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CE143: The Oswald/Tippit Revolver


Duke Lane
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One question. Were Oswald's prints found on that gun?
Chuck, the FBI said "no latent prints of value." There was no fuss to speak of about this at the time. Why bother? Everyone knew he had it taken from him in the TT B)

If the matter had ever reached a court of law - which at the moment of arrest (as opposed to "shot while assaulting a police officer") all must have presumed would happen short of a miracle (such as Jack Ruby turned out to be), a decent defense attorney would have moved for exclusion of this piece of so-called evidence since the lack of fingerprints would have made it difficult to prove that the gun had ever been in Oswald's hands. At the least, that fact could have raised reasonable doubts in jurors' minds.

More important than merely Oswald's prints not being on the weapon is the fact that nobody else's prints were apparently found on the weapon or, if they were, they were identified as being of an officer who'd handled the gun afterward ... presumably. Those officers include no less than Nick McDonald, Bob Carroll and Jerry Hill, and possibly others (see testimony below).

With respect to the shells found at the Tippit shooting scene, Hill testified that:

Mr. Hill.
... Poe showed me a Winston cigarette package that contained three spent jackets from shells that he said a citizen had pointed out to him where the suspect had reloaded his gun and dropped these in the grass, and that the citizen had picked them up and put them in the Winston package.

I told Poe to maintain the chain of evidence as small as possible, for him to retain these at that time, and to be sure and mark them for evidence, and then turn them over to the crime lab when he got there, or to homicide.
(7H48-49; emphasis added)

Now, compare and contrast Hill's great concern over the handling of evidence with the following exchanges between WC counsel and various police witnesses:

Officer M.N. "Nick" McDonald

Mr. Ball.
What happened then?

Mr. McDonald.
Well, whenever I hit him, we both fell into the seats. While we were struggling around there, with this hand on the gun --

Mr. Ball.
Your left hand?

Mr. McDonald.
Yes, sir. Somehow I managed to get this hand in the action also.

Mr. Ball.
Your right hand?

Mr. McDonald.
Yes, sir. Now, as we fell into the seats, I called out, "I have got him," and Officer T. A. Hutson, he came to the row behind us and grabbed Oswald around the neck. And then Officer C. T. Walker came into the row that we were in and grabbed his left arm. And Officer Ray Hawkins came to the row in front of us and grabbed him from the front.

By the time all three of these officers had got there, I had gotten my right hand on the butt of the pistol and jerked it free.

...

Mr. Ball.
What happened when you jerked the pistol free?

Mr. McDonald.
When I jerked it free, I was down in the seats with him, with my head, some reason or other, I don't know why, and
when I brought the pistol out, it grazed me across the cheek here, and I put it all the way out to the aisle, holding it by the butt. I gave the pistol to Detective Bob Carroll at that point.

...

Detective Bob K. Carroll

Mr. Ball.
... were Oswald and McDonald struggling together?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir; and then when I got up close enough, I saw a pistol pointing at me so I reached and grabbed the pistol and jerked the pistol away and stuck it in my belt, and then I grabbed Oswald.

Mr. Ball.
Who had hold of that pistol at that time?

Mr. Carroll.
I don't -know, sir. I just saw the pistol pointing at me and I grabbed it and jerked it away from whoever had it and that's all
, and by that time then the handcuffs were put on Oswald.

Mr. Ball.
After you took the pistol, what did you do with it?

Mr. Carroll.
The pistol?

Mr. Ball.
Yes.

Mr. Carroll.
After I took the pistol, I stuck it in my belt immediately. Then, after we got into the car and pulled out from the theater over there, I gave it to Jerry Hill, Sgt. Jerry Hill
.

Mr. Ball.
And he was sitting in the front seat?

Mr. Carroll.
In the front seat right beside me and in the middle, I think Paul Bentley was sitting on the right side and Jerry was sitting there.

...

Sgt. Gerald L. Hill

Mr. Hill.
... the suspect was put in the right rear door of the squad car and was instructed to move over to the middle. C. T. Walker got into the rear seat and would have been sitting on the right rear. Paul Bentley went around the car and got in the left rear door and sat on that side.

Mr. Belin.
That would have been from the left to the right, Bentley, Oswald, and Walker? Or Bentley, the suspect, and Walker?

Mr. Hill.
K. E. Lyons got in the right front. I entered the door from the driver's side and got in the middle of the front seat.

Mr. Belin.
And being that he had the keys to the car, Bob Carroll drove the vehicle?

Mr. Hill.
As he started to get in the car, he handed me a pistol
, which he identified as the one that had been taken from the suspect in the theater. ... he apparently had it in his belt, and
as he started to sit down, he handed it to me
. I was already in the car and seated.

Mr. Belin.
When did you [mark the pistol with your name]
?

Mr. Hill.
This was done at approximately 4 p.m.
, the afternoon of Friday, November 22, 1963, in the personnel office of the police department.

Mr. Belin.
Did you keep that gun in your possession until you scratched your name on it?

Mr. Hill.
Yes, sir; I did.

...

Mr. Belin.
Now, you said
as the driver of the car, Bob Carroll, got in the car, he handed this gun to you
?

Mr. Hill.
Right, sir.

Mr. Belin.
All right, then, would you tell us what happened? What was said and what was done?

Mr. Hill.
Then I broke the gun open to see how many shells it contained and how many live rounds it had in it.

Mr. Belin.
How many did you find?

Mr. Hill.
There were six in the chambers of the gun. One of them had an indention in the primer that appeared to be caused by the hammer. There were five others. All of the shells at this time had indentions. ...

Mr. Belin.
Did you ever mark those?

Mr. Hill.
I can say that I marked all six of them.

Mr. Belin.
When was it removed?

Mr. Hill.
They were not taken out of the gun, as I recall, sir, until we arrived at the station.

Mr. Belin.
Who took it out of the gun?

Mr. Hill.
I took it out of the gun.

Mr. Belin.
Did you keep it in your possession until you put on your initials?

Mr. Hill.
All six shells remained in my possession until I initialed them.

...

Carroll (cont)

Mr. Belin.
Do you know whose hand was on the gun when you saw it pointed in your direction?

Mr. Carroll.
No; I do not.

Mr. Belin.
You just jumped and grabbed it?

Mr. Carroll.
I jumped and grabbed the gun; yes, sir.

Mr. Belin.
Then what did you do with it?

Mr. Carroll.
Stuck it in my belt.

Mr. Belin.
And then?

Mr. Carroll.
After leaving the theatre and getting into the car,
I released the pistol to Sgt. Jerry Hill.

Mr. Belin.
Sgt. G. L. Hill?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir.

Mr. Belin.
Who drove the car down to the station?

Mr. Carroll.
I drove the car.

Mr. Belin.
Did you give it to him before you started up the car, or after you started up the car, if you remember?

Mr. Carroll.
After
.

Mr. Belin.
How far had you driven when you gave it to him?

Mr. Carroll.
I don't recall exactly how far I had driven
.

...

Mr. Ball.
Where did you go [when you got to the police station]?

Mr. Carroll.
I went into the police personnel office.

Mr. Ball.
Who went in there with you?

Mr. Carroll.
There was Jerry Hill, Ray Hawkins, McDonald, Hutson, Bentley, Lyons, and myself. Oh, by the way, Lyons was in the car with us also when we came from the theatre to the police department. I don't remember whether he was sitting in the front or back seat, though, but he did come down with us. ...

Mr. Ball.
Had you looked at the pistol to see if it was loaded before you got to the personnel office
?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir; when I gave it to Jerry Hill, he unloaded it
.

Mr. Ball.
He unloaded it there in the car
?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir
.

...

Mr. Belin.
When this gun, Commission Exhibit 143, was taken by you and then subsequently given to Hill, did you at any time notice whether it was or was not loaded?

Mr. Carroll.
I observed Sergeant Hill unload the gun.

...

Mr. Ball.
And did you know who took possession of the bullets?

Mr. Carroll.
I don't recall, sir.
I don't recall even seeing the gun or the bullets turned over to anyone by Hill
.

Mr. Ball.
But you know in the personnel department after you had delivered Oswald to the homicide squadron, you saw the gun and six bullets?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir.

...

Hill (cont)

Mr. Belin.
What is the fact as to whether or not from the time this gun was handed to you until the time you removed these six bullets, this gun was in your possession?

Mr. Hill.
The gun remained in my possession until it, from the time it was given to me until the gun was marked and all the shells were marked. They remained in my personal possession
. After they were marked,
they were released by me to Detective T. L. Baker of the homicide bureau. He came to the personnel office and requested that they be given to him, and I marked them and turned them over to him at this point
.

...

Mr. Belin.
Have you ever seen this gun before?

Mr. Hill.
I am trying to see my mark on it to make sure, sir. I don't recall specifically where I marked it, but I did mark it, if this is the one. I don't remember where I did mark it, now. Here it is, Hill right here, right in this crack.

Mr. Belin.
Officer, you have just pointed out a place which I will identify as a metal portion running along the butt of the gun. Can you describe it any more fully?

Mr. Hill.
It would be to the inside of the pistol grip holding the gun in the air. It would begin under the trigger guard to where the last name H-i-l-1 is scratched in the metal.

Mr. Belin.
Who put that name in there?

Mr. Hill.
I did.

Mr. Belin.
When did you do that?

Mr. Hill.
This was done at approximately 4 p.m., the afternoon of Friday, November 22, 1963, in the personnel office of the police department.

Mr. Belin.
Did you keep that gun in your possession until you scratched your name on it?

Mr. Hill.
Yes, sir; I did.

Mr. Belin.
Was this gun the gun that Officer Carroll handed to you?

Mr. Hill.
And identified to me as the suspect's weapon.

Mr. Belin.
This is what has now been marked as Commission Exhibit 143, is that correct?

Mr. Hill.
Yes, sir; that is what it says.

...

Carroll (cont)

Mr. Belin.
Where did you put the initials?

Mr. Carroll.
Where was I, or where did I put the initials on the pistol?

Mr. Belin.
Where were you?

Mr. Carroll.
I was in the personnel office of the city of Dallas police department.

Mr. Belin.
With Sergeant Hill?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, and others who were present.

Mr. Belin.
Did you see
Sergeant Hill take it out of his pocket
or wherever he had it, or not?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir.

...

Mr. Ball.
And tell me briefly who was present when you saw McDonald make the mark on the gun?

Mr. Carroll.
Well, let's see --
there was myself, Mack [Nick McDonald?], I think Ray Hawkins was there, and I believe Hutson was there, and I believe Bentley and Lyons had already gone out
to have their feet checked, and
I don't recall whether Captain Westbrook was in there at the time or not
. There were so many people -- I would have to kind of explain that -- I know it sounds vague, but
there were so many people in and out of there and there were about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out
and they were bringing in mikes and it was just a big mess of confusion. You couldn't just sit down and detail this thing and say this man was at this particular spot at this time. It was so jumbled up there.

...

Captain W.R. Westbrook

Mr. Ball.
Then, it was after that you went over to 10th and Patton?

Mr. Westbrook.
To 10th and Patton--yes, sir.

Mr. Ball.
And from there you went to the theatre?

Mr. Westbrook.
Yes; from there we went to the theatre, and I can't remember exactly how that I got back with Bob Barrett and Stringer, but anyway, we got together again -- probably at 10th and Patton.

Mr. Ball.
Were you in the personnel office at a time that a gun was brought in?

Mr. Westbrook.
Yes, sir;
it was brought to my office when it shouldn't have been.

Mr. Ball.
But it was brought to your office?

Mr. Westbrook.
Yes; it was.

Mr. Ball.
And it was marked by some officer?

Mr. Westbrook.
It was marked by Officer Jerry Hill and a couple or three more, and
when they come in with the gun, I just went on down and told Captain Fritz that the gun was in my office and he sent a man up after it. I didn't take it down.

Mr. Ball.
Did you see McDonald mark it?

Mr. Westbrook.
He possibly could have he was in there.

