Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Paul L. Bentley: Detective who arrested Oswald dies


Patrolman C.T. Walker (left) and Detective Paul L. Bentley (right, with cigar) flank Lee Harvey Oswald as they emerge from the Texas Theater on November 22, 1963. Photograph by Jim MacCammon.

A former Dallas police detective with a very special place in history has died (July 21).

Paul L. Bentley was one of the officers who arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, the man suspected of killing President John F. Kennedy and patrolman J.D. Tippit on November 22, 1963.

The police who swarmed into the Texas Theater only knew to look for a possible suspect in the shooting of a fellow officer minutes earlier. Detective Paul Bentley was one of them.

“At the time of the arrest I had no knowledge whatsoever that this might possibly be our suspect in regards to the assassination of the president,” Bentley told News 8 interviewers in 1963.

Bentley rushed to Oak Cliff to help investigate the murder of patrol officer J.D. Tippit, who was killed after he stopped a man fitting the description of the suspect in the president's assassination.

When police radios crackled that the suspect might be at the theater, Bentley rushed in, searched the balcony and then returned to the main floor to see Officer Nick McDonald struggling with an armed Oswald.

“When I first saw it, he had the revolver in his hand, pointing it toward McDonald," Bentley recalled in an interview with the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. That's when I just tried to get as close to him as possible, grabbing for the weapon.”

They subdued and handcuffed Oswald, rushing him from the theater to a police car.

Bentley told the museum in a 1994 oral history interview that during the ride downtown, a dispatcher told him Oswald, who they had in custody, was the prime suspect in the shooting of Kennedy.

“I turned to him and I said, 'Did you shoot President Kennedy?'" Bentley said. "He said, 'You find out for yourself.'”

After Bentley retired, he continued to share his unique role in history with school children and programs at the museum, said Gary Mack, the curator at the Sixth Floor Museum.

“Like a lot of people, he was just proud of what he had done and he had contributed to that story,” Mack said.

Bentley was 87 years old. Services and burial are scheduled for Thursday.


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[Editor's note: I first met Paul Bentley in 1996 while during research for my book, "With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit." He was more than gracious during our meeting at his home and even came out and appeared on a panel to help promote the book when it was published in 1998. A true southern gentlemen, who'll be missed.]


J. Raymond Carroll said...

Page A4 of the The New York Times August 6, 2008 contains the following correction to the Bentley obituary:
Correction: August 6, 2008
An obituary on July 25 about Paul Bentley, the Dallas police detective who helped arrest Lee Harvey Oswald after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, included incorrectly, without qualifying its source, a remark Mr. Bentley remembered hearing after the arrest. Many years later, Mr. Bentley told oral history interviewers that on the road to police headquarters with Oswald, after hearing police dispatchers say the man in custody was a prime suspect in the assassination of Kennedy, he asked Oswald, “Did you shoot President Kennedy?” and that Oswald replied, “You find out for yourself.” Mr. BENTLEY's RECOLLECTION IS UNSUPPORTED BY OTHER EXISTING HISTORICAL RECORDS (emphasis added);oref=slogin

Anonymous said...

Oswald is guilty. Get over it, conspiracy nutjob.

Move on.