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Jack Ruby: Last Words
By: Wayne Brown
The first shot rang out and echoed off the book boxes surrounding his perch. Lee worked the bolt of the rifle with speed, aimed and fired again. He continued this process until he saw the explosion of blood and brain matter fly in all directions from his target, the President of the United States. He knew his last shot had found the target. Now it was time to move to the next level.
Down six flights of stairs of the Texas School Book Depository Lee moved with easy precision. This had been something he had practiced for weeks avoiding the freight elevator on most of his trips down. Taking two steps at a time, he easily cleared each of the six flights in seconds. Once he reached the first floor, he fumbled in his pocket for change and stood in front of the Coke machine dropping each coin into the slot methodically. Just as he dropped the last coin, a Dallas Police officer burst into the area. He was frantic and looking about nervously. He stopped and stared at Lee now removing his bottle of Coca-Cola from the machine.
“Have you seen anyone come down?” the officer asked Lee while motioning toward the stairs.
“No, I have not seen anyone. What’s going on officer?” Lee replied as if perplexed by the officer’s presence.
The policeman disappeared up the stairwell before replying to Lee’s question. Lee slowly sipped on the soda and contemplated the situation. Chaos was building fast and as it reached a crescendo, his departure from the building would go unnoticed and unquestioned. Timing was everything as was a calm appearance. Lee set the Coke bottle on a nearby table and walked toward the front door. Once outside the building, he could see people and law enforcement personnel moving all about. Everyone was trying to figure out what had happened here in Dealey Plaza on this sun-bleached Friday noon-day in November. Lee was one of the few, if not the only person here at the moment who knew exactly what had happened. He made his way slowly down the street to a nearby bus stop to catch the line that run by his boarding house in south Dallas.
Arriving at the boarding house in Oak Lawn, a suburb of south Dallas, Lee walked into the house and past Mrs. Roberts, the older woman who owned the house rented him the room there. She was watching television and started yelling something about the President being shot. He did not have time for pleasantries and said nothing. He walked straight to his room. He changed his jacket and removed a small dark metal revolver from a drawer on the night stand. Lee opened the cylinder and checked that the pistol was still loaded. He then emptied some additional bullets for the gun into his left jacket pocket. He checked his watch. It was time to move if he was going to be on time to meet David Ferrie at the Texas Theater. Ferrie was supposed to drive Lee to the Redbird Airport where the two would fly out in a small plane back to Houston. From there, he and Ferrie would then drive back to New Orleans in Ferrie’s car. By the time things took shape here in Dallas and the police began to figure things out, Lee should be well on his way out of the country.
As Lee was gathering his firearm in the boarding house, Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit drove his patrol car slowly by the front of the boarding house then turned the corner and cruised up the adjacent street. He was looking for Oswald. His search was not directed by police dispatch but by other informational sources. In fact, Tippit was actually out of his duty area at the moment. Tippit was a frequent visitor to the Carousel Club, a strip joint operated by Jack Ruby. His frequent visits there had spawned a romance with one of the cocktail waitresses. Now that was a problem in that the cocktail waitress was pregnant and Ruby was threatening to go to Tippit’s wife with the news. In effect, Ruby was blackmailing Tippit. Now the officer was out searching for Lee Oswald. The plan was for Tippit to attempt to apprehend him only to kill Oswald in the process. Already dispatch was broadcasting a vague description of Oswald over the radio. This would play perfectly with the apprehension and the killing. It would also shut Ruby up about the waitress.
Lee started out the door of his room, reconsidered and step back inside. He unzipped a leather bag sitting on the floor of the closet and pulled an automatic pistol from within. He slipped the automatic into his waistband in the small of his back under the jacket. Now he was ready to go. He walked out on to the porch of the boarding house, looked in both directions and began his walk northbound for his meeting with Ferrie at the Texas Theater.
Tippit continued to drive the streets near the boarding house area checking out the various people as they walked up and down the sidewalks. Up ahead, he spotted his suspect moving at a rather quick pace on the right side of the street. He wore a light colored jacket. Tippit increased his speed and pulled the cruiser up on the right curb short of the suspect. He bumped his horn to get Oswald’s attention. As Oswald turned around to look back, Tippit stepped from the driver’s side of the cruiser and walked up abeam of the left front fender motioning for Oswald to walk back toward him. Lee did as he was instructed walking back to the area on the sidewalk adjacent to the right side of the police cruiser. As Tippit started to ask him for identification, Lee pulled the automatic from his waistband and quickly pumped four rounds into the police officer. Lee then quickly turned and walked rapidly from the scene. Tippit had not even had a chance to get to his own gun and died before he hit the ground.
By the time Lee neared the theater area, police cars were hurrying here and there in the area. He found himself continually stepping into store front indentations, pretending to look at window displays, anything to avoid being seen. Things were heating up. They had probably discovered the dead police officer by now. That had gummed up the works and had not been something Lee had planned on running into this soon after shooting the President. He needed to get into that theater and find Ferrie. It was time to get out of town.
The theater was in sight now. Lee spotted a trash barrel along the walk and quickly dropped the automatic pistol into it making sure it was covered in trash. He reached into his pocket for money to purchase a ticket. Damn! He had forgotten to pick up some money from his dresser. He had spent the only change he had in the Coke machine earlier. Now he had little choice but to try to sneak into the theater without paying. He smiled. That should not be that difficult for a man who had just shot the President of the United States. Lee worked his way to the theater door walked past the ticket office and entered the lobby. Quickly he moved into the theater seating area and selected a seat in the rear third of the theater. He knew Ferrie would be looking for him to enter the theater. Lee sat in the seat and waited for Ferrie to come to him.
Suddenly the doors of the theater burst open and the movie stopped. Police officers and detectives were everywhere moving about looking at the patrons. They spotted Lee and rushed him. Lee pulled the revolver but was hit hard by a detective before he could use it. In a matter of seconds, Lee found himself in cuffs and was quickly herded out the theater door to a waiting police cruiser. The frenzy about the theater seemed to die down as rapidly as it had occurred and soon the movie was back up and running and the patrons were back in their seats acting as if nothing had occurred. No one in the theater knew that the President had been shot, no one except the man wearing the toupee and the painted on eyebrows sitting on the last row on the right side. David Ferrie rose from his seat and walked out of the theater heading to the Redbird Airport. The entire plan had just gone south with Oswald’s capture. Now he had no idea whether he could get back to Houston before Oswald began to spill his guts. Things were coming unraveled.
At Dallas Police Headquarters, the situation was total chaos. The announcement had just been broadcast over all radio and television sources that the President of the United States had been shot and was dead. There were also reports that a suspect had been apprehended at a nearby theater. The media was moving rapidly to the halls of the headquarters building and asking everyone for information. Personnel in the building tried to go about their normal routine but most were just as stunned as the public as a result of the events of the past two hours. Now there were calls for higher levels of security at Love Field where Vice-President Johnson was currently headed to be sworn in as President aboard Air Force One. This was the most frantic and chaotic scene ever witnessed at Dallas Police Headquarters.
Lee Oswald had been placed into a small holding cell. Blood still marked his face along with some swelling in the area where the police detective had struck him. He had spent enough time alone in the cell area to gather his thoughts. He and Jack had discussed this possibility although both agreed that it was highly unlikely that he would be apprehended. In fact Jack had laughed and stated that it was more likely that he would be killed first. Lee decided that he would play it cool and appear totally confused for a bit then transition into claiming that he was a ‘patsy’ once the police had made him aware of the charges. He didn’t have any other choice at this point. As far as he knew at the moment, no one had any hard evidence that he had shot the President or the police officer and he certainly did not plan on supplying it for them.
Time began to pass slowly. Lee was pulled from his cell from time to time and moved about the building to talk with various officials and police personnel. He played his planned role offering no information and acting totally surprised at any information offered him regarding the shooting of either the President or the policeman. Marina had come to see him and cried throughout the visit. His brother Robert came as well and had looked him in the eye and said, “You did it; you shoot the President, didn’t you?” Lee had said nothing to him or Marina. There was no reason to involve them at this point. He had to maintain his focus until a better plan evolved.
As he was moved about the building, Lee encountered the media at almost every turn. They packed the hallways and open areas with their television cameras, microphones, and notepads. The focus seemed to be on him and they yelled questions to him at each opportunity. He used the questions to ply his story throwing quick replies back that he was a ‘patsy’ and accusing the police of beating him while in custody. Lee attempted to look as humble and fragile as possible. This was the most attention that he had ever had in his life and he actually liked it even under these circumstances.
Finally, the detectives gave up on questioning Lee. Time was running out on holding him in custody without charges. The Dallas Police Chief had come before him to state that he was formally being charged with assassinating the President. Lee was also told that he would be moved from the holding cell at headquarters to the Dallas County Jail lockup to await his arraignment before the judge. Plans were in the works for a move to the jail the next morning.
Lee managed to get a small amount of sleep as the night passed. From time to time he was still called from the cell for processing actions. Marina had brought him a sweater when she made her visit. One of the detectives removed Lee’s handcuffs long enough to help him get the sweater over his head and on in preparation for the trip to the county jail. Once the sweater was on, the detective immediately cuffed Lee’s wrist back in front of him. Lee was then quickly escorted to an elevator which took him and his detective escort to the lower basement floor of the building. The transport vehicle would be parked in the basement area. Once the elevator reached the lower floor, the group stopped prior to entering to basement garage to talk about the move to the vehicle. The basement was full of waiting media personnel anxiously waiting to cover Lee’s movement to the jail.
One of the detectives spoke to Lee quietly and described their path across the garage to the waiting vehicle. The detective talked about the crowd to Lee and indicated that he wanted to move quickly to the transport vehicle. He then handcuffed himself to Lee and said, “Lee, I sure hope they don’t shoot you because they may get me too.” Both of them smiled at each other for just a second then the door opened and they stepped into the crowded basement.
As Lee and the detective walked forward toward the waiting vehicle, Lee saw the flash of a familiar face from the crowd and felt the exploding pain of a bullet crashing into his abdomen as his ears registered the deafening blast of the shot. As he crumbled to the basement floor, Lee’s mind quickly returned to thoughts of the last words Jack Ruby spoke in their last meeting, “Lee, you had better hope this goes right because you never want to see me again.” Now, he suddenly knew what Jack had meant by that statement as the life slipped from his sagging body still hand-cuffed to the detective escort.
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