Mr. Ball.
Did you See the .gun unloaded?

Mr. Westbrook.
No, sir; I didn't see it unloaded. When I saw it, the gun was laying on Mr. McGee's desk and the shells were out of it.

Mr. Ball.
Did you look at any of the shells?

Mr. Westbrook.
No, sir.

Mr. Ball.
Did you look the gun over?

Mr. Westbrook.
No, sir.

...

Mr. Ball.
Were the handcuffs on him at the time you arrived?

Mr. Westbrook.
They were putting the handcuffs on him--they had one handcuff on one hand and they were trying to find the other one, and they were having difficulty in locating it because there were so many hands there.

Mr. Ball.
How many officers were there?

Mr. Westbrook.
In fact -- that was one of the only humorous things about whole thing --
somebody did get ahold of the wrong arm and they were twisting it behind Oswald's back and somebody yelled -- I remember that, "My God, you got mine."
I think it was just an am that come up out of the crowd that somebody grabbed.

...

Officer Charles T. Walker

Mr. Belin.
After you got down there [to the police station], what did you do with him?

Mr. Walker.
... And I went inside [the interrogation room with Oswald], and Oswald sat down, and he was handcuffed with his hands behind him. I sat down there,
and I had his pistol
....

There are a number of things to glean from all of this testimony. First, as an item of passing interest only, McDonald's face was scratched when he himself brought the pistol out, not on account of any action of Oswald. Second, that McDonald did not see the pistol clearly enough during the course of his struggle with Oswald to identify it to the exclusion of any other pistol and, once he had it in his possession, immediately stuck it at arm's length "into the aisle," where Detective Bob Carroll saw it "pointing" toward him and took it from McDonald's hand, which he could not identify as belonging to any particular individual (McDonald says he "gave" it to Carroll), and Carroll "immediately" put it in his belt, again (and understandably) without an opportunity to examine and identify it.

Already, the chain of custody was lost. McDonald, despite his unchallenged attempt to say with certainty that he "gave" the pistol he'd take from Oswald to Bob Carroll, the fact is that McDonald stated that he put the gun "out there in the aisle" while he continued to struggle with Oswald and as he was surrounded by several other officers (including T.A. Hutson, C.T. Walker and Ray Hawkins by his own account, as well as Hill, Bentley and others by their accounts). As much as McDonald wanted to give the impression that he knew at that time whom he'd given the gun to, he did not ... and for his own part, the person who took it from him, Detective Carroll, could not - and would not - say whom he'd taken the gun from.

McDonald's "certainty" undoubtedly came from later reconstructions in conversation with other officers, but Carroll, despite probably similar knowledge, would not pretend the same certainty under oath. Had the WC hearings been conducted in an adversarial setting (that is, with a defense to cross-examine), even a green defense attorney would have made this point ("Mr. McDonald, did you actually see Detective Carroll take the gun from your hand? No? Do you know what he did with the gun afterward?" and "Detective Carroll, is it your testimony that you don't know from whom you took the gun? So I could tell you that Officer Ray Hawkins said he had the gun before you took it, and that Officer McDonald said the same thing, and you could not tell me which of the two it might have been, is that so?") and possibly been successful in getting the weapon excluded as evidence at this point. Even if not, it could certainly introduce a reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors (assuming a jury was empaneled as well), especially in light of what follows:

Third, after Oswald had been placed in the car, himself seated in the rear between C.T. Walker and Detective Paul Bentley, the only other officers who had an opportunity to even see the gun were the three in the front seat: Carroll (who drove the car), Hill and Carroll's partner, Officer K.E. Lyons. Lyons was not called to testify, so beyond his written report, there is no indication of what he saw. Of the remaining two, their accounts differ as to /a/ when Carroll removed the weapon from his belt (Hill said "as he started to get in the car ... as he started to sit down," while Carroll stated that he had started the car in motion and driven a short distance) and /b/ when Hill "broke out" the weapon and examined it and the shells (both agree that Hill opened the cylinder in the car, but Hill says he did not remove the bullets until they had gotten to HQ, while Carroll believed he had removed them in the car - but conceded that he might have been mistaken).

At this juncture also, another question is introduced - by counsel - as to the identity of the weapon because, even while there is no direct testimony to this or any effect, once Hill had made an initial examination of the weapon, he apparently put it in his pocket (per David Belin: "Did you see Sergeant Hill take it out of his pocket or wherever he had it?"). One may presume that in the course of his interview with the witness, the prosecutor either learned that Hill had, in fact, placed the gun in his pocket - removing it from the other officers' sight even while in their presence - or that he had not determined what Hill had done with the pistol following that examination. In any case, there is no foundation for this question. (I had thought I'd seen this as testimony elsewhere, but I've been unable to put my finger on it if so.)

Thus, by the time the officers got to HQ, deposited the suspect in the interrogation room and gone to the personnel office (where, according to a captain of police, the gun "shouldn't have been"), it could have been virtually any pistol in the world but was not the same pistol beyond a reasonable certainty.

Not only does Hill testify that it was "approximately 4 p.m." that afternoon, but Captain Westbrook in his testimony noted that he had left the Texas Theater by the back door and then returned to 10th and Patton ("I don't remember how I got back with Bob Barrett and Stringer, but anyway, we got together again [after being at the Texas Theater] -- probably at 10th and Patton") before he'd returned to HQ. Westbrook testified that he was "in the personnel office at a time that a gun was brought in ... when it shouldn't have been," and that when he first saw the gun "the gun was laying on Mr. McGee's desk and the shells were out of it."

Moreover, Bob Carroll testified that "there were so many people in and out of there and there were about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out ... it was just a big mess of confusion. ... It was so jumbled up there," which brings yet more uncertainty as to the identification of the weapon in question when the possibility of so many people in close proximity to the weapon, sitting out on a desk amid "a big mess of confusion" for as long as two hours.

Not only was the personnel office an unsecured area of the police department, but there were also "about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out and they were bringing in mikes" and presumably other equipment since the reporters were probably not only "newspaper" reporters (who don't generally need microphones for any reason), but also radio and TV reporters as well. That the office was "so jumbled up," underscores Westbrook's evaluation that the gun "shouldn't have been" there.

(It is noteworthy, too, that Westbrook did not take the gun - "keeping the chain short" to paraphrase Hill's instructions to Officer Poe at 10th and Patton - but instead called or went to the office of Captain Fritz, head of the Homicide and Robbery Bureau and thus the commander of the investigations, to have one of his officers come to the personnel office to retrieve it. Westbrook clearly did not think highly of Hill's investigative skills or discretion either, since several years later he declared in a recorded interview:

When we got back to the office, the first thing I saw was Jerry Hill talking over a microphone with some reporter. He had the gun ... (a)pparently he had the gun since the arrest because if he ever got his hands on it, he would never turn it loose, you can bet on it!

([Larry Sneed, No More Silence: An Oral History of the Assassination of President Kennedy, University of North Texas Press, 1998, pages 315-16] Sneed notes also that Westbrook retired from DPD in 1966 after 25 years on the force, and later worked with District Attorney Henry Wade as a special investigator for the Dallas County Grand Jury until his retirement in 1983, so despite his having been assigned to the "routine" position of head of the Personnel Bureau, he was clearly no investigative novice himself. Westbrook also noted in the interview that "Gerald Hill probably wouldn't know a .38 automatic shell if he saw one" [ibid., page 313]. He died in 1996.)

If it's not enough that any number of people could apparently have had access to the gun, the inability to conclusively identify the weapon or who may have handled it is compounded by C.T. Walker's testimony that, while in the interrogation room with Oswald, "I had his pistol," a statement left unchallenged by counsel. If Walker had Oswald's gun at any time after arriving at HQ, it could only - according to sworn testimony - been after Homicide Detective T.L. Baker had taken possession of the weapon from Hill two hours after it had arrived at HQ in Hill's pocket, which in turn presumes that a homicide detective would even consider turning a presumed murder weapon over to a uniformed patrol officer, a highly unlikely event at very best.

So, who had the gun? Or, who had which gun? ("Your Honor ...?")

Every bit as important as the chain of possession and integrity of the gun as evidence, is the obliteration of fingerprint evidence. To some extent, that couldn't be helped: Nick McDonald testified to taking it from Oswald, and then Bob Carroll took it from McDonald and put it in his belt before giving it in turn to Jerry Hill so that Carroll could presumably drive comfortably, so at least three individuals' prints were necessarily added to the weapon. It is here, however, that the careful preservation of evidence broke down completely as Hill opened the cylinder and examined the weapon, and may have removed the individual shells from the gun, thus not merely adding a few of his his prints to the gun, but handling enough parts of it that Oswald's prints - which would have placed the gun in his hands - were destroyed.

The investigatory use of fingerprint evidence was decades old in 1963, by no means a new concept that police were only just becoming familiar with. It naturally follows that fingerprint evidence cannot become evidence unless it is somehow preserved. To manhandle a murder weapon, thus both adding the prints of each successive person who handles the item prints to those already extant while also smudging what might remain of the supposed perpetrator's prints, clearly negates the value of such evidence ... if it does not remove the evidence entirely.

Moreover, if anyone else's prints were on the pistol, someone other than Oswald, those too were obliterated by Hill's mishandling of the evidence. If, as some postulate, Oswald had not used the gun to kill Tippit, then it would have been another person's fingerprints that Hill smudged or obliterated, out of sheer ignorance (as Westbrook would apparently have it) or deliberately.

Then, rather than taking the gun directly to Homicide to enter as evidence, Hill maintained the revolver (or a revolver, if any weight is accorded to C.T. Walker's claim of having Oswald's gun in his possession in the interrogation room!) in his own possession for two more hours, leaving it in the open on a desk in an office where it had no business being while "there were about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out," handing the weapon and the ammo repeatedly, and handing them to at least two other officers - McDonald and Carroll, and very possibly others - for them to examine and further smudge any prints. If Westbrook's recollection 25 or 30 years later about Hill having the gun in his hands while holding forth before a microphone, the handling of the gun even beyond the requisite examination by the other officers was clearly not kept to a minimum.

While on one hand Hill is to be commended for "keep[ing] the chain short" in accordance with his own admonition to Poe by retaining the evidence in his own possession, he erred magnificently in not turning it over immediately to Homicide. In the end, a Homicide detective took custody of the weapon from Hill anyway, so having given it to Homicide sooner rather than later would only have placed the evidence in the custody of the appropriate authority without all of the others having had to handle it further; it would not have made the chain of evidence any more complicated.

Homicide may also have dusted the gun for prints immediately (it was involved in a cop-killing after all, and thus had some priority), and even if Homicide did require the other officers who'd possessed the evidence for any period of time to scratch their initials into the weapon while holding it, the earlier prints would have presumably already been processed and their integrity maintained. This didn't happen only because Gerald Hill chose to not let it happen, once again out of sheer ignorance ... or perhaps deliberately.

From a defense standpoint, the argument could be reasonably made that this elongated possession and manhandling by and at the behest of Jerry Hill was done deliberately to "frame" the defendant and remove any evidence of the person who'd actually shot Tippit, whom Hill was attempting to protect. Lacking physical evidence against the defendant, the prosecution would necessarily have to rely on circumstantial evidence to convict: his purported ownership of the weapon, and the apparent fact that he'd had it in his possession when arrested; it would in any case not have any evidence tying someone else to the crime.

It makes one wonder if Hill didn't already know that the weapon would never see the inside of a courtroom.

Given Hill's propensity for always being "where the action was" - to the extent that he is often referred to as "Officer Everywhere" - and his apparent last-minute scramble to get to the Texas Theater to involve himself immediately and directly in Oswald's apprehension, and finally to squeeze himself into the middle front seat between two other grown men (not a comfortable place for any adult, much less an overweight police sergeant whose physique has been described as "a fireplug with legs"), a case could be made that he was intent, even desperate to eventually gain possession of whatever key evidence he was able to.

