Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Johnny Calvin Brewer, man who helped catch JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, honored by Dallas police

Reuters / New York Daily News / Dallas Morning News

Johnny Calvin Brewer stands in front of the Texas Theater in Dallas exactly 48 years after he helped catch JFK's killer. Photograph by Jeffrey McWhorter / AP.

Dallas police honored a man on Tuesday whose "keen observation skills and strong sense of civic duty" led them to Lee Harvey Oswald, who had crept into the back of a darkened movie theater to hide on Nov. 22, 1963, shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Police Chief David Brown presented Johnny Calvin Brewer with the department's Citizen's Certificate of Merit and praised his selfless act and "exemplary conduct" 48 years ago during a ceremony at the Texas Theatre - the same place where Oswald was captured about 80 minutes after Kennedy was killed.

"I'm just so overwhelmed," Brewer, 70, said after receiving the award and watching a video of his 22-year-old self recounting the events of that day.

Brewer, a manager at a shoe store located about 90 steps from the Oak Cliff neighborhood theater, was listening to news reports about the president's assassination when he heard reports that a Dallas police officer, J.D. Tippit, had just been killed a few blocks away.

A man whose behavior seemed suspicious then walked into the foyer of the shoe store. Brewer said the man stared at the display in the window and acted scared as police cars with blaring sirens raced by.

After the last squad car passed in one direction, the man stepped out of the store and walked in the opposite direction toward the movie theater.

Brewer saw him go into the theater without buying a ticket. He followed him, alerting the woman in the box office to call police. Brewer then shared his suspicions with the concessions operator and the two searched the theater and stood by the emergency exits.

Hearing noise behind his alley-exit door, Brewer opened it only to have police guns aimed at him. The movie theater lights went on and Brewer pointed out the suspicious man seated in the theater. Oswald was arrested after a brief scuffle, during which he punched an officer and pulled a gun.

The Citizens Certificate of Merit recognizes "unselfish devotion to fellow man," Lt. Scott Walton said.

"Mr. Johnny Calvin Brewer's actions on November 22, 1963, were heroic," police said in a statement. "At no time did he concern himself with the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald may be armed and possibly involved in the murder of a police officer."

Brewer's "outstanding observation skills and his quick action" were worthy of this award, which is presently rarely and only to very deserving individuals, Walton said.

Brewer’s eyes welled with tears as Police Chief David Brown gave him the award. He thanked his family and then had no more words.

“I knew this day was going to be emotional,” Brewer said after the ceremony.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, the police chief felt some of Brewer’s emotion.

“This brings chills to your body,” Brown said after watching video footage from 1963.
“At 22 years of age, Mr. Brewer did what a veteran police officer would do. The difference was that he was not armed.”

Brewer joined the Navy soon after the assassination to get away from Dallas. It was hard to forget the stressful events. The Austin resident has been back “less than 10 times” since.

The most emotional part on Tuesday, Brewer said, was meeting Tippit’s wife.

“I had been sitting around for weeks in Austin thinking about what it would be like,” he said. “It was more emotional than I thought.”

[Edited by Dale K. Myers]

Sources: Reuters / New York Daily News / Dallas Morning News

1 comment:

Paul C. said...

I lived in Austin when Stone's "JFK" ignited renewed interest in the case, and Brewer (who was trying to live a quiet life) was sought out by the local media. Great to see him get recognition for his important role in the events of that weekend.