The Lone Assassin: 6 Reasons That Prove Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK

The Lone Assassin: 6 Reasons That Prove Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK

Patrick Lynch - April 25, 2017

At approximately 12:30 p.m. on November 22, 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered by an assassin’s bullets as he traveled in a motorcade in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. The event shocked the world and became one of the all-time great ‘where were you?’ moments. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and charged with killing the President. Just two days after the assassination, Oswald was murdered by Jack Ruby, so whatever secrets he knew died with him.

The nature of the assassination, coupled with the quick-fire death of the alleged assassin, meant it became a breeding ground for conspiracy theories. A presidential commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded that Oswald was a lone gunman. It is a version of events not believed by the majority of the American public. An ABC News poll from 2003 found that a staggering 70% of Americans believe the Kennedy Assassination was part of a more detailed plot.

There are many reasons why so many people don’t believe the lone gunman theory or even that Oswald pulled the trigger. Some suggest the trajectory of the bullets doesn’t align with Oswald’s sniper perch which was on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD). Then there is the so-called ‘second gunman’ on the Grassy Knoll. More conspiracy theorists believe the CIA was involved because of anger over the Bay of Pigs’ failure. Maybe the president died at the hands of mobsters keen to get back at his brother Robert who initiated investigations into organized crime?

In this three-part series, I will look at the evidence that suggests Oswald was the killer, evidence that says he was not the killer and conclude with commonly proposed theories. I would also like to issue a disclaimer: None of the following represents my personal view on the assassination. I am merely looking at the evidence on both sides of the case and exploring some of the alternate theories. You’ll also spot quite a few contradictions in the evidence on both sides which makes the case all the more intriguing.

The Lone Assassin: 6 Reasons That Prove Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK
The Carcano rifle Oswald allegedly used to shoot JFK. Wikimedia

1 – He Was At the Scene

The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald was not only the killer but that he acted alone. This conclusion was based on evidence found at the scene. It recognized that Oswald’s presence as an employee in the Depository was unrelated to the assassination. He was hired by the Depository in October 1963, and it is clear that he was happy to take any job due to his family’s poor financial status. As such, he did not work at the Depository as part of some grand scheme to murder the President despite suggestions that he was a ‘plant.’

According to the Warren Commission, Oswald had the opportunity to work on disassembling the rifle in the garage of the Paine’s on the evening before the assassination. The Paine’s were a couple who had befriended the Oswald’s. The report said he placed the gun in a brown paper bag and brought it to work on November 22. The Commission also claimed that the paper bag was made out of materials Oswald found at the Depository.

Around 30 minutes after the assassination, a 6.5mm Carcano Rifle was found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. This weapon apparently fired all known bullets used in the murder with scientific tests suggesting that all of the bullet fragments found from the victims came from bullets fired by that specific rifle. The weapon was purchased via mail order under the name A. Hidell, an alias used by Oswald just a few months previously in New Orleans.

Indeed, there is little doubt that Oswald owned the rifle. His wife, Marina, testified that he owned the rifle. For decades, conspiracy theorists have claimed that the famous photo of Oswald holding the rifle used to kill the president was fake. In the picture, Oswald proudly holds the gun and Marxist newspapers. He is standing at an unusual angle which led to the belief that the image was fake. However, analysis using hi-tech equipment suggests the image is genuine.

Oswald worked at the Texas School Book Depository so he could easily access the sixth floor and a homemade paper bag was found near the window where the shots were fired. Oswald’s palm print was found on the rifle’s barrel, and his fingerprints and palmprints were found on two of the boxes on the sixth floor close to the window. A witness, Howard Brennan, claimed to have seen a man matching Oswald’s description in the south-eastern window of the sixth floor.

The Lone Assassin: 6 Reasons That Prove Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK
J.D Tippit. KXAS

2 – Conduct after the Shooting

Those who believe Oswald was the shooter point to his ‘guilty’ behavior in the aftermath of the shooting. The Warren Commission analyzed his movements in the period between the assassination of the President and the shooting of Tippit some 40-45 minutes later. A total of seven witnesses claims to have seen Oswald during this period.

One of the Depository’s superintendents (Roy Truly) and a patrolman said they both saw Oswald less than two minutes after the shooting on the second floor. Another employee saw him under a minute later as he walked through the second-floor offices. At 12:40 p.m., he boarded a bus; an action witnessed by the bus driver and his former landlady.