In this he clearly succeeded, and - to validate his superior Captain Westbrook's evaluation, "if he ever got his hands on it, he would never turn it loose, you can bet on it!" - he didn't let it out of his possession (for long) until he had no other choice some two hours and several photo ops later. Westbrook's would have been a winning bet.

Unfortunately, it probably would have caused a losing setback to District Attorney Henry Wade when he brought Oswald to trial. But who knew he never would?

---

This brings us at last to Westbrook's recollection of "one of the only humorous things" about the afternoon, the incident of an unnamed police officer - one of those surrounding Oswald during his apprehension - nearly having his own hand cuffed behind Oswald's back. Was it truly "an am that come up out of the crowd that somebody grabbed," or given Nick McDonald's testimony ...

[Oswald's] right hand was on the pistol ... [and] my left hand [was on the gun in
Oswald's right hand
], at this point. ... Officer T. A. Hutson, he came to the row behind us and grabbed Oswald
around the neck
. And then Officer C.T. Walker came into the row that we were in and
grabbed his left arm
. And Officer Ray Hawkins came to the row in front of us and
grabbed him from the front
. By the time all three of these officers had got there, I had gotten my right hand on the butt of the pistol and jerked it free.

... was it one - considering both of Oswald's(?) hands were accounted for - that perhaps had a gun in it? If so, could it have been the gun that Walker eventually had with him in the interrogation room?

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Fascinating summary, Duke. I didn't know a revolver wasn't entered in evidence until 4pm. Interesting then, not until after a revolver had been entered in evidence, about half an hour later, (4.30) shells were found in Oswalds pocket. Apparently this was also the time that the PO box key was found. Harry mentions getting the key from property this afternoon. IOW evidence was made available to non personnell.

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Guest Richard Bittikofer
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One question. Were Oswald's prints found on that gun?
Chuck, the FBI said "no latent prints of value." There was no fuss to speak of about this at the time. Why bother? Everyone knew he had it taken from him in the TT :blink:

If the matter had ever reached a court of law - which at the moment of arrest (as opposed to "shot while assaulting a police officer") all must have presumed would happen short of a miracle (such as Jack Ruby turned out to be), a decent defense attorney would have moved for exclusion of this piece of so-called evidence since the lack of fingerprints would have made it difficult to prove that the gun had ever been in Oswald's hands. At the least, that fact could have raised reasonable doubts in jurors' minds.

More important than merely Oswald's prints not being on the weapon is the fact that nobody else's prints were apparently found on the weapon or, if they were, they were identified as being of an officer who'd handled the gun afterward ... presumably. Those officers include no less than Nick McDonald, Bob Carroll and Jerry Hill, and possibly others (see testimony below).

With respect to the shells found at the Tippit shooting scene, Hill testified that:

Mr. Hill.
... Poe showed me a Winston cigarette package that contained three spent jackets from shells that he said a citizen had pointed out to him where the suspect had reloaded his gun and dropped these in the grass, and that the citizen had picked them up and put them in the Winston package.

I told Poe to maintain the chain of evidence as small as possible, for him to retain these at that time, and to be sure and mark them for evidence, and then turn them over to the crime lab when he got there, or to homicide.
(7H48-49; emphasis added)

Now, compare and contrast Hill's great concern over the handling of evidence with the following exchanges between WC counsel and various police witnesses:

Officer M.N. "Nick" McDonald

Mr. Ball.
What happened then?

Mr. McDonald.
Well, whenever I hit him, we both fell into the seats. While we were struggling around there, with this hand on the gun --

Mr. Ball.
Your left hand?

Mr. McDonald.
Yes, sir. Somehow I managed to get this hand in the action also.

Mr. Ball.
Your right hand?

Mr. McDonald.
Yes, sir. Now, as we fell into the seats, I called out, "I have got him," and Officer T. A. Hutson, he came to the row behind us and grabbed Oswald around the neck. And then Officer C. T. Walker came into the row that we were in and grabbed his left arm. And Officer Ray Hawkins came to the row in front of us and grabbed him from the front.

By the time all three of these officers had got there, I had gotten my right hand on the butt of the pistol and jerked it free.

...

Mr. Ball.
What happened when you jerked the pistol free?

Mr. McDonald.
When I jerked it free, I was down in the seats with him, with my head, some reason or other, I don't know why, and
when I brought the pistol out, it grazed me across the cheek here, and I put it all the way out to the aisle, holding it by the butt. I gave the pistol to Detective Bob Carroll at that point.

...

Detective Bob K. Carroll

Mr. Ball.
... were Oswald and McDonald struggling together?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir; and then when I got up close enough, I saw a pistol pointing at me so I reached and grabbed the pistol and jerked the pistol away and stuck it in my belt, and then I grabbed Oswald.

Mr. Ball.
Who had hold of that pistol at that time?

Mr. Carroll.
I don't -know, sir. I just saw the pistol pointing at me and I grabbed it and jerked it away from whoever had it and that's all
, and by that time then the handcuffs were put on Oswald.

Mr. Ball.
After you took the pistol, what did you do with it?

Mr. Carroll.
The pistol?

Mr. Ball.
Yes.

Mr. Carroll.
After I took the pistol, I stuck it in my belt immediately. Then, after we got into the car and pulled out from the theater over there, I gave it to Jerry Hill, Sgt. Jerry Hill
.

Mr. Ball.
And he was sitting in the front seat?

Mr. Carroll.
In the front seat right beside me and in the middle, I think Paul Bentley was sitting on the right side and Jerry was sitting there.

...

Sgt. Gerald L. Hill

Mr. Hill.
... the suspect was put in the right rear door of the squad car and was instructed to move over to the middle. C. T. Walker got into the rear seat and would have been sitting on the right rear. Paul Bentley went around the car and got in the left rear door and sat on that side.

Mr. Belin.
That would have been from the left to the right, Bentley, Oswald, and Walker? Or Bentley, the suspect, and Walker?

Mr. Hill.
K. E. Lyons got in the right front. I entered the door from the driver's side and got in the middle of the front seat.

Mr. Belin.
And being that he had the keys to the car, Bob Carroll drove the vehicle?

Mr. Hill.
As he started to get in the car, he handed me a pistol
, which he identified as the one that had been taken from the suspect in the theater. ... he apparently had it in his belt, and
as he started to sit down, he handed it to me
. I was already in the car and seated.

Mr. Belin.
When did you [mark the pistol with your name]
?

Mr. Hill.
This was done at approximately 4 p.m.
, the afternoon of Friday, November 22, 1963, in the personnel office of the police department.

Mr. Belin.
Did you keep that gun in your possession until you scratched your name on it?

Mr. Hill.
Yes, sir; I did.

...

Mr. Belin.
Now, you said
as the driver of the car, Bob Carroll, got in the car, he handed this gun to you
?

Mr. Hill.
Right, sir.

Mr. Belin.
All right, then, would you tell us what happened? What was said and what was done?

Mr. Hill.
Then I broke the gun open to see how many shells it contained and how many live rounds it had in it.

Mr. Belin.
How many did you find?

Mr. Hill.
There were six in the chambers of the gun. One of them had an indention in the primer that appeared to be caused by the hammer. There were five others. All of the shells at this time had indentions. ...

Mr. Belin.
Did you ever mark those?

Mr. Hill.
I can say that I marked all six of them.

Mr. Belin.
When was it removed?

Mr. Hill.
They were not taken out of the gun, as I recall, sir, until we arrived at the station.

Mr. Belin.
Who took it out of the gun?

Mr. Hill.
I took it out of the gun.

Mr. Belin.
Did you keep it in your possession until you put on your initials?

Mr. Hill.
All six shells remained in my possession until I initialed them.

...

Carroll (cont)

Mr. Belin.
Do you know whose hand was on the gun when you saw it pointed in your direction?

Mr. Carroll.
No; I do not.

Mr. Belin.
You just jumped and grabbed it?

Mr. Carroll.
I jumped and grabbed the gun; yes, sir.

Mr. Belin.
Then what did you do with it?

Mr. Carroll.
Stuck it in my belt.

Mr. Belin.
And then?

Mr. Carroll.
After leaving the theatre and getting into the car,
I released the pistol to Sgt. Jerry Hill.

Mr. Belin.
Sgt. G. L. Hill?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir.

Mr. Belin.
Who drove the car down to the station?

Mr. Carroll.
I drove the car.

Mr. Belin.
Did you give it to him before you started up the car, or after you started up the car, if you remember?

Mr. Carroll.
After
.

Mr. Belin.
How far had you driven when you gave it to him?

Mr. Carroll.
I don't recall exactly how far I had driven
.

...

Mr. Ball.
Where did you go [when you got to the police station]?

Mr. Carroll.
I went into the police personnel office.

Mr. Ball.
Who went in there with you?

Mr. Carroll.
There was Jerry Hill, Ray Hawkins, McDonald, Hutson, Bentley, Lyons, and myself. Oh, by the way, Lyons was in the car with us also when we came from the theatre to the police department. I don't remember whether he was sitting in the front or back seat, though, but he did come down with us. ...

Mr. Ball.
Had you looked at the pistol to see if it was loaded before you got to the personnel office
?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir; when I gave it to Jerry Hill, he unloaded it
.

Mr. Ball.
He unloaded it there in the car
?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir
.

...

Mr. Belin.
When this gun, Commission Exhibit 143, was taken by you and then subsequently given to Hill, did you at any time notice whether it was or was not loaded?

Mr. Carroll.
I observed Sergeant Hill unload the gun.

...

Mr. Ball.
And did you know who took possession of the bullets?

Mr. Carroll.
I don't recall, sir.
I don't recall even seeing the gun or the bullets turned over to anyone by Hill
.

Mr. Ball.
But you know in the personnel department after you had delivered Oswald to the homicide squadron, you saw the gun and six bullets?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir.

...

Hill (cont)

Mr. Belin.
What is the fact as to whether or not from the time this gun was handed to you until the time you removed these six bullets, this gun was in your possession?

Mr. Hill.
The gun remained in my possession until it, from the time it was given to me until the gun was marked and all the shells were marked. They remained in my personal possession
. After they were marked,
they were released by me to Detective T. L. Baker of the homicide bureau. He came to the personnel office and requested that they be given to him, and I marked them and turned them over to him at this point
.

...

Mr. Belin.
Have you ever seen this gun before?

Mr. Hill.
I am trying to see my mark on it to make sure, sir. I don't recall specifically where I marked it, but I did mark it, if this is the one. I don't remember where I did mark it, now. Here it is, Hill right here, right in this crack.

Mr. Belin.
Officer, you have just pointed out a place which I will identify as a metal portion running along the butt of the gun. Can you describe it any more fully?

Mr. Hill.
It would be to the inside of the pistol grip holding the gun in the air. It would begin under the trigger guard to where the last name H-i-l-1 is scratched in the metal.

Mr. Belin.
Who put that name in there?

Mr. Hill.
I did.

Mr. Belin.
When did you do that?

Mr. Hill.
This was done at approximately 4 p.m., the afternoon of Friday, November 22, 1963, in the personnel office of the police department.

Mr. Belin.
Did you keep that gun in your possession until you scratched your name on it?

Mr. Hill.
Yes, sir; I did.

Mr. Belin.
Was this gun the gun that Officer Carroll handed to you?

Mr. Hill.
And identified to me as the suspect's weapon.

Mr. Belin.
This is what has now been marked as Commission Exhibit 143, is that correct?

Mr. Hill.
Yes, sir; that is what it says.

...

Carroll (cont)

Mr. Belin.
Where did you put the initials?

Mr. Carroll.
Where was I, or where did I put the initials on the pistol?

Mr. Belin.
Where were you?

Mr. Carroll.
I was in the personnel office of the city of Dallas police department.

Mr. Belin.
With Sergeant Hill?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, and others who were present.

Mr. Belin.
Did you see
Sergeant Hill take it out of his pocket
or wherever he had it, or not?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir.

...

