Did Lee Harvey Oswald Kill J.D. Tippit?

The Warren Report claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald was responsible not only for the assassination of President Kennedy, but also for that of a Dallas policeman, J.D. Tippit, who was shot dead on a suburban street around 40 minutes after Kennedy had been shot in Dealey Plaza (see Warren Report, pp.156–176).

When Was Officer Tippit Shot?

The shooting took place no later than 1:10pm, according to the only three witnesses whose actions can be timed.

Helen Markham’s Testimony

Helen Markham, the only person with a clear view of the shooting, estimated that it occurred at 1:06 or 1:07 (Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits, vol.3, p.306). She had left her home, about one block from the site of the shooting, just after 1pm, to go to work. She was about one and a half minutes’ walk from the bus stop where she was about to catch her regular bus, which she estimated was due at 1:15. Although much of Markham’s testimony is blatantly unreliable, she seems to have reported her daily routine accurately. According to the Dallas Transit System, the bus was scheduled to arrive at 1:12 (FBI JFK Assassination File, 62–109060–54).

Domingo Benavides and T.F. Bowley

Tippit’s murder was reported to the police by a witness who used the radio in Tippit’s car. The two witnesses who were involved in making the call stated that they did so several minutes after the shooting. According to the Dallas police radio log, the call was made between 1:15 and 1:16pm (Commission Exhibit 1974, p.52 [WCHE, vol.23, p.857]).

Domingo Benavides, the closest eye–witness:

  1. watched the gunman walk away from the scene,
  2. waited “a few minutes” for his own safety,
  3. inspected Tippit,
  4. and tried unsuccessfully to use the car radio (WCHE, vol.6, p.448).

In an affidavit, T.F. Bowley described the sequence of his actions:

  1. he drove up to the scene, and noticed Tippit’s body laying in the road;
  2. he parked his car;
  3. “I looked at my watch and it said 1:10pm”;
  4. he tried to assist Tippit;
  5. and finally he took over the car radio from Benavides (CE 2003, p.11 [WCHE, vol.24, p.202]).

When Was Officer Tippit Last Known To Be Alive?

J.D. Tippit’s final message over the police radio occurred at 12:54pm. He informed the dispatcher that he was at “Lancaster and 8th” in Oak Cliff, just a few blocks from where he would be killed (CE 1974, p.36 [WCHE, vol.23, pp.849–50]). The dispatcher called Tippit again at 1:03, but there was no reply (CE 1974, p.43 [WCHE, vol.23, p.853]).

According to one version of the police radio log, Tippit sent two garbled messages at 1:07 and 1:08 (CE 705, p.17 [WCHE, vol.17, p.406], which identifies Tippit by the number of his patrol district: 78). A more detailed transcript claims that these calls were made not by Tippit but by two other officers (CE 1974, p.47 [WCHE, vol.23, p.855]).

Where Was Oswald During the Tippit Shooting?

The only confirmed sighting of Oswald at around this time was by his housekeeper, Earlene Roberts, who saw him standing at a bus stop outside his rented room, waiting for a bus which would eventually pass the Texas Theater, the site of Oswald’s arrest about 45 minutes later. The bus was heading north. The site of Tippit’s murder was nine–tenths of a mile away to the south. Roberts saw Oswald no earlier than 1:03pm (WCHE, vol.6, p.448 and WCHE, vol.7, p.439), a maximum of seven minutes before Tippit was killed.

The FBI (CE 1987 [WCHE, vol.24, p.18]) and the Secret Service (Commission Document 87, p.340) independently measured the time they took to walk briskly from the rented room to the site of the murder. They each took 12 minutes. Without assistance, Oswald could not have reached Tippit in time to shoot him.

More Information

For more about the murder of Officer Tippit, see: