Timeline of the shooting

by Pierre NAU

The time was 12.30 on November 22, 1963. Oswald posted at the southeast corner window on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository was waiting for the Presidential motorcade. The building, still visible today, is located at the intersection of Elm street and Houston street. Coming from Main street and after a 9O degrees turn onto Houston street, the presidential motorcade was moving towards the TSBD. At a slow pace, the Lincoln Continental, the President’s limo, was surrounded on both sides by enthusiastic bystanders. " You would not say from now, that Texas does not love you Mr. President tells to him Mrs Nellie Connally" ! Admittedly ! answered the President with his typical radiant smile underlined by a blazing sun of fall. A magic moment and a complete success for the Dallas stage of the Presidential trip. Let us keep in mind that the presidential election was scheduled on 1964, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy had clearly said that he would run a second mandate. The limousine was by the end of Houston street, in the vicinity of the Texas School Book Depository when Will Greer, the driver of the limo, made a hard 120 degrees turn on the left to proceed on Elm street. The motorcade was close to the end, just a few distance away of the Trade Mart, the place where the President had to make a speech and attend a banquet. At that time, Oswald was concentrated on the limousine through the eyepiece of the sight tube of his rifle (an Italian Mannlicher Carcano). Waiting for the reappearance of the motorcade, hidden for a while by some branches of a tree alongside Elm street, he was ready to shoot.

Dealey Plaza
(copyright Corbis - reproduced by permission)

From his lair(The sniper nest), his rifle well fixed on a pile of books, Oswald retained his breath.

The sniper nest
(copyright Corbis - reproduced by permission)

As soon as the limo had reappeared, he fired a first shot and missed the target. The lost bullet hit the Southern curb of Main street, slightly wounding the cheek of a certain James T. Tague who was looking at the motorcade. Few seconds later, an other shot is fired. The bullet hit the President in his back. Then, coming out of his throat, the bullet went on its insane and fatal trajectory. While hearing the first report, the governor of Texas sitten right in front of the President and downwards on a folding seat, slightly shifted to the right,tried to look over his right shoulder to try to see what had happened. As he could not see the President, he started to turn to his left. He did not achieve his moving. Coming out of the President throat, the bullet hit the Governor in his back, then came out below his right nip before scattering his right wrist and finally stopping in his left thigh. The two men were seriously injured but their wounds were not fatal. Oswald noticed it throug his sight tube. So he fired an additional and final shot. This fatal shot hit the President to the head which violently jerked backwards and to the left. The President was shot to death. The scene was captured by Abraham Zapruder, a Dallas tradesman, using his Bell and Howell 8 mm camera. The viewing of this 25 seconds footage is still unbearable close 45 years after the assassination.
Inside the President’s car, it was a complete horror. Frightened, Connally howled before to fall down unconscious to be caught by his wife Nellie who tried to protect him. Will Greer, the driver of the limo did not realize how the situation was dramatic. He lost seconds before to react. On special agent Roy Kellerman request who was sitten beside him, he finally sped up to the Parkland hospital. At the same time, Clinton Hill a member of the Secret Service posted on the left foot board of the follow-up car, just behind the President’s limo, jumped out to reach the Lincoln. He was the only one to react... Too late. The Lincoln was moving at high speed to the Parkland hospital. Half and hour later John Fitzgerald Kennedy was pronounced dead...

The Oswald flight and the murder of patrolman J.D.Tippit :

Once to have made sure to have hit the target, Oswald brought back his weapon to the lair. He quickly hid the Mannlicher Carcano between two pile of boxes and went down the staircases to the first floor, calmly. About 90 seconds after the last shot was fired, he was stopped by a police officer, Marion Baker and Roy Truly, the superintendent of the Texas School Book Depository. Truly told Baker that he knew this man as he was one of his employees. Oswald was depicted by the two men as cool, calm and collected. Shortly after, he went out the building by the main entrance without being noticed by anyone. After a few yards walk, he boarded a bus which was soon jammed. Leaving the bus, he borded a Taxi at the Greyhound station and arrived at his room on 1026 North Beckley by 1.00 pm. Once there, he put his jacket on and went out of his room a few minutes later. Ten minutes after, J.D. Tippit, a police officer patrolling the Oak Cliff sector, noticed him. As he likely matched the description broadcast by the Dallas police Department, he stopped Lee Harvey Oswald. A brief talk started between J.D.Tippit and Oswald through the window of the front right door of the vehicle. Hardly the chat had started, Tippit came out of his squad car, and moved to the front. Once the police officer reached the front left wheel, Oswald fired several shots at him with his P38 Special revolver. Then, to be make sure to have killed the police officer, he turned round the front of the vehicule and fired a last shot to Tippit’s head. Oswald flew immediately, while reloading his revolver. A moment later, he got rid of his jacket and hid it under a vehicle as he was on inside a carpark. Proceeding on Jefferson Boulevard, he was delayed a short time. Hearing a howling siren of a police car heading west at high speed he entered the lobby of a shoe store to hide him. He looked squirming and so concerned, that his suspect attitude was noticed by the manager of the store, a certain Brewer. Once Oswald had left the lobby, Brewer came out of his shop and saw Oswald coming into the Texas Theater without paying. Brewer warned the cashier, Julia Postal and told her that she’d better to warn the police. Shortly after, the Dallas police officers warned by a witness of the murder of J.D. Tippit were there to stop Oswald. Before his arrest, Oswald changed seat several times. He was sitten in the center of the room at the time the police came in.