Mr. Ball.
And tell me briefly who was present when you saw McDonald make the mark on the gun?

Mr. Carroll.
Well, let's see --
there was myself, Mack [Nick McDonald?], I think Ray Hawkins was there, and I believe Hutson was there, and I believe Bentley and Lyons had already gone out
to have their feet checked, and
I don't recall whether Captain Westbrook was in there at the time or not
. There were so many people -- I would have to kind of explain that -- I know it sounds vague, but
there were so many people in and out of there and there were about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out
and they were bringing in mikes and it was just a big mess of confusion. You couldn't just sit down and detail this thing and say this man was at this particular spot at this time. It was so jumbled up there.

...

Captain W.R. Westbrook

Mr. Ball.
Then, it was after that you went over to 10th and Patton?

Mr. Westbrook.
To 10th and Patton--yes, sir.

Mr. Ball.
And from there you went to the theatre?

Mr. Westbrook.
Yes; from there we went to the theatre, and I can't remember exactly how that I got back with Bob Barrett and Stringer, but anyway, we got together again -- probably at 10th and Patton.

Mr. Ball.
Were you in the personnel office at a time that a gun was brought in?

Mr. Westbrook.
Yes, sir;
it was brought to my office when it shouldn't have been.

Mr. Ball.
But it was brought to your office?

Mr. Westbrook.
Yes; it was.

Mr. Ball.
And it was marked by some officer?

Mr. Westbrook.
It was marked by Officer Jerry Hill and a couple or three more, and
when they come in with the gun, I just went on down and told Captain Fritz that the gun was in my office and he sent a man up after it. I didn't take it down.

Mr. Ball.
Did you see McDonald mark it?

Mr. Westbrook.
He possibly could have he was in there.

Mr. Ball.
Did you See the .gun unloaded?

Mr. Westbrook.
No, sir; I didn't see it unloaded. When I saw it, the gun was laying on Mr. McGee's desk and the shells were out of it.

Mr. Ball.
Did you look at any of the shells?

Mr. Westbrook.
No, sir.

Mr. Ball.
Did you look the gun over?

Mr. Westbrook.
No, sir.

...

Mr. Ball.
Were the handcuffs on him at the time you arrived?

Mr. Westbrook.
They were putting the handcuffs on him--they had one handcuff on one hand and they were trying to find the other one, and they were having difficulty in locating it because there were so many hands there.

Mr. Ball.
How many officers were there?

Mr. Westbrook.
In fact -- that was one of the only humorous things about whole thing --
somebody did get ahold of the wrong arm and they were twisting it behind Oswald's back and somebody yelled -- I remember that, "My God, you got mine."
I think it was just an am that come up out of the crowd that somebody grabbed.

...

Officer Charles T. Walker

Mr. Belin.
After you got down there [to the police station], what did you do with him?

Mr. Walker.
... And I went inside [the interrogation room with Oswald], and Oswald sat down, and he was handcuffed with his hands behind him. I sat down there,
and I had his pistol
....

There are a number of things to glean from all of this testimony. First, as an item of passing interest only, McDonald's face was scratched when he himself brought the pistol out, not on account of any action of Oswald. Second, that McDonald did not see the pistol clearly enough during the course of his struggle with Oswald to identify it to the exclusion of any other pistol and, once he had it in his possession, immediately stuck it at arm's length "into the aisle," where Detective Bob Carroll saw it "pointing" toward him and took it from McDonald's hand, which he could not identify as belonging to any particular individual (McDonald says he "gave" it to Carroll), and Carroll "immediately" put it in his belt, again (and understandably) without an opportunity to examine and identify it.

Already, the chain of custody was lost. McDonald, despite his unchallenged attempt to say with certainty that he "gave" the pistol he'd take from Oswald to Bob Carroll, the fact is that McDonald stated that he put the gun "out there in the aisle" while he continued to struggle with Oswald and as he was surrounded by several other officers (including T.A. Hutson, C.T. Walker and Ray Hawkins by his own account, as well as Hill, Bentley and others by their accounts). As much as McDonald wanted to give the impression that he knew at that time whom he'd given the gun to, he did not ... and for his own part, the person who took it from him, Detective Carroll, could not - and would not - say whom he'd taken the gun from.

McDonald's "certainty" undoubtedly came from later reconstructions in conversation with other officers, but Carroll, despite probably similar knowledge, would not pretend the same certainty under oath. Had the WC hearings been conducted in an adversarial setting (that is, with a defense to cross-examine), even a green defense attorney would have made this point ("Mr. McDonald, did you actually see Detective Carroll take the gun from your hand? No? Do you know what he did with the gun afterward?" and "Detective Carroll, is it your testimony that you don't know from whom you took the gun? So I could tell you that Officer Ray Hawkins said he had the gun before you took it, and that Officer McDonald said the same thing, and you could not tell me which of the two it might have been, is that so?") and possibly been successful in getting the weapon excluded as evidence at this point. Even if not, it could certainly introduce a reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors (assuming a jury was empaneled as well), especially in light of what follows:

Third, after Oswald had been placed in the car, himself seated in the rear between C.T. Walker and Detective Paul Bentley, the only other officers who had an opportunity to even see the gun were the three in the front seat: Carroll (who drove the car), Hill and Carroll's partner, Officer K.E. Lyons. Lyons was not called to testify, so beyond his written report, there is no indication of what he saw. Of the remaining two, their accounts differ as to /a/ when Carroll removed the weapon from his belt (Hill said "as he started to get in the car ... as he started to sit down," while Carroll stated that he had started the car in motion and driven a short distance) and /b/ when Hill "broke out" the weapon and examined it and the shells (both agree that Hill opened the cylinder in the car, but Hill says he did not remove the bullets until they had gotten to HQ, while Carroll believed he had removed them in the car - but conceded that he might have been mistaken).

At this juncture also, another question is introduced - by counsel - as to the identity of the weapon because, even while there is no direct testimony to this or any effect, once Hill had made an initial examination of the weapon, he apparently put it in his pocket (per David Belin: "Did you see Sergeant Hill take it out of his pocket or wherever he had it?"). One may presume that in the course of his interview with the witness, the prosecutor either learned that Hill had, in fact, placed the gun in his pocket - removing it from the other officers' sight even while in their presence - or that he had not determined what Hill had done with the pistol following that examination. In any case, there is no foundation for this question. (I had thought I'd seen this as testimony elsewhere, but I've been unable to put my finger on it if so.)

Thus, by the time the officers got to HQ, deposited the suspect in the interrogation room and gone to the personnel office (where, according to a captain of police, the gun "shouldn't have been"), it could have been virtually any pistol in the world but was not the same pistol beyond a reasonable certainty.

Not only does Hill testify that it was "approximately 4 p.m." that afternoon, but Captain Westbrook in his testimony noted that he had left the Texas Theater by the back door and then returned to 10th and Patton ("I don't remember how I got back with Bob Barrett and Stringer, but anyway, we got together again [after being at the Texas Theater] -- probably at 10th and Patton") before he'd returned to HQ. Westbrook testified that he was "in the personnel office at a time that a gun was brought in ... when it shouldn't have been," and that when he first saw the gun "the gun was laying on Mr. McGee's desk and the shells were out of it."

Moreover, Bob Carroll testified that "there were so many people in and out of there and there were about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out ... it was just a big mess of confusion. ... It was so jumbled up there," which brings yet more uncertainty as to the identification of the weapon in question when the possibility of so many people in close proximity to the weapon, sitting out on a desk amid "a big mess of confusion" for as long as two hours.

Not only was the personnel office an unsecured area of the police department, but there were also "about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out and they were bringing in mikes" and presumably other equipment since the reporters were probably not only "newspaper" reporters (who don't generally need microphones for any reason), but also radio and TV reporters as well. That the office was "so jumbled up," underscores Westbrook's evaluation that the gun "shouldn't have been" there.

(It is noteworthy, too, that Westbrook did not take the gun - "keeping the chain short" to paraphrase Hill's instructions to Officer Poe at 10th and Patton - but instead called or went to the office of Captain Fritz, head of the Homicide and Robbery Bureau and thus the commander of the investigations, to have one of his officers come to the personnel office to retrieve it. Westbrook clearly did not think highly of Hill's investigative skills or discretion either, since several years later he declared in a recorded interview:

When we got back to the office, the first thing I saw was Jerry Hill talking over a microphone with some reporter. He had the gun ... (a)pparently he had the gun since the arrest because if he ever got his hands on it, he would never turn it loose, you can bet on it!

([Larry Sneed, No More Silence: An Oral History of the Assassination of President Kennedy, University of North Texas Press, 1998, pages 315-16] Sneed notes also that Westbrook retired from DPD in 1966 after 25 years on the force, and later worked with District Attorney Henry Wade as a special investigator for the Dallas County Grand Jury until his retirement in 1983, so despite his having been assigned to the "routine" position of head of the Personnel Bureau, he was clearly no investigative novice himself. Westbrook also noted in the interview that "Gerald Hill probably wouldn't know a .38 automatic shell if he saw one" [ibid., page 313]. He died in 1996.)

If it's not enough that any number of people could apparently have had access to the gun, the inability to conclusively identify the weapon or who may have handled it is compounded by C.T. Walker's testimony that, while in the interrogation room with Oswald, "I had his pistol," a statement left unchallenged by counsel. If Walker had Oswald's gun at any time after arriving at HQ, it could only - according to sworn testimony - been after Homicide Detective T.L. Baker had taken possession of the weapon from Hill two hours after it had arrived at HQ in Hill's pocket, which in turn presumes that a homicide detective would even consider turning a presumed murder weapon over to a uniformed patrol officer, a highly unlikely event at very best.

So, who had the gun? Or, who had which gun? ("Your Honor ...?")

Every bit as important as the chain of possession and integrity of the gun as evidence, is the obliteration of fingerprint evidence. To some extent, that couldn't be helped: Nick McDonald testified to taking it from Oswald, and then Bob Carroll took it from McDonald and put it in his belt before giving it in turn to Jerry Hill so that Carroll could presumably drive comfortably, so at least three individuals' prints were necessarily added to the weapon. It is here, however, that the careful preservation of evidence broke down completely as Hill opened the cylinder and examined the weapon, and may have removed the individual shells from the gun, thus not merely adding a few of his his prints to the gun, but handling enough parts of it that Oswald's prints - which would have placed the gun in his hands - were destroyed.

The investigatory use of fingerprint evidence was decades old in 1963, by no means a new concept that police were only just becoming familiar with. It naturally follows that fingerprint evidence cannot become evidence unless it is somehow preserved. To manhandle a murder weapon, thus both adding the prints of each successive person who handles the item prints to those already extant while also smudging what might remain of the supposed perpetrator's prints, clearly negates the value of such evidence ... if it does not remove the evidence entirely.

Moreover, if anyone else's prints were on the pistol, someone other than Oswald, those too were obliterated by Hill's mishandling of the evidence. If, as some postulate, Oswald had not used the gun to kill Tippit, then it would have been another person's fingerprints that Hill smudged or obliterated, out of sheer ignorance (as Westbrook would apparently have it) or deliberately.

Then, rather than taking the gun directly to Homicide to enter as evidence, Hill maintained the revolver (or a revolver, if any weight is accorded to C.T. Walker's claim of having Oswald's gun in his possession in the interrogation room!) in his own possession for two more hours, leaving it in the open on a desk in an office where it had no business being while "there were about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out," handing the weapon and the ammo repeatedly, and handing them to at least two other officers - McDonald and Carroll, and very possibly others - for them to examine and further smudge any prints. If Westbrook's recollection 25 or 30 years later about Hill having the gun in his hands while holding forth before a microphone, the handling of the gun even beyond the requisite examination by the other officers was clearly not kept to a minimum.

While on one hand Hill is to be commended for "keep[ing] the chain short" in accordance with his own admonition to Poe by retaining the evidence in his own possession, he erred magnificently in not turning it over immediately to Homicide. In the end, a Homicide detective took custody of the weapon from Hill anyway, so having given it to Homicide sooner rather than later would only have placed the evidence in the custody of the appropriate authority without all of the others having had to handle it further; it would not have made the chain of evidence any more complicated.

