law with a knife and punched his mother. This violent behaviour, coupled with his truancy from school, led to him undergoing psychiatric treatment. The 14-year-old Oswald was described as having a "personality pattern disturbance with schizoid features and passive-aggressive tendencies".
Noted for his poor spelling and writing abilities, which may have been a consequence of his erratic schooling, he nonetheless developed a voracious appetite for book reading and boasted that he was better educated than most around him. By the time he was 15, he was a self-declared Marxist. Despite his political beliefs, Oswald joined the Marines, where he was ridiculed and ostracised by his fellow comrades for his Soviet sympathies. He was even nicknamed Oswaldskovich.
In October 1959, Oswald, who had taught himself rudimentary Russian, went to the USSR after obtaining a student visa by submitting fictional applications to foreign universities. Once there he renounced his American citizenship and declared that he wanted to live and stay in the Soviet Union.
Expecting to be able to study at Moscow University he was instead sent to Minsk where he took up a manual occupation in a factory that made electronics. Oswald enjoyed his life for a while, particularly as he was given a rent-subsidised apartment and managed to develop a network of friends and dated women. However, after a fellow worker and girlfriend turned down a marriage proposal, he became more disillusioned with Russia, declaring that its version of Marxism was a perversion.
People who knew him at the time recollect that he comprehended little, appeared immature and was also dull company. Soon afterwards he married 19-year-old Marina Alexandrovna. They had a young daughter.
Life became more difficult for Oswald and his relationship with Marina deteriorated to the point where she would belittle him in front of Russian friends. Finally the Russian authorities agreed to grant exit visas for Oswald and Marina, particularly after it had been discovered that Oswald had made a pipe bomb which he discarded once he realised he was under surveillance.
Back in New Orleans, the petulant and now increasingly malcontent Oswald became more abusive and refused to teach Marina the English language. It is also alleged that he began to beat her. Eventually Marina and her infant daughter left him.
After a series of laborious jobs and getting fired for various offences, Oswald’s desperation to be a ‘somebody’ appeared to get out of control when he decided to assassinate General Edwin Walker, a member of the right wing John Birch Society and ardent anti-communist.
After buying several firearms via mail order and also taking pictures of Walker’s home, Oswald planned the assassination for the 10th April, 1963. He wrote about his plans and left a note for Marina in case he was caught.
Despite destroying most of his plan notes, Marina kept the personal letter. Oswald’s attempt to kill Walker failed when he shot at the General through a window. At the time, the police had no idea who was involved in the attempted assassination until they retrieved the note and photographs during investigations after Kennedy’s murder.
Although the bullet fired at General Walker was too badly damaged to run conclusive ballistics studies, tests later proved the bullet was from the same cartridge manufacturer as the two which later struck Kennedy.
Following the assassination failure, Oswald turned his preoccupations to Fidel Castro and Cuba seeing them as the last bastion and representation of pure Marxism. He soon became a pro-Castro vocalist and was even invited on a radio programme to debate Cold War issues.
Oswald, now known for his pro-Cuba and socialist views, was privately filmed passing out fliers in front of the International Trade Mart with two volunteers he had hired for $2 at the unemployment office.
When Oswald returned to Dallas he found a temporary job at the Texas School Book Depository, where he allegedly shot Kennedy from a sixth floor window of the building.
It was during investigations after Kennedy’s murder that New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison went to great pains to link Oswald to wealthy local businessman Clay Shaw, a former president of the International Trade Mart.
Garrison was convinced that Shaw, Oswald and another accomplice were responsible for the plotting and death of the President.