Friday, November 21, 2008

Medallion honors Dallas officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald

by STEVE THOMPSON / The Dallas Morning News

The anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination is Saturday. It's been 45 years since he was shot and killed in downtown Dallas.

Most everybody knows the story of his death. But people don't always remember that a Dallas police officer also died that day in an encounter with the president's killer.

Officer J.D. Tippit’s comrades don't forget it, though some of them weren’t born yet when he died in November 1963. This morning, they lined up at police headquarters to buy medallions commemorating the fallen patrolman's service.

His widow, Marie Tippit, was there to greet them.

"Mrs. Kennedy said that the flame would always burn for my husband as well as hers," said Mrs. Tippit, 80. "And I consider that this medallion represents all of the Dallas officers killed in the line of duty. I'm just so thankful and so honored."

Officer Tippit was patrolling Oak Cliff shortly after 1 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963, less than an hour after Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president. The officer pulled up alongside Oswald, apparently exchanged words with him, and got out of the squad car.

Oswald fired four shots at the officer, the last striking him in the temple.

The medallion shows Officer Tippit's squad car, No. 10, alongside an American flag. A replica of his badge, No. 848, is etched on the back. The price was $20.

Also on sale were posters featuring a collection of Dallas police guns and badges glinting against a blue background.

With Mrs. Tippit to sign them was another figure from Dallas history: retired Dallas police homicide Detective Jim Leavelle.

Detective Leavelle was the first to interview Oswald after the president’s death. And the detective was handcuffed to Oswald when the assassin was shot by Jack Ruby.

A famous Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph shows Mr. Leavelle in a light-colored suit and Stetson hat walking next to Oswald as Mr. Ruby steps forward from a crowd to fire his pistol.

"I was carrying these two pistols that day," he said this morning, pointing to one of the guns on the poster he was signing. "I normally just carried one, but I put the other one in my belt just in case I needed extra fire that day."

Mr. Leavelle, 88, said it all happened too fast.

"I saw Ruby standing in front of the reporters as I came out of the building into the parking garage, and he had the pistol by his leg in his hand at that time," Mr. Leavelle said. "I could see that out of the corner of my eye, and I knew immediately what was happening."

But Mr. Ruby fired the gun and made history before the detective could react.

Along with Mr. Leavelle's gun, the poster displayed the gun Officer Tippit was carrying when he was killed and both officers' badges.

The proceeds from the event are to go to a planned Dallas Police Museum. To purchase a medallion or poster, contact Dallas police Senior Cpl. Rick Janich at dpdposter@airmail.net.

Source: Dallas Morning News

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