Homicide may also have dusted the gun for prints immediately (it was involved in a cop-killing after all, and thus had some priority), and even if Homicide did require the other officers who'd possessed the evidence for any period of time to scratch their initials into the weapon while holding it, the earlier prints would have presumably already been processed and their integrity maintained. This didn't happen only because Gerald Hill chose to not let it happen, once again out of sheer ignorance ... or perhaps deliberately.

From a defense standpoint, the argument could be reasonably made that this elongated possession and manhandling by and at the behest of Jerry Hill was done deliberately to "frame" the defendant and remove any evidence of the person who'd actually shot Tippit, whom Hill was attempting to protect. Lacking physical evidence against the defendant, the prosecution would necessarily have to rely on circumstantial evidence to convict: his purported ownership of the weapon, and the apparent fact that he'd had it in his possession when arrested; it would in any case not have any evidence tying someone else to the crime.

It makes one wonder if Hill didn't already know that the weapon would never see the inside of a courtroom.

Given Hill's propensity for always being "where the action was" - to the extent that he is often referred to as "Officer Everywhere" - and his apparent last-minute scramble to get to the Texas Theater to involve himself immediately and directly in Oswald's apprehension, and finally to squeeze himself into the middle front seat between two other grown men (not a comfortable place for any adult, much less an overweight police sergeant whose physique has been described as "a fireplug with legs"), a case could be made that he was intent, even desperate to eventually gain possession of whatever key evidence he was able to.

In this he clearly succeeded, and - to validate his superior Captain Westbrook's evaluation, "if he ever got his hands on it, he would never turn it loose, you can bet on it!" - he didn't let it out of his possession (for long) until he had no other choice some two hours and several photo ops later. Westbrook's would have been a winning bet.

Unfortunately, it probably would have caused a losing setback to District Attorney Henry Wade when he brought Oswald to trial. But who knew he never would?

---

This brings us at last to Westbrook's recollection of "one of the only humorous things" about the afternoon, the incident of an unnamed police officer - one of those surrounding Oswald during his apprehension - nearly having his own hand cuffed behind Oswald's back. Was it truly "an am that come up out of the crowd that somebody grabbed," or given Nick McDonald's testimony ...

[Oswald's] right hand was on the pistol ... [and] my left hand [was on the gun in
Oswald's right hand
], at this point. ... Officer T. A. Hutson, he came to the row behind us and grabbed Oswald
around the neck
. And then Officer C.T. Walker came into the row that we were in and
grabbed his left arm
. And Officer Ray Hawkins came to the row in front of us and
grabbed him from the front
. By the time all three of these officers had got there, I had gotten my right hand on the butt of the pistol and jerked it free.

... was it one - considering both of Oswald's(?) hands were accounted for - that perhaps had a gun in it? If so, could it have been the gun that Walker eventually had with him in the interrogation room?

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One question. Were Oswald's prints found on that gun?
Chuck, the FBI said "no latent prints of value." There was no fuss to speak of about this at the time. Why bother? Everyone knew he had it taken from him in the TT :blink:

If the matter had ever reached a court of law - which at the moment of arrest (as opposed to "shot while assaulting a police officer") all must have presumed would happen short of a miracle (such as Jack Ruby turned out to be), a decent defense attorney would have moved for exclusion of this piece of so-called evidence since the lack of fingerprints would have made it difficult to prove that the gun had ever been in Oswald's hands. At the least, that fact could have raised reasonable doubts in jurors' minds.

More important than merely Oswald's prints not being on the weapon is the fact that nobody else's prints were apparently found on the weapon or, if they were, they were identified as being of an officer who'd handled the gun afterward ... presumably. Those officers include no less than Nick McDonald, Bob Carroll and Jerry Hill, and possibly others (see testimony below).

With respect to the shells found at the Tippit shooting scene, Hill testified that:

Mr. Hill.
... Poe showed me a Winston cigarette package that contained three spent jackets from shells that he said a citizen had pointed out to him where the suspect had reloaded his gun and dropped these in the grass, and that the citizen had picked them up and put them in the Winston package.

I told Poe to maintain the chain of evidence as small as possible, for him to retain these at that time, and to be sure and mark them for evidence, and then turn them over to the crime lab when he got there, or to homicide.
(7H48-49; emphasis added)

Now, compare and contrast Hill's great concern over the handling of evidence with the following exchanges between WC counsel and various police witnesses:

Officer M.N. "Nick" McDonald

Mr. Ball.
What happened then?

Mr. McDonald.
Well, whenever I hit him, we both fell into the seats. While we were struggling around there, with this hand on the gun --

Mr. Ball.
Your left hand?

Mr. McDonald.
Yes, sir. Somehow I managed to get this hand in the action also.

Mr. Ball.
Your right hand?

Mr. McDonald.
Yes, sir. Now, as we fell into the seats, I called out, "I have got him," and Officer T. A. Hutson, he came to the row behind us and grabbed Oswald around the neck. And then Officer C. T. Walker came into the row that we were in and grabbed his left arm. And Officer Ray Hawkins came to the row in front of us and grabbed him from the front.

By the time all three of these officers had got there, I had gotten my right hand on the butt of the pistol and jerked it free.

...

Mr. Ball.
What happened when you jerked the pistol free?

Mr. McDonald.
When I jerked it free, I was down in the seats with him, with my head, some reason or other, I don't know why, and
when I brought the pistol out, it grazed me across the cheek here, and I put it all the way out to the aisle, holding it by the butt. I gave the pistol to Detective Bob Carroll at that point.

...

Detective Bob K. Carroll

Mr. Ball.
... were Oswald and McDonald struggling together?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir; and then when I got up close enough, I saw a pistol pointing at me so I reached and grabbed the pistol and jerked the pistol away and stuck it in my belt, and then I grabbed Oswald.

Mr. Ball.
Who had hold of that pistol at that time?

Mr. Carroll.
I don't -know, sir. I just saw the pistol pointing at me and I grabbed it and jerked it away from whoever had it and that's all
, and by that time then the handcuffs were put on Oswald.

Mr. Ball.
After you took the pistol, what did you do with it?

Mr. Carroll.
The pistol?

Mr. Ball.
Yes.

Mr. Carroll.
After I took the pistol, I stuck it in my belt immediately. Then, after we got into the car and pulled out from the theater over there, I gave it to Jerry Hill, Sgt. Jerry Hill
.

Mr. Ball.
And he was sitting in the front seat?

Mr. Carroll.
In the front seat right beside me and in the middle, I think Paul Bentley was sitting on the right side and Jerry was sitting there.

...

Sgt. Gerald L. Hill

Mr. Hill.
... the suspect was put in the right rear door of the squad car and was instructed to move over to the middle. C. T. Walker got into the rear seat and would have been sitting on the right rear. Paul Bentley went around the car and got in the left rear door and sat on that side.

Mr. Belin.
That would have been from the left to the right, Bentley, Oswald, and Walker? Or Bentley, the suspect, and Walker?

Mr. Hill.
K. E. Lyons got in the right front. I entered the door from the driver's side and got in the middle of the front seat.

Mr. Belin.
And being that he had the keys to the car, Bob Carroll drove the vehicle?

Mr. Hill.
As he started to get in the car, he handed me a pistol
, which he identified as the one that had been taken from the suspect in the theater. ... he apparently had it in his belt, and
as he started to sit down, he handed it to me
. I was already in the car and seated.

Mr. Belin.
When did you [mark the pistol with your name]
?

Mr. Hill.
This was done at approximately 4 p.m.
, the afternoon of Friday, November 22, 1963, in the personnel office of the police department.

Mr. Belin.
Did you keep that gun in your possession until you scratched your name on it?

Mr. Hill.
Yes, sir; I did.

...

Mr. Belin.
Now, you said
as the driver of the car, Bob Carroll, got in the car, he handed this gun to you
?

Mr. Hill.
Right, sir.

Mr. Belin.
All right, then, would you tell us what happened? What was said and what was done?

Mr. Hill.
Then I broke the gun open to see how many shells it contained and how many live rounds it had in it.

Mr. Belin.
How many did you find?

Mr. Hill.
There were six in the chambers of the gun. One of them had an indention in the primer that appeared to be caused by the hammer. There were five others. All of the shells at this time had indentions. ...

Mr. Belin.
Did you ever mark those?

Mr. Hill.
I can say that I marked all six of them.

Mr. Belin.
When was it removed?

Mr. Hill.
They were not taken out of the gun, as I recall, sir, until we arrived at the station.

Mr. Belin.
Who took it out of the gun?

Mr. Hill.
I took it out of the gun.

Mr. Belin.
Did you keep it in your possession until you put on your initials?

Mr. Hill.
All six shells remained in my possession until I initialed them.

...

Carroll (cont)

Mr. Belin.
Do you know whose hand was on the gun when you saw it pointed in your direction?

Mr. Carroll.
No; I do not.

Mr. Belin.
You just jumped and grabbed it?

Mr. Carroll.
I jumped and grabbed the gun; yes, sir.

Mr. Belin.
Then what did you do with it?

Mr. Carroll.
Stuck it in my belt.

Mr. Belin.
And then?

Mr. Carroll.
After leaving the theatre and getting into the car,
I released the pistol to Sgt. Jerry Hill.

Mr. Belin.
Sgt. G. L. Hill?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir.

Mr. Belin.
Who drove the car down to the station?

Mr. Carroll.
I drove the car.

Mr. Belin.
Did you give it to him before you started up the car, or after you started up the car, if you remember?

Mr. Carroll.
After
.

Mr. Belin.
How far had you driven when you gave it to him?

Mr. Carroll.
I don't recall exactly how far I had driven
.

...

Mr. Ball.
Where did you go [when you got to the police station]?

Mr. Carroll.
I went into the police personnel office.

Mr. Ball.
Who went in there with you?

Mr. Carroll.
There was Jerry Hill, Ray Hawkins, McDonald, Hutson, Bentley, Lyons, and myself. Oh, by the way, Lyons was in the car with us also when we came from the theatre to the police department. I don't remember whether he was sitting in the front or back seat, though, but he did come down with us. ...

Mr. Ball.
Had you looked at the pistol to see if it was loaded before you got to the personnel office
?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir; when I gave it to Jerry Hill, he unloaded it
.

Mr. Ball.
He unloaded it there in the car
?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir
.

...

Mr. Belin.
When this gun, Commission Exhibit 143, was taken by you and then subsequently given to Hill, did you at any time notice whether it was or was not loaded?

Mr. Carroll.
I observed Sergeant Hill unload the gun.

...

Mr. Ball.
And did you know who took possession of the bullets?

Mr. Carroll.
I don't recall, sir.
I don't recall even seeing the gun or the bullets turned over to anyone by Hill
.

Mr. Ball.
But you know in the personnel department after you had delivered Oswald to the homicide squadron, you saw the gun and six bullets?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir.

...

Hill (cont)

Mr. Belin.
What is the fact as to whether or not from the time this gun was handed to you until the time you removed these six bullets, this gun was in your possession?

Mr. Hill.
The gun remained in my possession until it, from the time it was given to me until the gun was marked and all the shells were marked. They remained in my personal possession
. After they were marked,
they were released by me to Detective T. L. Baker of the homicide bureau. He came to the personnel office and requested that they be given to him, and I marked them and turned them over to him at this point
.

...

Mr. Belin.
Have you ever seen this gun before?

Mr. Hill.
I am trying to see my mark on it to make sure, sir. I don't recall specifically where I marked it, but I did mark it, if this is the one. I don't remember where I did mark it, now. Here it is, Hill right here, right in this crack.

Mr. Belin.
Officer, you have just pointed out a place which I will identify as a metal portion running along the butt of the gun. Can you describe it any more fully?

