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Nick McDonald: hero or villain?


Greg Parker
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Very intersting thread. Great points made by all. I was wondering if anybody can eloborate on the story of Bernard Haire, who owned Bernies Hobby House. He stated that he was in the alley behind the theatre, and witnessed the police bringing a "flushed" man out into the alley and put him in the squad car. The police then left with the "suspect". Mr. Haire thought for many years that he witnessed the arrest of Oswald, until he found out years later that Oswald had been brought out on Jefferson Blvd. I understand that the theatre was layed out [sideways] so as the the screen was at the far right of the building looking at it from the front from Jefferson. The back of the theatre would be on the left of the building looking at it, and the "alley" would be directly in the back, not on the side, as normal theatres would be laid out. Anybody have anything on this episode?

thanks--Smitty

It was suggested to me by another researcher that this man may have been Brewer. I read all of his interviews, reports, etc. - I found no indication supporting that possibility. Given the conflicting reports, seems more likely that it was the man in the balcony - or possibly the man in the first rows that pointed Oswald out. It would be great to simply ask Brewer that single question to remove any further doubts.

I imagine that the theatre won't be with us much longer.

Correction: Looks as if it is in the process of being reconditioned. There is a website devoted to the topic. Also, got a satellite view, but I am not sure that the arrow points to the right location. There is an alley.

I didn't think to ever take a shot of that alley, but here's a view looking in through the door - odd that McDonald would make the approach that he did if he was tipped off about a suspect in the balcony. I have some additional shots of the front and the street if anyone is interested in seeing them. The old ticket box was still in place when I took the photos.

- lee

The white car in the background is in the general location of the shoe store that Brewer worked in. The names of the businesses have since changed - even since Ian Griggs book was published. The distance between the store and the Theatre was considerable. Anyway, maybe an interesting aside.

Edited by Lee Forman
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... If I am right about McDonald's movements, and what he was up to, then at least some involved with the Abundant Life Temple played a part in the conspiracy. The shenanigans with the DPD radio transpripts obliterating a reference to a witness seeing the suspect enter the church, and Hill's aborted attempt to search it (he was stopped at the door by two females who assured him all was well inside) only add to the picture that there was something to hide.
From Hill's testimony:

The next place I went was, I walked up the street about half a block to a church. That would have been on the northeast corner of 10th Street in the 400 block, further west of the shooting, and was preparing to go in when there were two women who came out and said they were employees inside and had been there all the time. I asked them had they seen anybody enter the church, because we were still looking for possible places for the suspect to hide. And they said nobody passed them, nobody entered the church,
but they invited us to check the rest of the doors and windows and go inside if we wanted to
.
(7H49 - emphasis added)

It appears as if it was Hill's choice not to enter the building, not that he was barred from entering in any fashion.

Immediately thereafter, Hill said:

An accident investigator named Bob Apple was at the location at that time, and we were standing there together near his car
when the call came out that the suspect had been seen entering the Texas Theatre.
(ibid., emphasis added)

Apple neither testified nor made a report of his actions on 11/22, and he is not identified in any of the transcripts by name. In some earlier research, however, I was able to determine that the only Officer Apple on duty that day responded to a request by Officer Barnhart (38) at the behest of Captain Talbert (15) at or around 1:11 to 1:15 p.m. to pick up someone (apparently drunk) being detained by Barnhart (who rode a motorcycle and could not transport anyone) at the dead end of Laws, which is downtown. (CE1974, page 51)

(Unfortunately, I don't immediately remember the source for determining this information. If I come across it, I'll post it.)

I've long considered it odd that, with all of the officers searching through abandoned buildings in search of a cop-killer, and with reports of someone fleeing into the church, both that Hill /a/ was so easily "convinced" not to enter the church (despite being invited to do so if he wished), and /b/ that he would then relax and have a chat with Bob Apple near the latter's car when Apple was apparently a couple of miles away transporting a drunk prisoner.

