Monday, October 20, 2008

J. Carl Day Dead at 94: Investigated scene of JFK shooting

by JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

J. Carl Day was embarrassed by the way people around the world interpreted his hoisting of Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle in Dallas police headquarters the evening of Nov. 22, 1963.

Many accused the Dallas police lieutenant and crime lab chief of waving the rifle as if to display a trophy. He said his action was actually that of a dutiful fingerprint expert, protectively lifting evidence above an unexpected hoard of reporters.

It was also a snapshot of one day in Mr. Day's more than 35-year career with the Dallas Police Department.

Mr. Day, 94, died Thursday [10/16] of natural causes at a Duncanville nursing home.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church in Duncanville.

Mr. Day had no idea he was stepping onto a world stage that evening after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy nearly 45 years ago, said his daughter, Janice Hoyt of Dallas.

He was examining the rifle when homicide Capt. Will Fritz asked him to bring the weapon to the third floor of the Police Department to see if Marina Oswald could identify it as her husband's.

"Well when I got off at the third floor, I was shocked," he said for his oral history for The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. He lifted the rifle above the fray to protect the evidence.

"He was embarrassed about that," Mrs. Hoyt said.

Mr. Day was born in Dallas, where he graduated from Sunset High School. He worked at several jobs before applying to join the Dallas Police Department as a means of landing well-paying and dependable employment.

He joined the department in 1940 and worked there until enlisting in the Navy during World War II. He served with the shore patrol based in Dallas.

After the war, Mr. Day returned to the Police Department, where he served in burglary and homicide before being assigned to the identification bureau in 1948.

Mr. Day spent the next 28 years with the identification bureau and saw it evolve into a more modern crime lab.

He developed a remarkable talent for his work, his daughter said.

"He took pride in everything he did," Mrs. Hoyt said. "They now have computers [for identification methods], but then he had to do it from memory."

Her father could recognize a line or whorl from a fingerprint and link it to a case, his daughter said.

Mr. Day was heavily involved in the crime scene investigation surrounding the Kennedy assassination. He arrived at the Texas School Book Depository soon after the shooting. He gathered fingerprint evidence, took photographs and carefully transported the rifle to police headquarters.

He retired in January 1977 and began traveling with his wife in their Airstream trailer, his daughter said.

Mr. Day didn't have many hobbies but simply enjoyed being with his family.

When asked in his oral history what he was doing in retirement, Mr. Day quipped: "Nothing that I don't have to."

He did occasional fingerprint analysis for defense attorneys, something that made the former longtime police lieutenant somewhat uneasy, his daughter said.

"It was kind of strange for him, because all the sudden he was on the defense side," his daughter said. "He was so proud of being a Dallas policeman and so loyal to the Dallas police."

He was a member of Oak Cliff United Methodist Church for 56 years before joining First United Methodist Church in Duncanville.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Day is survived by his wife, Elaine Day of Dallas; a son, Carl Randall Day of Dallas; and four grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.

Source: Dallas Morning News

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