Mr. Hill.
It would be to the inside of the pistol grip holding the gun in the air. It would begin under the trigger guard to where the last name H-i-l-1 is scratched in the metal.

Mr. Belin.
Who put that name in there?

Mr. Hill.
I did.

Mr. Belin.
When did you do that?

Mr. Hill.
This was done at approximately 4 p.m., the afternoon of Friday, November 22, 1963, in the personnel office of the police department.

Mr. Belin.
Did you keep that gun in your possession until you scratched your name on it?

Mr. Hill.
Yes, sir; I did.

Mr. Belin.
Was this gun the gun that Officer Carroll handed to you?

Mr. Hill.
And identified to me as the suspect's weapon.

Mr. Belin.
This is what has now been marked as Commission Exhibit 143, is that correct?

Mr. Hill.
Yes, sir; that is what it says.

...

Carroll (cont)

Mr. Belin.
Where did you put the initials?

Mr. Carroll.
Where was I, or where did I put the initials on the pistol?

Mr. Belin.
Where were you?

Mr. Carroll.
I was in the personnel office of the city of Dallas police department.

Mr. Belin.
With Sergeant Hill?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, and others who were present.

Mr. Belin.
Did you see
Sergeant Hill take it out of his pocket
or wherever he had it, or not?

Mr. Carroll.
Yes, sir.

...

Mr. Ball.
And tell me briefly who was present when you saw McDonald make the mark on the gun?

Mr. Carroll.
Well, let's see --
there was myself, Mack [Nick McDonald?], I think Ray Hawkins was there, and I believe Hutson was there, and I believe Bentley and Lyons had already gone out
to have their feet checked, and
I don't recall whether Captain Westbrook was in there at the time or not
. There were so many people -- I would have to kind of explain that -- I know it sounds vague, but
there were so many people in and out of there and there were about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out
and they were bringing in mikes and it was just a big mess of confusion. You couldn't just sit down and detail this thing and say this man was at this particular spot at this time. It was so jumbled up there.

...

Captain W.R. Westbrook

Mr. Ball.
Then, it was after that you went over to 10th and Patton?

Mr. Westbrook.
To 10th and Patton--yes, sir.

Mr. Ball.
And from there you went to the theatre?

Mr. Westbrook.
Yes; from there we went to the theatre, and I can't remember exactly how that I got back with Bob Barrett and Stringer, but anyway, we got together again -- probably at 10th and Patton.

Mr. Ball.
Were you in the personnel office at a time that a gun was brought in?

Mr. Westbrook.
Yes, sir;
it was brought to my office when it shouldn't have been.

Mr. Ball.
But it was brought to your office?

Mr. Westbrook.
Yes; it was.

Mr. Ball.
And it was marked by some officer?

Mr. Westbrook.
It was marked by Officer Jerry Hill and a couple or three more, and
when they come in with the gun, I just went on down and told Captain Fritz that the gun was in my office and he sent a man up after it. I didn't take it down.

Mr. Ball.
Did you see McDonald mark it?

Mr. Westbrook.
He possibly could have he was in there.

Mr. Ball.
Did you See the .gun unloaded?

Mr. Westbrook.
No, sir; I didn't see it unloaded. When I saw it, the gun was laying on Mr. McGee's desk and the shells were out of it.

Mr. Ball.
Did you look at any of the shells?

Mr. Westbrook.
No, sir.

Mr. Ball.
Did you look the gun over?

Mr. Westbrook.
No, sir.

...

Mr. Ball.
Were the handcuffs on him at the time you arrived?

Mr. Westbrook.
They were putting the handcuffs on him--they had one handcuff on one hand and they were trying to find the other one, and they were having difficulty in locating it because there were so many hands there.

Mr. Ball.
How many officers were there?

Mr. Westbrook.
In fact -- that was one of the only humorous things about whole thing --
somebody did get ahold of the wrong arm and they were twisting it behind Oswald's back and somebody yelled -- I remember that, "My God, you got mine."
I think it was just an am that come up out of the crowd that somebody grabbed.

...

Officer Charles T. Walker

Mr. Belin.
After you got down there [to the police station], what did you do with him?

Mr. Walker.
... And I went inside [the interrogation room with Oswald], and Oswald sat down, and he was handcuffed with his hands behind him. I sat down there,
and I had his pistol
....

There are a number of things to glean from all of this testimony. First, as an item of passing interest only, McDonald's face was scratched when he himself brought the pistol out, not on account of any action of Oswald. Second, that McDonald did not see the pistol clearly enough during the course of his struggle with Oswald to identify it to the exclusion of any other pistol and, once he had it in his possession, immediately stuck it at arm's length "into the aisle," where Detective Bob Carroll saw it "pointing" toward him and took it from McDonald's hand, which he could not identify as belonging to any particular individual (McDonald says he "gave" it to Carroll), and Carroll "immediately" put it in his belt, again (and understandably) without an opportunity to examine and identify it.

Already, the chain of custody was lost. McDonald, despite his unchallenged attempt to say with certainty that he "gave" the pistol he'd take from Oswald to Bob Carroll, the fact is that McDonald stated that he put the gun "out there in the aisle" while he continued to struggle with Oswald and as he was surrounded by several other officers (including T.A. Hutson, C.T. Walker and Ray Hawkins by his own account, as well as Hill, Bentley and others by their accounts). As much as McDonald wanted to give the impression that he knew at that time whom he'd given the gun to, he did not ... and for his own part, the person who took it from him, Detective Carroll, could not - and would not - say whom he'd taken the gun from.

McDonald's "certainty" undoubtedly came from later reconstructions in conversation with other officers, but Carroll, despite probably similar knowledge, would not pretend the same certainty under oath. Had the WC hearings been conducted in an adversarial setting (that is, with a defense to cross-examine), even a green defense attorney would have made this point ("Mr. McDonald, did you actually see Detective Carroll take the gun from your hand? No? Do you know what he did with the gun afterward?" and "Detective Carroll, is it your testimony that you don't know from whom you took the gun? So I could tell you that Officer Ray Hawkins said he had the gun before you took it, and that Officer McDonald said the same thing, and you could not tell me which of the two it might have been, is that so?") and possibly been successful in getting the weapon excluded as evidence at this point. Even if not, it could certainly introduce a reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors (assuming a jury was empaneled as well), especially in light of what follows:

Third, after Oswald had been placed in the car, himself seated in the rear between C.T. Walker and Detective Paul Bentley, the only other officers who had an opportunity to even see the gun were the three in the front seat: Carroll (who drove the car), Hill and Carroll's partner, Officer K.E. Lyons. Lyons was not called to testify, so beyond his written report, there is no indication of what he saw. Of the remaining two, their accounts differ as to /a/ when Carroll removed the weapon from his belt (Hill said "as he started to get in the car ... as he started to sit down," while Carroll stated that he had started the car in motion and driven a short distance) and /b/ when Hill "broke out" the weapon and examined it and the shells (both agree that Hill opened the cylinder in the car, but Hill says he did not remove the bullets until they had gotten to HQ, while Carroll believed he had removed them in the car - but conceded that he might have been mistaken).

At this juncture also, another question is introduced - by counsel - as to the identity of the weapon because, even while there is no direct testimony to this or any effect, once Hill had made an initial examination of the weapon, he apparently put it in his pocket (per David Belin: "Did you see Sergeant Hill take it out of his pocket or wherever he had it?"). One may presume that in the course of his interview with the witness, the prosecutor either learned that Hill had, in fact, placed the gun in his pocket - removing it from the other officers' sight even while in their presence - or that he had not determined what Hill had done with the pistol following that examination. In any case, there is no foundation for this question. (I had thought I'd seen this as testimony elsewhere, but I've been unable to put my finger on it if so.)

Thus, by the time the officers got to HQ, deposited the suspect in the interrogation room and gone to the personnel office (where, according to a captain of police, the gun "shouldn't have been"), it could have been virtually any pistol in the world but was not the same pistol beyond a reasonable certainty.

Not only does Hill testify that it was "approximately 4 p.m." that afternoon, but Captain Westbrook in his testimony noted that he had left the Texas Theater by the back door and then returned to 10th and Patton ("I don't remember how I got back with Bob Barrett and Stringer, but anyway, we got together again [after being at the Texas Theater] -- probably at 10th and Patton") before he'd returned to HQ. Westbrook testified that he was "in the personnel office at a time that a gun was brought in ... when it shouldn't have been," and that when he first saw the gun "the gun was laying on Mr. McGee's desk and the shells were out of it."

Moreover, Bob Carroll testified that "there were so many people in and out of there and there were about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out ... it was just a big mess of confusion. ... It was so jumbled up there," which brings yet more uncertainty as to the identification of the weapon in question when the possibility of so many people in close proximity to the weapon, sitting out on a desk amid "a big mess of confusion" for as long as two hours.

Not only was the personnel office an unsecured area of the police department, but there were also "about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out and they were bringing in mikes" and presumably other equipment since the reporters were probably not only "newspaper" reporters (who don't generally need microphones for any reason), but also radio and TV reporters as well. That the office was "so jumbled up," underscores Westbrook's evaluation that the gun "shouldn't have been" there.

(It is noteworthy, too, that Westbrook did not take the gun - "keeping the chain short" to paraphrase Hill's instructions to Officer Poe at 10th and Patton - but instead called or went to the office of Captain Fritz, head of the Homicide and Robbery Bureau and thus the commander of the investigations, to have one of his officers come to the personnel office to retrieve it. Westbrook clearly did not think highly of Hill's investigative skills or discretion either, since several years later he declared in a recorded interview:

When we got back to the office, the first thing I saw was Jerry Hill talking over a microphone with some reporter. He had the gun ... (a)pparently he had the gun since the arrest because if he ever got his hands on it, he would never turn it loose, you can bet on it!

([Larry Sneed, No More Silence: An Oral History of the Assassination of President Kennedy, University of North Texas Press, 1998, pages 315-16] Sneed notes also that Westbrook retired from DPD in 1966 after 25 years on the force, and later worked with District Attorney Henry Wade as a special investigator for the Dallas County Grand Jury until his retirement in 1983, so despite his having been assigned to the "routine" position of head of the Personnel Bureau, he was clearly no investigative novice himself. Westbrook also noted in the interview that "Gerald Hill probably wouldn't know a .38 automatic shell if he saw one" [ibid., page 313]. He died in 1996.)

If it's not enough that any number of people could apparently have had access to the gun, the inability to conclusively identify the weapon or who may have handled it is compounded by C.T. Walker's testimony that, while in the interrogation room with Oswald, "I had his pistol," a statement left unchallenged by counsel. If Walker had Oswald's gun at any time after arriving at HQ, it could only - according to sworn testimony - been after Homicide Detective T.L. Baker had taken possession of the weapon from Hill two hours after it had arrived at HQ in Hill's pocket, which in turn presumes that a homicide detective would even consider turning a presumed murder weapon over to a uniformed patrol officer, a highly unlikely event at very best.

So, who had the gun? Or, who had which gun? ("Your Honor ...?")

Every bit as important as the chain of possession and integrity of the gun as evidence, is the obliteration of fingerprint evidence. To some extent, that couldn't be helped: Nick McDonald testified to taking it from Oswald, and then Bob Carroll took it from McDonald and put it in his belt before giving it in turn to Jerry Hill so that Carroll could presumably drive comfortably, so at least three individuals' prints were necessarily added to the weapon. It is here, however, that the careful preservation of evidence broke down completely as Hill opened the cylinder and examined the weapon, and may have removed the individual shells from the gun, thus not merely adding a few of his his prints to the gun, but handling enough parts of it that Oswald's prints - which would have placed the gun in his hands - were destroyed.

The investigatory use of fingerprint evidence was decades old in 1963, by no means a new concept that police were only just becoming familiar with. It naturally follows that fingerprint evidence cannot become evidence unless it is somehow preserved. To manhandle a murder weapon, thus both adding the prints of each successive person who handles the item prints to those already extant while also smudging what might remain of the supposed perpetrator's prints, clearly negates the value of such evidence ... if it does not remove the evidence entirely.

Moreover, if anyone else's prints were on the pistol, someone other than Oswald, those too were obliterated by Hill's mishandling of the evidence. If, as some postulate, Oswald had not used the gun to kill Tippit, then it would have been another person's fingerprints that Hill smudged or obliterated, out of sheer ignorance (as Westbrook would apparently have it) or deliberately.

Then, rather than taking the gun directly to Homicide to enter as evidence, Hill maintained the revolver (or a revolver, if any weight is accorded to C.T. Walker's claim of having Oswald's gun in his possession in the interrogation room!) in his own possession for two more hours, leaving it in the open on a desk in an office where it had no business being while "there were about no less than anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen newspaper reporters in and out," handing the weapon and the ammo repeatedly, and handing them to at least two other officers - McDonald and Carroll, and very possibly others - for them to examine and further smudge any prints. If Westbrook's recollection 25 or 30 years later about Hill having the gun in his hands while holding forth before a microphone, the handling of the gun even beyond the requisite examination by the other officers was clearly not kept to a minimum.

While on one hand Hill is to be commended for "keep[ing] the chain short" in accordance with his own admonition to Poe by retaining the evidence in his own possession, he erred magnificently in not turning it over immediately to Homicide. In the end, a Homicide detective took custody of the weapon from Hill anyway, so having given it to Homicide sooner rather than later would only have placed the evidence in the custody of the appropriate authority without all of the others having had to handle it further; it would not have made the chain of evidence any more complicated.

Homicide may also have dusted the gun for prints immediately (it was involved in a cop-killing after all, and thus had some priority), and even if Homicide did require the other officers who'd possessed the evidence for any period of time to scratch their initials into the weapon while holding it, the earlier prints would have presumably already been processed and their integrity maintained. This didn't happen only because Gerald Hill chose to not let it happen, once again out of sheer ignorance ... or perhaps deliberately.

From a defense standpoint, the argument could be reasonably made that this elongated possession and manhandling by and at the behest of Jerry Hill was done deliberately to "frame" the defendant and remove any evidence of the person who'd actually shot Tippit, whom Hill was attempting to protect. Lacking physical evidence against the defendant, the prosecution would necessarily have to rely on circumstantial evidence to convict: his purported ownership of the weapon, and the apparent fact that he'd had it in his possession when arrested; it would in any case not have any evidence tying someone else to the crime.

It makes one wonder if Hill didn't already know that the weapon would never see the inside of a courtroom.

Given Hill's propensity for always being "where the action was" - to the extent that he is often referred to as "Officer Everywhere" - and his apparent last-minute scramble to get to the Texas Theater to involve himself immediately and directly in Oswald's apprehension, and finally to squeeze himself into the middle front seat between two other grown men (not a comfortable place for any adult, much less an overweight police sergeant whose physique has been described as "a fireplug with legs"), a case could be made that he was intent, even desperate to eventually gain possession of whatever key evidence he was able to.

In this he clearly succeeded, and - to validate his superior Captain Westbrook's evaluation, "if he ever got his hands on it, he would never turn it loose, you can bet on it!" - he didn't let it out of his possession (for long) until he had no other choice some two hours and several photo ops later. Westbrook's would have been a winning bet.

Unfortunately, it probably would have caused a losing setback to District Attorney Henry Wade when he brought Oswald to trial. But who knew he never would?

---

This brings us at last to Westbrook's recollection of "one of the only humorous things" about the afternoon, the incident of an unnamed police officer - one of those surrounding Oswald during his apprehension - nearly having his own hand cuffed behind Oswald's back. Was it truly "an am that come up out of the crowd that somebody grabbed," or given Nick McDonald's testimony ...

[Oswald's] right hand was on the pistol ... [and] my left hand [was on the gun in
Oswald's right hand
], at this point. ... Officer T. A. Hutson, he came to the row behind us and grabbed Oswald
around the neck
. And then Officer C.T. Walker came into the row that we were in and
grabbed his left arm
. And Officer Ray Hawkins came to the row in front of us and
grabbed him from the front
. By the time all three of these officers had got there, I had gotten my right hand on the butt of the pistol and jerked it free.

... was it one - considering both of Oswald's(?) hands were accounted for - that perhaps had a gun in it? If so, could it have been the gun that Walker eventually had with him in the interrogation room?

Duke...I do not recall reading before that the gun "taken from the suspect"

HAD SIX BULLETS IN THE CYLINDER. That brings up:

1. What about the empty casings found at Tenth and Patton?

2. When was the gun reloaded?

3. Where did the six new bullets come from?

Hmmmmmmmmmm.

Jack

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Duke...I do not recall reading before that the gun "taken from the suspect" HAD SIX BULLETS IN THE CYLINDER. That brings up:

1. What about the empty casings found at Tenth and Patton?

2. When was the gun reloaded?

3. Where did the six new bullets come from?

Hmmmmmmmmmm.

Jack

Pardon me for removing my own entire quote (just takes up space!), but all of that goes back to 1964 when the 26 volumes of Hearings & Exhibits were published: this is not new information!
  1. Gun was fired at 10&P and emptied as the shooter ran in front of the Davises' home (see their testimonies). Only question is how many shells in total were "shaken" out of the gun: all of them, or only those that had been fired? (Only empties were found, ergo there must have been some selectivity about which were "shaken" out ... or maybe "shaken" was a bad description on Davis's part? Didn't Benavides say that the shooter picked them out and threw them over his shoulder as he ran?)
    If the latter, only four or five shells had to be replaced, not all six;
  2. As I recall, Sam Guinyard - or someone who observed him running - described the shooter reloading as he ran down the other side of Patton.
  3. If Oswald did the shooting, the replacement bullets presumably came out of a batch that included those that were found(?) inside his pocket(?) later on.

In sum, presume:

  • Six bullets in the cylinder before the Tippit encounter; minus
  • The number of shells found (equals shots fired?) at the scene; plus
  • The number of bullets found at DPD;

... and that's the number of bullets that need to be accounted for. I don't think their origin has ever been established ... and lacking that, can the prosecution prove that the defendant ever owned them and had the opportunity to fire them?

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" found(?) inside his pocket(?) later on.

In sum, presume:

  • Six bullets in the cylinder before the Tippit encounter; minus
  • The number of shells found (equals shots fired?) at the scene; plus
  • The number of bullets found at DPD;

... and that's the number of bullets that need to be accounted for. I don't think their origin has ever been established ... and lacking that, can the prosecution prove that the defendant ever owned them and had the opportunity to fire them?"

I wouldn't call his pants tight, nor would I say they were baggy.

(image)

In the left pocket as he sat for the interview with his hands manacled behind his back were a key, a bus pass and five bullets. On request the handcuffs were shifted to his front. The bullet ouline in his pants were not noted.

These five bullets were found while he was waiting to be in the lineup at 4.30+.

yet:

"2:15 P.M. Taken into Police Dept.

2:15 - 2:20 P.M.

"Talked to" by officers Guy F. Rose and Richard S. Stovall. No notes.

2:25 - 4:04 P.M. Interrogation of Oswald, Office of Capt Will Fritz

"My name is Lee Harvey Oswald. . . . I work at the Texas School Book Depository Building. . . . I lived in Minsk and in Moscow. . . . I worked in a factory. . . . I liked everything over there except the weather. . . . I have a wife and some children. . . . My residence is 1026 North Beckley, Dallas, Tex." Oswald recognized FBI agent James Hosty and said, "You have been at my home two or three times talking to my wife. I don't appreciate your coming out there when I was not there. . . . I was never in Mexico City. I have been in Tijuana. . . . Please take the handcuffs from behind me, behind my back. . . . I observed a rifle in the Texas School Book Depository where I work, on Nov. 20, 1963. . . . Mr. Roy Truly, the supervisor, displayed the rifle to individuals in his office on the first floor. . . . I never owned a rifle myself. . . . I resided in the Soviet Union for three years, where I have many friends and relatives of my wife. . . . I was secretary of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans a few months ago. . . . While in the Marines, I received an award for marksmanship as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. . . . While living on Beckley Street, I used the name 0. H. Lee. . . . I was present in the Texas School Book Depository Building, I have been employed there since Oct. 15, 1963. . . . As a laborer, I have access to the entire building. . . . My usual place of work is on the first floor. However, I frequently use the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh floors to get books. I was on all floors this morning. . . . Because of all the confusion, I figured there would be no work performed that afternoon so I decided to go home. . . . I changed my clothing and went to a movie. . . . I carried a pistol with me to the movie because I felt like it, for no other reason. . . . I fought the Dallas Police who arrested me in the movie theater where I received a cut and a bump. . . . I didn't shoot Pres. John F. Kennedy or Officer J. D. Tippit. . . . An officer struck me, causing the marks on my left eye, after I had struck him. . . . I just had them in there," when asked why he had bullets in his pocket."

4.30 PM (to lineup)

>>> The bullets had, according to the person who found them while searching him outside the lineup room at 4.30+, not been found by the time of this interview. <<<

I think the key and buspass being flat were found. The bullets were not 'found' until the correct revolver was confirmed as in the loop. He was not asked about the bullets again after they really had been 'found'. A slip up?

Edited by John Dolva
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Duke wrote:

In sum, presume:

  • Six bullets in the cylinder before the Tippit encounter; minus
  • The number of shells found (equals shots fired?) at the scene; plus
  • The number of bullets found at DPD;

... and that's the number of bullets that need to be accounted for. I don't think their origin has ever been established ... and lacking that, can the prosecution prove that the defendant ever owned them and had the opportunity to fire them?"

I wouldn't call his pants tight, nor would I say they were baggy.

In the left pocket as he sat for the interview with his hands manacled behind his back were a key, a bus pass and five bullets. On request the handcuffs were shifted to his front. The bullet ouline in his pants were not noted.

These five bullets were found while he was waiting to be in the lineup at 4.30+.

2:25 - 4:04 P.M. Interrogation of Oswald, Office of Capt Will Fritz:

...
I just had them in there," when asked why he had bullets in his pocket.
"

4.30 PM (to lineup)

>>> The bullets had, according to the person who found them while searching him outside the lineup room at 4.30+, not been found by the time of this interview. <<<

I think the key and buspass being flat were found. The bullets were not 'found' until the correct revolver was confirmed as in the loop. He was not asked about the bullets again after they really had been 'found'. A slip up?

There's an old adage about performing a scripted part, and that is that most people won't notice when you've screwed up, so don't worry about it and just keep right on going. A corrolary is that even if you screw up and somebody notices, the next guy will cover for you and your mistake will assume less prominence, so that in the end, all will seem as if it was done exactly as it was supposed to have been. In this case, there is the added advantage that nobody had a chance to practice, and later corrections can easily be put off to "the heat of the moment" and much confusion. (That's my story and we're stickin' to it.)

Part of the difficulty with these "last words" is that many if not most of them are merely what someone said he said, and we really don't know whether he actually did or not. But then, why would anyone lie?

John, your suspicion about a revolver having to be "confirmed as in the loop" may not actually be confirmed by this, but is at least supported by the fact of the testimony that the gun was apparently not identified by the arresting officers until more than two hours after the arrest, and then only after having been improperly handled (but only according to Captain Westbrook, who had just 22 years' experience at that point). I've already detailed enough unusual aspects about the chain of custody and other handling of the weapon as to probably be ample to eliminate it from evidence if the WC had been a real legal inquiry.

When you add in the number of officers who testified to having seen and initialed an empty hull with a firing pin indentation on the primer, but the later lack of any hull that matched such a description, one really does have to wonder what aspects of the evidence are real, and which may be substituted (this not even counting Poe's inability to find his mark). How difficult is it, after all, to scratch an "M" (for McDonald) on another empty shell? I can't imagine that handwriting identification could have entered into it at all.