Just four minutes later, he got off the bus and walked a few blocks to a cab stand. He hailed a cab, and the driver took him to a place in Oak Cliff that was around four blocks from his home. The housekeeper at Oswald’s rooming house said she saw him enter at around 1 pm and he left a few minutes later. Meanwhile, the Depository had been sealed off quickly. One of the men tasked with guarding the doors said he took his position around 3 minutes after the shooting. The Commission determined that it was possible for Oswald to flee the building from his sniper’s nest in that timeframe.

The Warren Report further states that Oswald shot Patrolman Tippit at 1.16 pm. This conclusion was based on witness testimony by Domingo Benavides who said that after a brief talk, Oswald pulled out a revolver and shot Tippit. Helen Markham is another witness; she identified Oswald from a police line-up but only after seeing his photo on television. Another witness, Warren Reynolds, said he saw a man running away from the murder but initially said it was not Oswald. He later changed his mind.

A witness by the name of Acquilla Clemens said there were two men involved in the murder of Tippit. The Patrolman was shot four times, and instead of immediately fleeing the scene, the killer evidently stopped and manually ejected four cartridge cases; an unusual thing to do since it was evidence that could be used against him. The cases were traced to Oswald’s revolver but a match with the bullets was never found.

If Oswald was innocent, why did he flee the Depository so quickly? It seems likely that he ran away from the scene as fast as possible; the act of a guilty man surely? Several witnesses saw him at different points in the aftermath of the shooting, they were not all mistaken, were they? There appears to be doubt over whether he shot Tippit. As you’ll see with the assassination attempt on General Walker, it fits neatly into the narrative that Oswald was a crazed killer.

If Oswald were a lone gunman, he would have fired three shots in approximately six seconds from his position in the Depository. This was eminently possible according to the Warren Commission. He left the TSBD within three minutes of the assassination, fled to his rented room and got the pistol he was found with when he was arrested at 1:50 p.m., some 80 minutes after the shooting. There was a roll-call taken after the assassination, and he was the only employee to leave the location; surely he did this because he was guilty?

President Kennedy was not the only person to allegedly die at Oswald’s hand that day. He shot and killed a police officer named J.D. Tippit around 40-45 minutes after the shooting of Kennedy. The bullets used to kill the policeman came from the same gun found on Oswald when he was arrested. The incident took place less than a mile away from his rental room.

The Lone Assassin: 6 Reasons That Prove Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK
James Tague, the third man shot in the assassination. Fox News

3 – Witness Testimony

The testimony of witnesses plays a major role in any investigation, and the Kennedy Assassination is no different. Both sides of the fence point to witnesses to prove their case. Conspiracy believers suggest the witnesses used by the Warren Commission were unreliable whereas the lone gunman theorists say the witnesses prove their point so let’s tackle the side of the lone gunman first.

Between 11:45 a.m. and the time of the assassination (a total of 45 minutes), two Depository employees were on the sixth floor for a brief period. Charles Givens was one of them, and he claimed to have seen Oswald walking away from the southeast corner, and there was no one else there. Givens took an elevator to the first floor at around 11:55 a.m.

Bonnie Ray Williams was the second person to visit the sixth floor before the shooting. He was at the location around noon to eat lunch and watch the motorcade. Williams said he was there for around 5, 10 or 12 minutes and while he did not see anyone else on the sixth floor, a stack of books obscured the east side of the building from view. Williams decided to leave because no one had joined him to watch the motorcade and he went to the fifth floor where he was joined by two colleagues.

A number of witnesses claimed to have seen someone in the southeast corner of the building on the sixth floor. Howard Brennan made a positive identification of Oswald at the window, and the Warren Commission relied on his testimony to prove their case.

There is evidence that at least some, if not all, of the shooting, came from the Texas School Book Depository. Dozens of witnesses claim to have heard shots emanating from the building, and of course, there are several people who say they saw a gunman standing at the window on the sixth floor. Almost everyone at the scene said they heard exactly three gunshots.

The Warren Commission suggested there was little doubt that all three shots came from the sixth-floor window and tried to prove it by analyzing the trajectory of the bullets. In December 1963, the FBI proposed the single-bullet theory to dismiss the notion that there were more than three shots fired. One bullet was responsible for all of Governor Connally’s injuries, one bullet was responsible for the President’s fatal head wound, and one bullet caused his back wound but not the throat wound.

In March 1964, the Warren Commission modified the explanation by saying one bullet caused all of Kennedy’s non-fatal wounds. In June 1964, it was revealed that a man named James Tague was injured by one of the bullets, so the Commission determined that one bullet caused all of the non-fatal wounds suffered by both Kennedy and Connally. There is a substantial amount of debate over the single bullet theory with proponents suggesting it is possible while naysayers dismiss it as fanciful nonsense. When investigators analyzed the car, they saw that Kennedy’s seat was three inches higher than originally assumed. Add in the fact that both men were moving and waving to the crowd, and the Magic Bullet theory makes some kind of sense.