This, of course, is not the only time that Hill - who was (at least temporarily) assigned to the Personnel Department, and waxed eloquent when it came to identifying every officer he came in contact with by name and assignment - misidentified people he was supposedly with during the early afternoon:

  • He claimed to have been transported from DPD HQ to TSBD by an Officer Valentine (who was driving car #207, which was the subject of an investigation into the car that toot-tooted outside 1024 North Beckley, the rooming house), while Valentine did not indicate that Hill or anyone else had ridden with him to Dealey Plaza (he was, in fact, attending to business in the Juvenile Section, while Hill described him effectively as "lounging" by his vehicle in the garage); and
  • He identified the men he drove to Oak Cliff with from the TSBD, including one being Captain Westbrook, his immediate superior. However, none of the other officers, including Westbrook, named Hill as being in the car with them.

I have elsewhere cited Hill's other curious actions especially with regard to the handling of the pistol, which is not mentioned (except minimally) in the report above. In sum, I don't think it's a necessary conclusion that Hill was "deflected" from entering the ALT or that his failure to enter it was necessarily innocent.

If your analysis of McDonald's movements is correct, then it would follow that Hill was not far behind him, if behind him at all, if McDonald went to and entered the Temple. If so, it likewise follows that Hill either did not encounter McDonald (and knew nothing of his entering the Temple) therefore implying that McDonald did not enter it, or else that Hill was aware of McDonald's being in the Temple and chose not to mention it.

Given Hill's lack of accuracy and inability to identify other officers correctly, one could reasonably conclude that he made up his story as he went along. It is also an interesting side-note that Hill's and Ruby's depositions were only ones on the record that were not of the standard question-and-answer format employed for every other witness called before the Commission and/or counsel.

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Duke,

Immediately thereafter, Hill said:

An accident investigator named Bob Apple was at the location at that time, and we were standing there together near his car
when the call came out that the suspect had been seen entering the Texas Theatre.
(ibid., emphasis added)

Apple neither testified nor made a report of his actions on 11/22, and he is not identified in any of the transcripts by name. In some earlier research, however, I was able to determine that the only Officer Apple on duty that day responded to a request by Officer Barnhart (38) at the behest of Captain Talbert (15) at or around 1:11 to 1:15 p.m. to pick up someone (apparently drunk) being detained by Barnhart (who rode a motorcycle and could not transport anyone) at the dead end of Laws, which is downtown. (CE1974, page 51)

(Unfortunately, I don't immediately remember the source for determining this information. If I come across it, I'll post it.)

Apple's transmissions were on Channel 2.

At 1:12 he radioed and said that he was at the three wheeler's position at the dead end.

Dispatch told him to take the drunk person to the police station and then contact Inspector Sawyer at Elm and Houston.

The Channel 1 broadcasts relating to the Church basement came at 1:33.

McDonald told Dispatch to send a squad car.

Dispatch called for a squad car and 66 (Patrolman Frank S. Williams) reported that he was "enroute".

At 1:34 Dispatch twice calls for Apple on Channel 1 and he does not respond, including one call specifically asking Apple for his location.

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/dpdtapes/tapes3.htm

Steve Thomas

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It was suggested to me by another researcher that this man may have been Brewer. I read all of his interviews, reports, etc. - I found no indication supporting that possibility. Given the conflicting reports, seems more likely that it was the man in the balcony - or possibly the man in the first rows that pointed Oswald out. It would be great to simply ask Brewer that single question to remove any further doubts.

The Haire story is not likely to ever be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. One reason for this; a photo allegedly shows him out front during Oswald's arrest. This ID however, has been disputed. If the photo does show him, he simply misremembered after 20 years as to where he witnessed the arrest. On the other hand, if he was in fact out back, it could have been George Applin. Applin testified he was taken to DPD by 3 cops. THis was most likely around the same time as Oswald was being taken in, as he further testified they took him back to the TT after taking his statement to catch the rest of the movie, but didn't make it in time to catch all of it.