Not to say, necessarily, that any of this did happen, but merely that there is absolutely no way to preclude that it did. Opportunities galore existed, and it is difficult at best to determine which were taken advantage of and which may have been simple, innocent mistakes.

I think it's notable that (much more recently) Ken Lay of Enron was actually convicted of a crime - more than Lee Oswald ever was - but having died before having had an opportunity to appeal that conviction, the man must be "presumed innocent," and his estate is not even liable for any of the sanctions assessed against him while he was still alive.

You've gotta wonder, then, why nobody - including the same people who "understand" Lay's "innocence" - are never so charitable toward Oz: you've generally got to search out the words "alleged" or "accused" preceding the word "assassin," and don't always find it: one man died before he was even tried, much less convicted (and thus with nothing to appeal), and he is popularly "guilty;" another is tried and convicted, but since he died before he could appeal, he's legally "not guilty" even despite the conviction!

Go figure ....

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The bullets had, according to the person who found them while searching him outside the lineup room at 4.30+, not been found by the time of this interview. <<<

I think the key and buspass being flat were found. The bullets were not 'found' until the correct revolver was confirmed as in the loop. He was not asked about the bullets again after they really had been 'found'. A slip up?

- JD

John, according to Sims' report regarding his duties on 11.22.63, he stated that "at 4:05 pm Sims, Boyd and Det Hall took Oswald down to the hold over in the jail office for a show up. Down in the hold over, Boyd searched Oswald and found 5 live rounds of .38 calibre pistol shells in his left front pocket. Sims found a bus transfer slip in Oswald's shirt pocket. Oswald took his ring offan gave it to Sims." (DPD JFK collection: box 3, folder 4, item 6)

Here is a photo of the bus pass: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/transfer.gif

Despite allegedly having it in his shirt pocket whilst wrestling 6 of Dallas' finest men in blue, it's in even more pristine condition CE 399 (the magic bullet).

My understanding of McWatter's albeit confused testimony is that he gave the transfer to Milton Jones.

The pistol:

McDonald told an Associated Press reporter on 11.23.63 that he (McDonald) was carrying a "gun" in a crouching position as he made his way to Oswald. Said "gun" was never mentioned again by McDonald.

The really interesting part is that none of the cops places the pistol in Oswald's hand - and only Oswald's hand. The only witnesses to to do so are the ever-helpful shoe stor manager, Brewer and movie patrons Gibson and Applin. Applin however, testified that he only knew it was Oswald because the arm with the pistol had on a short sleeve shirt. Oswald's shirt was long sleeved, but I do believe McDonald's was short.

There were at least a dozen patrons that day, btw... so why were Gibson and Applin plucked out to testify? Well, Applin for one did have a police record for burglury...

And who was the one holding out a pistol from the melee for another cop to take? McDOnald.

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"Photograph of a bus transfer ticket and a key found in Oswald's possession, negative number 91-001/152"

Is how the DPD describes the photo McAdams has cropped to show only the buspass. Finding the key at the same time is important for a couple of reasons. The bullets and key would fall to the bottom of the pocket and rattle, and form a bulge when he sat down. They did not see this while changing the handcuffs nor hear any sounds while walking. So did he have the bullets in his pocket at all? The key itself was taken by Harry this afternoon from the property room. There is a mention of the time that this happened, but I haven't refound it as yet. From memory it was not late evening.

EDIT:: just a note on the revolver,

(image)

it was reworked from a gun like the lower pair. The barrel was cut down. The base had a ring attachment which was removed and replaced. The serial number was stamped on to this replacement.

Edited by John Dolva
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The whole bullets thing's a puzzle. Here's a partial visual guide.

(image)

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The whole bullets thing's a puzzle. Here's a partial visual guide.

(image)

John, didn't all of the officers (Hill, Carroll, McDonald, et al.) testify to having found six live bullets in the revolver? Of course, they all testified to having seen one of them with an indentation at the primer from the firing pin "snapping" on the bullet (a misfire), but that didn't turn up into evidence either, did it. But based on their statements, it would seem that two live rounds are missing from the image ...?

Regarding other evidence that could have difficulties:

John, according to Sims' report regarding his duties on 11.22.63, he stated that "at 4:05 pm Sims, Boyd and Det Hall took Oswald down to the hold over in the jail office for a show up. Down in the hold over, Boyd searched Oswald and found 5 live rounds of .38 calibre pistol shells in his left front pocket. Sims found a bus transfer slip in Oswald's shirt pocket. Oswald took his ring off and gave it to Sims." (DPD JFK collection: box 3, folder 4, item 6)

Here is a photo of the bus pass

Despite allegedly having it in his shirt pocket whilst wrestling 6 of Dallas' finest men in blue, it's in even more pristine condition CE 399 (the magic bullet). My understanding of McWatter's albeit confused testimony is that he gave the transfer to Milton Jones.

McWatters was fairly clear in his testimony: I wouldn't say that his nervous use of "in other words" - multiple, multiple times - made him "confused." It must have been tedious as hell listening to him repeat that so many times tho'!

The conundrum is that McWatters did not identify anyone even remotely resembling Oz as getting on his bus, even after he'd seen him on the news and was given every opportunity to do so. Yes, he identified Oz in a lineup, but testified afterward that he was not making a positive ID.

There is little or no question that the transfer was issued by McWatters (given the cut-out he made with his unique clipper) on the date in question. If Oswald had a bus pass issued by McWatter on November 22, then the most obvious inferences is that Oswald was on McWatters' bus - Mary Bledsoe seemed to think so - and McWatters had to have been mistaken.

There remain some curious questions, however.

First, if O had changed his shirt, why would he take a transfer out of one and put it in the pocket of another after the one o'clock expiry when he could not transfer onto another bus with it? My own experiences in that general time period - albeit in a different city and state - is that you can only use a transfer on a route that intersects with the issuing route, so unless McWatters' route intersected with the Beckley route, it was useless.

Conversely, one could hope that the driver of the bus he tried to use it on would either or both /a/ not notice that it was from a non-intersecting route, and /b/ decide to grant a few minutes' latitude on the expiration time, or /c/ simply not pay any attention to it at all.

While that may square with O's reputed miserliness, it leaves only a couple of options: first, that he attempted to use it and it was refused by the new driver. In that case, either O paid the fare anew (but his available monies have been analyzed endlessly, and the new fare money simply wasn't available unless he busted into a piggy bank that wasn't found among his posessions) or decided to walk to his destination. If he had boarded a bus, the transfer would have been taken from him no matter what, even if the bus driver decided to be charitable and let him ride for free. If he wasn't able to board the next bus, why keep the transfer?

Another option is that there was no bus to board - maybe it had just left the stop when he'd left the rooming house, or the driver wouldn't wait for him to cross the street - in which case, he'd have had to walk wherever he was going anyway, so again, why keep the transfer? The last is that he'd put it in his pocket, missed or decided not to take another bus, and just forgot about the transfer.

If, as McWatters effectively said, Oz was not on the bus and therefore didn't get the transfer from him, how was it otherwise obtained?

The transfer shows an expiration time of 1:00 p.m. (the only one o'clock it could have been if McWatters issued it), meaning that it was issued earlier than that time, and according to McWatters' testimony, only some time before 12:30. Thus it would appear that if anyone other than O had been issued it, they'd have had to have gotten it almost immediately after the DP shooting.

Or would they? In reality, if someone had boarded McWatters' bus later in the day, the transfer would have been longer, showing a later time (just for the sake of it, say 2:30). From the bus company's point of view, nobody was likely to cut off any portion of it to make their transfer expire earlier than what it showed, but someone wanting to make it appear that someone had been issued the transfer earlier - and who had no intention of actually using the transfer himself - would only have to cut off the later times to show an earlier expiration - and therefore issuance - time.

Tearing the transfer using a ruler or other straight-edge would accomplish exactly what McWatters' ticket-tearer did, and it would look just about exactly the same ... unless, perhaps, the FBI were to thoroughly analyze the cut edge like they did the paper machine at TSBD which, to my knowledge, didn't happen. (Such a test would probably have been inconclusive at best: bus drivers often let several tickets, maybe a quarter inch or so, pile up on the cutter, making the tickets preceding the issued one be the actual edge that the ticket was ripped against; only the first small handful of tickets against the cutting edge would actually contact the edge when ripped.)

(To better illustrate how transfers looked and were used, click here to see a mock-up of how the transfer would have looked when it was whole ... or "more nearly whole" would be a better way to say it. The lines show how the transfer would be torn: the hour is along the left edge and appears once ever four lines; at the right are the minutes, in 15-minute increments. The transfer is positioned in the cutter so that the left edge of the cutter is beneath the hour; the transfers are rotated so that the minute - i.e., 1:00, 1:15, 1:30, 1:45, etc. - are under the right edge of the cutter, so the cut would go from beneath the "1" across the transfer to beneath the appropriate quarter-hour when the transfer would expire. Thus to make the expiration time earlier, all one would have to do is take the transfer cut diagonally from, say, the "2" to the "15" - for 2:15 - and cut it again from beneath the "1" to beneath the "0" to read "1:00." It could not be cut at, say, the "3" and the "15" because that portion would not have been given to the rider.)

So, it is actually possible that someone could have obtained a transfer from McWatters and cut/tore the ticket to show the earlier expiration time, thus making it appear as if Oz had gotten onto McWatters' bus shortly after the assassination. It is also possible that someone else got onto McWatters' bus sometime during the proper time frame for McWatters to have torn the transfer at the 1:00 expiration. Either would require significant contingency planning: the latter meant that someone presupposed Oswald's escape from the building or, if that was planned, obtaining the transfer was to deflect the possibility that Oz had actually gotten away from the scene in, say, a Rambler station wagon ("see? here's the bus transfer"); the former meant that someone would have had to go back downtown, get onto a bus and get a transfer from the only bus driver that would have been going through downtown at exactly the right time on a route that Oswald might have taken to get back to his rooming house (Marsalis runs parallel to and not very far from Beckley, only a matter of blocks).

The latter would have been easier to accomplish: all that would have been necessary was the contingency of someone saying "look, we'll get him out of the plaza and to Oak Cliff; all you need to do is catch the Marsalis bus and get a transfer so it looks like he'd escaped by bus" ... which actually would have been possible since McWatters never even suggested that cops "shook down" the people on the bus - or in any cars - that were entering or leaving the plaza.

Given the amount of planning - and especially escape planning - that must have had to have gone into the assassination of a US President (unless it really was the random act it is supposed to have been!), it would not take a rocket scientist to figure out bus schedules to accomplish that. Once it was clear that Oz had not been killed in the theater, there were at least two hours in which to accomplish this ... if the 4:05 time is true, or if it's true that Oswald was even present when the transfer was "found." If his presence at the time of discovery wasn't a concern, multiple bus transfers could have been obtained, and later researched to come up with the right one.

I'm not so much suggesting that this is the way it happened, but only showing that it is possible. It of course does not account for William Whaley's account of Oswald's taxi ride with him down to Beckley ... tho' it has always surprised me that the FBI did not apparently attempt - and did not succeed in - finding the woman whom Oz had offered the taxi to (if one presumes that she took the next cab that came along, wouldn't there have been a record of at least where she was taken in the driver's log? Couldn't the other drivers have been interviewed to find out more about here at the very least?).

Given, among other things, the disappearance of a key piece of evidence - and especially one that would have showed Oz's intention to shoot someone - the existence of which was testified to by no fewer than three police officers (and possibly more; my memory deserts me a the moment), can one really trust in the authenticity of any of the other evidence?

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"John, didn't all of the officers (Hill, Carroll, McDonald, et al.) testify to having found six live bullets in the revolver? Of course, they all testified to having seen one of them with an indentation at the primer from the firing pin "snapping" on the bullet (a misfire), but that didn't turn up into evidence either, did it. But based on their statements, it would seem that two live rounds are missing from the image ...?"

Yes, they are missing from the image. Because I can't find a color photo, or B/W, as yet to see what type they are. If anyone has one or link to same please post.

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