He Was the Onlooker in This Famous, Jarring Photo

Dallas detective Jim Leavelle dead at 99, was handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2019 11:15 AM CDT
He Was Handcuffed to JFK's Assassin—and Now to History
This photo taken Dec. 11, 1998 shows Jim Leavelle holding the iconic 1963 photograph of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald.   (Sandra J. Milburn/The Hutchinson News via AP)

Jim Leavelle would never forget the day—Nov. 24, 1963—that he stood handcuffed to President John F. Kennedy's killer as Lee Harvey Oswald was fatally shot. "I'm reminded of it every day through somebody," the Dallas homicide detective said in an interview some 50 years later, per KXAS. It was one of several dramatic moments in the 99-year life of Leavelle, who died Thursday at a Denver hospital after falling and breaking his hip on Monday, report the New York Times and Fox News. But nobody seemed to ask Leavelle, a Navy recruit out of high school, about the time he survived the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The hundreds of annual requests he received for appearances and autographs instead were about the fateful day Leavelle, escorting Oswald to jail in a suit and Stetson hat, watched as Oswald buckled from a gunshot to the abdomen.

Moments earlier, Leavelle had spoken to Oswald. "I said, 'Lee, if anybody shoots at you, I hope they are as good a shot as you.'" Meaning, Leavelle didn't want to get hit, too. Oswald laughed it off said nobody would be shooting at him, said Leavelle. He recalled seeing shooter Jack Ruby about a second before Ruby's bullet hit Oswald, as seen in Robert Jackson's famous photograph, which later won the Pulitzer Prize. "Though the photo may be the most iconic moment in his career, and keep [Leavelle] in the history books for future generations … the officers who served with him know that he is worthy of a legacy for being one of the smartest, accomplished and dedicated detectives" in the history of the Dallas Police Department, a statement reads, per KXAS. The department's Detective of the Year award is named in honor of Leavelle. (More obituary stories.)

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