Mr. BALL - Later did you go down to the police station and make a statement?

Mr. APPLIN - Yes, sir; I did.

Mr. BALL - When?

Mr. APPLIN - Well, it was after--I guess after they got everybody's name. I rode down with three officers.

Mr. BALL - That same day, did you?

Mr. APPLIN - Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL - You didn't go back to the picture show?

Mr. APPLIN - Yes, sir; I did. There was a patrolman that carried me back out and I was going to see the rest of it, but I never did get back in time to.

Mr. BALL - You didn't get to see the show?

Mr. APPLIN - Well, I seen part of it, but I didn't get to see all of it.

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It was suggested to me by another researcher that this man may have been Brewer. I read all of his interviews, reports, etc. - I found no indication supporting that possibility. Given the conflicting reports, seems more likely that it was the man in the balcony - or possibly the man in the first rows that pointed Oswald out. It would be great to simply ask Brewer that single question to remove any further doubts.

The Haire story is not likely to ever be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. One reason for this; a photo allegedly shows him out front during Oswald's arrest. This ID however, has been disputed. If the photo does show him, he simply misremembered after 20 years as to where he witnessed the arrest. On the other hand, if he was in fact out back, it could have been George Applin. Applin testified he was taken to DPD by 3 cops. THis was most likely around the same time as Oswald was being taken in, as he further testified they took him back to the TT after taking his statement to catch the rest of the movie, but didn't make it in time to catch all of it.

Mr. BALL - Later did you go down to the police station and make a statement?

Mr. APPLIN - Yes, sir; I did.

Mr. BALL - When?

Mr. APPLIN - Well, it was after--I guess after they got everybody's name. I rode down with three officers.

Mr. BALL - That same day, did you?

Mr. APPLIN - Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL - You didn't go back to the picture show?

Mr. APPLIN - Yes, sir; I did. There was a patrolman that carried me back out and I was going to see the rest of it, but I never did get back in time to.

Mr. BALL - You didn't get to see the show?

Mr. APPLIN - Well, I seen part of it, but I didn't get to see all of it.

Thanks Lee and Greg. Great pictures of the theatre. Sounds like you have given me my answer Greg. That sounds like the most reasonable thing it could have been. I dont know of anyone else being taken away out front, so it seems reasonable to believe that the police may have very well have taken him out the back, due to all of the confusion going on out front. Do you happen to know if anyone else was taken downtown for questioning? Lee, thanks for the renovation story. It would be great to have the theatre restored. It surely wouldnt hurt the area!

thanks--smitty

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One question.

Were Oswald's prints found on that gun?

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... If I am right about McDonald's movements, and what he was up to, then at least some involved with the Abundant Life Temple played a part in the conspiracy. The shenanigans with the DPD radio transpripts obliterating a reference to a witness seeing the suspect enter the church, and Hill's aborted attempt to search it (he was stopped at the door by two females who assured him all was well inside) only add to the picture that there was something to hide.
From Hill's testimony:

The next place I went was, I walked up the street about half a block to a church. That would have been on the northeast corner of 10th Street in the 400 block, further west of the shooting, and was preparing to go in when there were two women who came out and said they were employees inside and had been there all the time. I asked them had they seen anybody enter the church, because we were still looking for possible places for the suspect to hide. And they said nobody passed them, nobody entered the church,
but they invited us to check the rest of the doors and windows and go inside if we wanted to
.
(7H49 - emphasis added)

It appears as if it was Hill's choice not to enter the building, not that he was barred from entering in any fashion.

Yep. I should have been clearer. Didn't mean to give the impression they barred him. Another troubling aspect of this peice of testimony is he tried to give the impression that he only wanted to look inside as part of a general sweep of the area - when in fact, he was the one who radioed that a witness had seen the suspect enter. In other words, he has falsely implied there was no particular reason to search the church.

Immediately thereafter, Hill said:

An accident investigator named Bob Apple was at the location at that time, and we were standing there together near his car
when the call came out that the suspect had been seen entering the Texas Theatre.
(ibid., emphasis added)

Apple neither testified nor made a report of his actions on 11/22, and he is not identified in any of the transcripts by name. In some earlier research, however, I was able to determine that the only Officer Apple on duty that day responded to a request by Officer Barnhart (38) at the behest of Captain Talbert (15) at or around 1:11 to 1:15 p.m. to pick up someone (apparently drunk) being detained by Barnhart (who rode a motorcycle and could not transport anyone) at the dead end of Laws, which is downtown. (CE1974, page 51)

(Unfortunately, I don't immediately remember the source for determining this information. If I come across it, I'll post it.)

I've long considered it odd that, with all of the officers searching through abandoned buildings in search of a cop-killer, and with reports of someone fleeing into the church, both that Hill /a/ was so easily "convinced" not to enter the church (despite being invited to do so if he wished), and /b/ that he would then relax and have a chat with Bob Apple near the latter's car when Apple was apparently a couple of miles away transporting a drunk prisoner.

This, of course, is not the only time that Hill - who was (at least temporarily) assigned to the Personnel Department, and waxed eloquent when it came to identifying every officer he came in contact with by name and assignment - misidentified people he was supposedly with during the early afternoon:

  • He claimed to have been transported from DPD HQ to TSBD by an Officer Valentine (who was driving car #207, which was the subject of an investigation into the car that toot-tooted outside 1024 North Beckley, the rooming house), while Valentine did not indicate that Hill or anyone else had ridden with him to Dealey Plaza (he was, in fact, attending to business in the Juvenile Section, while Hill described him effectively as "lounging" by his vehicle in the garage); and
  • He identified the men he drove to Oak Cliff with from the TSBD, including one being Captain Westbrook, his immediate superior. However, none of the other officers, including Westbrook, named Hill as being in the car with them.

I have elsewhere cited Hill's other curious actions especially with regard to the handling of the pistol, which is not mentioned (except minimally) in the report above. In sum, I don't think it's a necessary conclusion that Hill was "deflected" from entering the ALT or that his failure to enter it was necessarily innocent.

Are you sure someone was using car 207? You mention it was the subject of an investigation - as it was. If what that investigation came up with was factual, then no-one could hae been driving around in #207.

If your analysis of McDonald's movements is correct, then it would follow that Hill was not far behind him, if behind him at all, if McDonald went to and entered the Temple. If so, it likewise follows that Hill either did not encounter McDonald (and knew nothing of his entering the Temple) therefore implying that McDonald did not enter it, or else that Hill was aware of McDonald's being in the Temple and chose not to mention it.

Given Hill's lack of accuracy and inability to identify other officers correctly, one could reasonably conclude that he made up his story as he went along. It is also an interesting side-note that Hill's and Ruby's depositions were only ones on the record that were not of the standard question-and-answer format employed for every other witness called before the Commission and/or counsel.

Your suspicion concerning Hill has a reasonable foundation.

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Duke,

Apple's transmissions were on Channel 2.

At 1:12 he radioed and said that he was at the three wheeler's position at the dead end. ["I am down here with this 3-wheeler at the dead end. He has a loud colored jacket on. He is pretty drunk. Do you want me to take him up there or what do you want me to do with him?"] Dispatch told him to take the drunk person to the police station ["Take him back up there to 505 Main and contact 9 [sawyer] at Elm and Houston."] and then contact Inspector Sawyer at Elm and Houston. [Apple acknowledges this order with a "10-4."] (Duke's italics)

The Channel 1 broadcasts relating to the Church basement came at 1:33. McDonald told Dispatch to send a squad car ["Send squad over here to Tenth and Crawford to check out this church basement.", emphases added]. Dispatch called for a squad car and 66 (Patrolman Frank S. Williams) reported that he was "enroute".

At 1:34 Dispatch twice calls for Apple on Channel 1 and he does not respond, including one call specifically asking Apple for his location.

Steve Thomas

Thank you, Steve: I knew I'd seen it somewhere! (My immediate reference was in a bunch of WCH pages that I compiled together relating to the events in Oak Cliff - specifically dealing with the posssession of the revolver that shot Tippit - and all I had was "Apple" on the Channel One for around 1:11 or so at the end of belt 6.)

If I had enough space to upload an image (only 837 bytes left in global space!), I could show exactly where Laws St is, but since I can't, it will have to suffice to say that Laws is about 8 blocks north of Elm off of Houston. According to the map, the "dead end" was not a cul-de-sac, but the end of Laws at Houston, or else its southeastern terminus, also about 8 blocks northeast of Elm & Houston.

Either way, as noted above, Apple 10-4's the order to bring the drunk to HQ, so one of two things happened at this point or shortly thereafter:

  1. Apple brought the drunk to HQ and 20 minute s later, when he was called on Channel One, he was still at HQ processing the drunk into jail, or
  2. Three minutes after picking up the drunk, the call comes over Channel One about an officer being shot in Oak Cliff, whereupon Apple lets the drunk go and hauls ass to Oak Cliff like everyone else did (most without telling Dispatch until later, if at all).

At 1:34, if he was at HQ, he couldn't have responded to the call. Otherwise, if he'd gone to Oak Cliff, he simply chose not to respond.

As you noted, McDonald made the squawk (above) about the church basement just before 1:34. It was not until 1:40, however, that Hill called in on Channel Two:

550/2
(before 1:43)
- A witness reports that he last was seen in the Abundant Life Temple about the 400 block. We are fixing to go in and shake it down.

Dispatch
- Is that the one that was involved in the shooting of the officer?

550/2
- Yes.

Dispatch
- They already have him.

550/2
- No, that wasn't the right one.
(at 1:44)

550/2
- Advise someone to get in the alley and behind that building at the fire escape.
(about 1:45)

It's sort of interesting - mildly - to note that Channel Two is, at this point, dedicated to communications with the presidential (LBJ) escort to Love Field when Hill breaks in from his previous communications on Channel One to make the above comments.

Immediately thereafter, at 1:46, he calls again back on Channel One(!) to ask "Do you have any additional information on this Oak Cliff suspect?" (huh? No report on the "shake down" of the Temple?) to which Dispatch responds, "They think he is at Texas Theater, 550/2." His next communication is at 1:52 to report, "Suspect on the shooting the police officer is apprehended and en route to the station ... Caught him on the lower floor of the Texas Theater after a fight."

So we have the following:

  • 1:33 - McDonald calls in from the Abundant Life Temple while other squads were shaking down the old houses between Jefferson and the alleyway that backs the Temple;
  • 1:33 - Unit 66 (F.S. Williams) indicates he is "en route," presumably (based solely on the timing of his call) to the ALT; he calls in a short while later and gets no response. This is his last recorded transmission. His location is not indicated.
  • 1:43 - 10 minutes later, 550/2 (Hill) calls in on Channel Two to say they're "fixing [getting ready] to shake down" the temple. It takes him about two minutes to complete this broadcast.
  • 1:46 - Just one minute later, back on Channel One, Hill asks for "more information" about the suspect, is told that they "think" he's at the Texas Theater, and finally,
  • 1:52 - Just six minutes later, Hill is reporting that Oswald has been apprehended, is in custody, in the police car, and headed toward HQ.

McDonald only makes two broadcasts after the "officer down" call, the first around 1:25 indicating that he is "en route," and the next at 1:33 to get someone over "here" to "check out this church basement," indicating that he is already at the church. It is ten more minutes before anyone else (Hill) indicates that they are about to "shake down" the building (in which effort he expends less than a minute). McDonald is not heard from again until after Oswald's arrest.

(The tape timeline also gives lie to Hill's claim of jawing with Apple near Apple's car after checking out the church, since just eight minutes after indicating that he's "fixing to" check out the church, and just seven minutes after requesting "someone to get in the alley and behind that building at the fire escape," he has already gone from the Temple to the Theater and aided in Oswald's arrest.)

Something has a foul odor in a large city, to paraphrase an old adage?

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Are you sure someone was using car 207? You mention it was the subject of an investigation - as it was. If what that investigation came up with was factual, then no-one could hae been driving around in #207.
Yes, the car was in use initially by Valentine, which he used to drive from HQ to DP. He then parked it and, according to his report, gave the keys to someone in command, and eventually someone had to go to retrieve the car later.

That's as much as I remember offhand, but it is on account of this report that I was able to determine exactly "how" Jerry Hill got to the TSBD. Trouble is, Valentine doesn't corroborate his "passenger's" being with him, or Hill's account of how Valentine was just lounging around in the garage when Hill approached him and "commandeered" a ride.

There's also a reporter or photographer tied up in this story at HQ somehow, tho' I don't recall at the moment exactly how he fit in (or didn't).

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QUOTE:

Dallas Police dispatches at 1:23 and 1:32 stated, "...wearing a white jacket, white shirt and dark slacks." A police dispatch at 1:46 states, "...suppose to be hiding in the balcony ." As police converged on the theater they were directed to the balcony by Julia Postal.

As officers were questioning patrons in the balcony, Barrett, Westbrook, McDonald, Hutson, Hawkins, and Walker entered the theater from the alley.

As Lt. Cunningham, Det. Taylor and Det. Toney began questioning a young man in the balcony they heard someone shout 'here he is" from the lower level.

Police in the balcony descended to the lower level to assist in the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald. The arrest occurred about 1:50 pm.

Oswald was the transported to DPD headquarters acompanied by five Dallas police officers--Detective Bob Carroll, Sergeant Gerald Hill, Detective K.E. Lyons, Charles T. Walker and Detective Paul Bentley..

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Are you sure someone was using car 207? You mention it was the subject of an investigation - as it was. If what that investigation came up with was factual, then no-one could hae been driving around in #207.
Yes, the car was in use initially by Valentine, which he used to drive from HQ to DP. He then parked it and, according to his report, gave the keys to someone in command, and eventually someone had to go to retrieve the car later.

That's as much as I remember offhand, but it is on account of this report that I was able to determine exactly "how" Jerry Hill got to the TSBD. Trouble is, Valentine doesn't corroborate his "passenger's" being with him, or Hill's account of how Valentine was just lounging around in the garage when Hill approached him and "commandeered" a ride.

There's also a reporter or photographer tied up in this story at HQ somehow, tho' I don't recall at the moment exactly how he fit in (or didn't).

Duke, you're right. I was forgetting Earlene went from 207 to 106 to 107. It was a report on #107 made by DPD at the requset of the WC I was thinking of when I responded.

The reporter who hitched the lift was Jim Ewell. Ewell was on the balcony looking down as Oswald was being arrested. He vividly recalled a shotgun being pointed down into the tangle of bodies at Oswald.

Although Applin's testimony is riddled with leading questions, which makes a lot of his testiminy unreliable, he nevertheless made some interesting comments.

In the statement he provided immediately after Oswald's arrest, he said: "As I watched the movie I saw an officer walking down the isle [sic] with a riot gun and about that time the light came on in the theater." The "riot gun" would actually be a shotgun - and he in fact described as such in his testimony. The person with the shotgun was not McDonald. McDonald told reporters on 23/11/63, "I went up the aisle and talked to two people sitting about in the middle. I was crouching low and holding my gun in case any trouble came." As far as I can tell, he never again mentioned holding a gun as he approached Oswald.

Applin also testified that someone hit Oswald in the back with the butt of a shotgun.

What I get from all this is that McDonald was carrying the pistol he intended to plant on Oswald. As soon as that was accomplished, the cop with the shotgun would open fire. When Oswald foiled that plan by fighting and shouting, the cop with the shotgun momentarily thought about shooting him anyway - aiming the rifle into the melee before frustation took over and he hit him with the butt end, instead.

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