Regardless, the single-bullet theory became part of the official story and is used as evidence to suggest that Oswald was the sole shooter and he fired his rifle from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.

The Lone Assassin: 6 Reasons That Prove Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK
Mugshot of Oswald after his arrest in Dallas. The Sleuth Journal

4 – Oswald Was a Violent Character

There is little doubt that Oswald was capable of murder. Indeed, he proved this less than an hour after the assassination by supposedly killing a police officer. Oswald’s problems with violence probably stemmed from his difficult childhood. His father had died before Oswald was even born and financial problems meant he was placed in an orphanage along with his two siblings. His mother remarried in 1944 but was divorced in 1948. By the time Oswald was 10 years old, he had attended six schools and matters were not helped by the fact he had dyslexia. As a result, he performed poorly in school.

He ended up in the New York City Youth House for truancy in 1952, and according to initial assessments, Oswald was socially maladjusted, not properly cared for at home and withdrawn. He showed signs of aggressive behavior throughout his childhood; he was regularly involved in fights at school and once threatened his brother and sister-in-law with a knife.

Oswald joined the Military as soon as he was old enough (you had to be 17 years old; he made a failed attempt when he was 16). He did not mix well with the other Marines and was court-martialed twice. In the first case, he wounded himself in the left arm when playing with a gun. The second incident involved a drunken altercation with an off-duty technical sergeant.

Then there is the small matter of his alleged attempt to shoot General Edwin Walker on April 10, 1963. The previous month, Oswald purchased a 6.5mm caliber Carcano rifle and a .38 Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver via mail order using the name ‘A. Hidell’. According to the official story, Oswald used the rifle to shoot at Walker in the man’s home but struck the window frame instead, and the General only suffered minor injuries due to bullet fragments.

However, it is important to note that his involvement in the shooting only came to light because of witness testimony by his wife, Marina. She claimed that he traveled to Walker’s house by bus and left a note telling her what to do if he was caught. Oddly, there were no suspects until after the Kennedy assassination, and the note was not found until December 1963. Oswald shooting at a military figure (and anti-communist) helps paint him as a crazed would-be assassin.

However, there is clear evidence that Oswald beat his wife, Marina. She said that he was prone to bouts of ‘unreasonable rage’ and neighbors were shocked at how poorly he treated Marina. A number of people who knew Oswald testified as to his unusual personality. One friend said that “people were like cardboard” to him. Marina claimed that “Lee had no moral sense at all… only egotism, anger at others on accounts of his failures.”

Those who knew Oswald said he was aggressive, delusional, arrogant and paranoid. He believed he was an important man and his wife often scorned him for this totally unfounded belief. As a child, he expressed fantasies about power and omnipotence to a psychologist and clearly, his mind never moved on from these delusions. It is not hard to imagine that someone with such a mindset could commit such a dastardly and one would say grand crime.

Of course, conspiracy theorists wonder why Oswald denied the murder. If he were prone to such delusions of grandeur, surely the attention of the world would be, right up his alley? A man who fits Oswald’s profile would milk the audience and luxuriate in the spotlight, even with the specter of execution hanging over him.

The Lone Assassin: 6 Reasons That Prove Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK
Oswald Holding Up Pamphlets and a Rifle. Corbis

5 – Oswald was a Communist & Anti-American

Is it naïve to suggest that Oswald was some unfortunate patsy who was framed and then disposed of? As well as details of his violent behavior, Oswald had some very interesting adventures, to say the least. At first glance, he looked like a failed Marine who filled orders in a bookstore, but in reality, he had a serious interest in politics and could be perceived as anti-American.

Oswald became interested in Communism when he was in the Ninth Grade and wasn’t shy about expressing positive feelings about it when in the military. He reportedly told his brother that “Communism was the wave of the future.” After completing his three-year tour of duty, Oswald lied on an application form to get into a liberal arts college in Switzerland. He traveled across Europe and ended up in Moscow. Once there, he contacted the U.S. consul to renounce his American citizenship. He regularly made anti-American statements and applied for Russian citizenship.

After living in the Soviet Union for a little over a year, he found that life in the Communist state was not living up to his ideal. He contacted the consul again in February 1961, this time to express his desire to return home. Oswald met Marina, his future wife, in Minsk in March 1961 and they were married on April 30, 1961. Their daughter, June Lee, was born in February 1962 and a few months later, he returned to the United States.

