In 1963, on this day Dallas nightclub operator Jack Ruby shot dead forty-three year old Homicide Detective James R. Leavelle as he escorted Lee Harvey Oswald through the basement of Police Headquarters.
Poor Dump Cop #2 By Ed and Jackie SpeelJust like his fellow Officer J.D. Tippit, Jim was a Second World War Veteran - he was on-board the USS Whitney during the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This courage under fire was displayed on national television when, handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald, he stepped in front of the former U.S. Marine to take the bullet that would cost this honourable man his life.
The Warren Commission would establish two key facts, one a bizarre coincidence, and the other a profound truth that undeniably highlighted the extent to which America had changed since the war.
Oswald had asked the Dallas Police to fetch him a sweater before he entered the drafty basement. They had refused, and Ruby had been rushed into a distant shot that might have been on target had he been given but a few more minutes to get closer to Oswald. Instead, Leavelle pitied the shivering former serviceman, hardly failing to notice the fresh bruise above his eye, doubtless the result of a beating during the Police interrogation.
But Leavelle's sense of honour for a fellow serviceman was misplaced. The suspect he was protecting was not the man apprehended on East 10th Street in Oak Cliff, a fact made clear in the official report of the arresting officer Tippit. This man was Lee Oswald, the second of two double agents involved in the shooting of President Kennedy. And Ruby had been ordered by his Mafia bosses to shoot the rogue CIA agent (Lee Oswald) so that he could be re-substituted with the patsy Lee Oswald, restoring the credibility stolen by Tippit's report. But Leavelle had ruined the cover-up and now journalists were standing over his dying body calling him a "Poor Dumb Cop".