James Tague was the third man wounded during the JFK assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963. He was standing on Commerce Street under the triple underpass when he was slightly wounded in the face by debris from a missed shot that hit a Main Street curb. Tague, who died in February 2014, became a respected JFK researcher and authored two books on the assassination. But his story about what happened right after the shooting underwent an intriguing change after his Warren Commission testimony.
I corresponded with Tague several years ago by email about the change in his story. I found the explanation that he gave me to be less than satisfactory. I decided to say nothing publicly about our exchange as long as Tague was still alive, due to a feeling or suspicion that Tague may come under some kind of pressure after his WC testimony. But before going into that, let’s look at the change in his story.
Here is what Tague told the WC about the immediate aftermath of the shooting: “So I stood there (at the bridge abutment) looking around. . . and about that time a patrolman who evidently had been stationed under the triple underpass walked up and said, ‘What happened?’ and I said, ‘I don't know; something.’" Tague went on to testify that “we” (he and this patrolman) walked over to the area of the grassy knoll where a crowd was gathering, and a few minutes later, “the patrolman said, ‘Well, I saw something fly off back on the street.’ We walked back down there, and another man joined us who identified himself as the deputy sheriff, who was in civilian clothes.” This was Buddy Walthers, who tells Tague “you have blood there on your cheek.”
That was Tague’s first account of what happened, clearly placing him in the company of a uniformed police officer (“a patrolman”), with the two of them joined minutes later by a deputy sheriff in civilian clothes. Yet this “patrolman” who was “evidently stationed under the triple underpass” who asked Tague “What happened?” would simply disappear from all of Tague’s accounts after his WC testimony, leaving only the deputy sheriff in Tague’s company.
I emailed Tague in late 2005 and asked him about the patrolman who asked him “What happened,” and he replied, “In my book I stated a Deputy Sheriff ran up to me, it was Buddy Walthers who had been standing on Houston Street.”
I wrote him back, pointing out that a “patrolman” who “evidently had been stationed under the triple underpass” who “walked up” and asked him “What happened?” could not be Walthers, who was standing in front of the sheriff’s office at the time of the shooting and ran to the railroad yard.
Tague replied, “At the time I testified I did not have the advantage of reading other people’s testimony. When I put the pieces together, the man was not a patrolman but a deputy sheriff named Buddy Walthers who asked me what happened. Walthers had actually been standing on Houston Street in front of the court house with Sheriff Bill Decker’s wife and after the shooting ran toward the triple underpass by which I was standing. . . . Film footage and other testimony show that it was Buddy Walthers who ran over 100 yards to my position. When I used the word ‘evidently’ in my testimony, I was guessing as to who he was and from where he had come from.”
That to me is an odd explanation, since Tague clearly stated in his testimony that he did not encounter Walthers until after he had walked over to the Elm Street area in the company of a “patrolman, “ which clearly suggests someone in uniform and who had to be someone other than Walthers, who Tague stated was “in civilian clothes.” Tague testified that the deputy sheriff whom he later knew to be Walthers did not join them until after Tague and the patrolman had walked back to Main Street to see about the struck curb.
It was also less than satisfactory that the reason Tague gave me for changing the story of his own experience was his reading of the accounts of other people. Did he really want me to believe that this patrolman disappeared from his story because no one else mentioned seeing him and therefore he must not have been there?
I saw no point in pressing Tague further on this and thanked him for his time. But with Tague’s passing I suppose we are forever left with the mystery of the patrolman who disappeared from his story. I would like to suggest one possible reason for this change in Tague’s story, as it is really the only one I can think of.
One theory about the JFK assassination is that the fatal head shot came not from the famous grassy knoll on the north side of Dealey Plaza, but from the south knoll at the other end of the triple underpass. (Relevant to this theory is the testimony of a policeman who was stationed on the northwest end of the underpass that a train was passing at the time of the shooting, which among other things would have blocked his view of anything going on - like someone shooting - on the southeast end of the underpass. In fact there was no train passing at the time of the shooting, so why the claim that there was?) Now Tague was standing near the south knoll, and testified that he believed the shots came from the north knoll area. In considering the change in his story, I wondered about the possibility that Tague may have actually encountered a south knoll gunman, someone dressed as a policeman who came down after shooting with a silencer to ask “What happened?” and mix in with the crowd and other officers on the scene.
If Tague unknowingly encountered such a shooter, and testified about encountering this “patrolman” who by all other accounts was not in the south knoll area, it is understandable that Tague could have been pressured by someone into forgetting this encounter. But that is only a guess. Perhaps others here may have thoughts on Tague’s disappearing patrolman.