After settling in Fort Worth, Texas, Oswald and his wife began having marital problems, and he was becoming noticeably more secretive. After allegedly trying to shoot Walker on April 10, 1963, he fled to New Orleans with his family to avoid the attentions of the police. He became politically active once again and opened the New Orleans branch of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). It was an organization that supported Castro and wanted free trade and better relations between Cuba and the U.S.

By now, Oswald identified as pro-Cuban and applied for Cuban and Soviet citizenship. Both governments rejected him, so he returned to Texas and found work under the assumed name O.H. Lee. It was there that he got a job at the Texas School Book Depository; the apparent scene of the most notorious political assassination of the 20th century. In summation, Oswald had no love for the country of his birth; he applied to become a citizen of other countries and was pro-Communism. What better way to make a point than by killing American’s leader, a man who presumably stood in the way of improved Cuban/American relations?

The Lone Assassin: 6 Reasons That Prove Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK
Dealey Plaza in 1963 with the Texas School Book Depository in the background. The Sixth Floor Museum

6 – No Other Viable Suspects

Those who believe in the lone gunman theory state one very simple fact; no other viable suspects have ever been found or charged. Critics of this train of thought will doubtless suggest that once Oswald was murdered by Jack Ruby, those charged with closing the case didn’t try very hard to identify anyone else. There is probably an element of truth to this accusation, but more than half a century later, no one has offered any conclusive proof of another shooter.

There are a lot of theories with ‘some’ compelling evidence, but all too often, it’s easy to poke holes in them. Certainly, the ease with which conspiracy theorists jump on low-quality evidence and weak facts does nothing to strengthen their case. For example, a famous photo of three tramps photographed in Dealey Plaza soon after the shooting was held up as evidence that the trio was involved in the event. While they wore scruffy clothing, the fact that they were clean-shaven was suspicious, and all three men were reportedly arrested. There is photographic evidence of the arrest.

However, there is no written record and theorists tried to suggest that the men were involved in the assassination and the Dallas police allowed them to escape. Records released in 1992 revealed the identities of the three men. They were tramps; the two men who were still alive confirmed that they were the people in the photo. It turns out that they spent the night in a homeless hostel and were allowed to shave and wash.

Another unhelpful claim is that the Zapruder film was faked. Although several pieces of photographic evidence in the case was faked, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest the famous Zapruder film is one of them. Given that the film offers grounds for a conspiracy, it is ridiculous to claim it was doctored to disprove one! Others try to suggest that the person on the front steps of the TSBD was Oswald when it was Billy Lovelady, a colleague of the alleged assassin. Finally, there is the equally preposterous notion that Kennedy’s body was altered to fool pathologists as they performed the autopsy.

Conspiracy theories with no basis in fact and with flimsy or no evidence to back them up cause more harm than good. All the while, no one has come up with a concrete suspect backed by hard evidence that isn’t easily disproved. Theories include a CIA cover-up, a mob hit, a gunman at the grassy knoll and several utterly insane ideas. The inability of those that belief in a conspiracy to put together a watertight case more than 50 years on hurts the credibility of the idea that someone other than Oswald killed JFK. This is remarkable given the evidence which suggests Oswald was not the shooter.

Those who support the theory that Oswald is the killer say he is the only viable suspect and a conspiracy is unlikely as it would involve too many people to stay a secret for this long. On the surface, there appears to be enough evidence to suggest Oswald was the perpetrator but appearances can be deceptive. Did the Warren Commission act based on evidence or did it ignore anything that could cast doubt on Oswald as the killer? In the second part of the trilogy, I will check out the holes in the Oswald as lone gunman theory.

Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

History Collection – The Aftermath of the JFK Assassination

History – Lee Harvey Oswald: Plan, Chaos or Conspiracy?

Texas Monthly – Inside a Lifelong Obsession With the Kennedy Assassination

Psychology Today – Why Did Lee Harvey Oswald Kill John Fitzgerald Kennedy?

Just Security – JFK Records Suit Tests CIA Secrecy on Assassination

The New York Times – What Motivated Oswald?

Business Insider – Lee Harvey Oswald Called Russia’s KGB Department In Charge Of ‘Sabotage And Assassination’ Before Killing JFK

Smithsonian Magazine – A Brief History of Lee Harvey Oswald’s Connection to Cuba

News Week – Lee Harvey Oswald and the Soviet Union: What the JFK Files Reveal

The New York Time Magazine – WITNESS ASCRIBES MALICE TO RUBY; Quotes Him as Saying He Hopes Oswald Would Die