The arrest of Oswald, his detention and interrogations :

After a brief struggle with the police officers who had just rushed into the movie theater, Oswald was under control. He said something sounding like : "Well, it’s all over now... ". Those words sounded like a consent, a sort of self-charge. Brought to the City hall, he was quickly charged with the murder of J.D.Tippit. Much later he became prime suspect in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy assassination. Curiously and in spite of the normal procedure, he heard of it by the journalists who had converged in the building of the City hall after the assassination. It should be said that it was a great mess was inside. The shock generated by the assassination of the President and the sequence of the events had contributed to that situation. Before the arrest of Oswald, the police force in the course of the investigation had found the weapon of the crime hidden between two piles of boxes. Deputy sheriff Seymour Weitzman* discovered it. It was said that he was one of the most brilliant elements of the Rubie Love company where he worked. So, it was not surprising that he found the rifle. As he operated the trigger, he ejected an unfired cartridge.

* Foot-note : This particular point is disputed by a newsman, Tom Alyea, who came along the police when they entered the TSB, shortly after the assassination. Tom Alyea made the first shots of the weapon at the time of its discovery. Tom is adamant on that point : Deputy Sherif Boone discovered the rifle. Alyea still doubts that Weitzman was even present on the sixth floor, at this time. For more details, see the page devoted to Tom Alyea

Three cartridges were found close together on the floor, nearby the southeast corner window, on the sixth floor of the Texas school book depository. An initial report mentioned the founding of a Mauser rifle and not of an Italian Mannlicher Carcano. This information was corrected a few minutes later : the weapon was in fact an Italian Mannlicher Carcano.
A search carried out at the Paine’s, where Marina Oswald, the Russian wife of the suspect, lived at the time, pointed out that the rifle Lee Harvey Oswald bought a few months earlier and usually wrapped inside a blanket was not inside it. As the search was going on, the police officers found some photos that Marina had shot a few months earlier in the backyard of the house they rented at the time. On this photograph, Lee was holding the rifle of a hand and two newspapers of the other and wore a revolver to his trouser belt.

Here one of the famous backyard shots. Marina Oswald, the wife of the alleged assassin, always declared to have taken them with her russian camera. Though several experts declared those photos as genuine, some people still consider them as fakes.

This photo was quite embarrassing for Oswald. It made possible, in addition to the absence of the weapon at the Paine’s, to link him to the rifle of the same type discovered on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, the place where he worked. This double founding worsened by his absence at the Texas School Book Depository after the shooting, made him possible to be charged with the assassination of President Kennedy.
However, Oswald did not panic at all. In the course of the questionings carried out from Friday evening to Sunday morning, he denied to be involved, one way or another, both in the killing of J.D. Tippit and in the assassination of JFK. He declared to be just a "patsy and asked for a legal assistance before to elaborate any more and prove his complete innocence. When showed the photography found at the Paine’s, he simply said that it was a fake and that he will tell more about it, later. It was true that Oswald had some skills as he had worked in a photo shop in the early months of 1963. He claimed to have learnt enough to prove that the photography was a fake. Unfortunately he will miss this opportunity. His destiny took a dramatic turn on Sunday November 24th a 11.24 am.


The Oswald assassination by Jack Ruby :

On saturday, late in the evening, decision was made to transfer Oswald from the City hall to County jail. That common procedure was planned on the following day by the end of the morning. Initially planned at 10 a.m, the transfer finally was delayed becaus of additional questionnings and finally started at 11.24 a.m. An armoured van was parked at the Commerce street entrance leading to the basement of the building. The armoured van was a decoy. Actually, it was planned that Oswald would take place in comman sedan. The transfer was public, in the presence of journalists and televisions which covered the event "live". That was Jesse Curry (Chief of the Dallas police) decision to let them enter the basement with respect of their job to inform the country. Retrospectively, this decision was a bad one. At 11.24 a.m, Oswald, handcuffed and handled by 2 detectives on each side took the elevator leading to the basement. " If somebody wants to kill you, hopefully is as good gunner as you ! " said one of them. Premonitory words ? As Oswald came into the basement, plugged by the flashes of the photographers and the projectors of the television, his destiny took a dramatic turn. Emerging from the scrum of journalists, a stocky man with a fedora pointed a revolver at the abdomen of the alleged assassin and fired. Only one shot. Oswald groaned, deadly wounded. Once controlled, the murderer was immediately recognized. It was a certain Jack Rubinstein, also known as "Ruby", a well-known tenant of 2 night clubs in Dallas where the police forces used to go. He stated later to have acted to avenge Jackie Kennedy and to avoid her a painful lawsuit. He also added to have acted under an uncontrolled pulse. Little after the shot, Oswald was brought to the Parkland hospital where 48 hours earlier, John Fitzgerald Kennedy had died. Oswald was pronounced dead by 1 p.m without to have regained consciousness. So ended the poor life of Lee Harvey Oswald. The day after, he was discreetly buried at the Rose Hill cemetery in the suburb of Fort Worth.

Lee Harvey Oswald’s grave at the Rose Hill cemetery


(Photo Kate Taylor - reproduced by permission)


Epilogue :

Because of the killing of the alleged assassin, no trial would ever take place and the Commission appointed by the new President-in-Office, Lyndon Baines Johnson, would be limited to put forth assumptions on the mobiles which led Oswald to assassinate John Fitzgerald Kennedy. One year after the beginning of its wide inquiery, the Commission issued the above mentioned conclusion. Very quickly, critics came to question the official conclusion, arguing that it was not possible for the lone Oswald to have performed such a hard shooting within such a short time. At this point, the assumption of a plot was mentionned. Suggested without being entirely inquired in 1978 by the HSCA, this assumption still remains today a subject of intense polemics between pro and cons of the official conclusion. It should be said that the conclusions issued by the Warren Commission suggested more questions than answers. Because of unexplained facts, doubts still remain. That is true by now, four decades after the assassination. Consequently, the assumption of a plot cannot be completely rejected.


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