Skip to main content

Oswald's Arresting Officers: Participants and Witnesses

Photo of Oswald arrest outside the Texas Theater

In this photo taken outside the Texas Theater directly after Oswald's arrest, officer C.T. Walker (in the white hat) and Gerald Hill (in the right-side) background are present, as well as Paul Bentley, who has a cigar dangling from his mouth.

Kenneth Lyon, Buddy Walthers, Truman Walker, Bob Carroll, and Gerald Hill all served as key witnesses to the wider JFK assassination story through describing their own active participation in the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald. Just shortly after President Kennedy's assassination, a Dallas officer, J.D. Tippit, was reported as murdered in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, setting off yet another search for what officers would later realize was the exact same suspect. 

While they did not all come to the scene together, with some experiencing several false starts in the search, all five of these officers ultimately converged on the suspect at the Texas Theater, leading to his arrest, as shown in the colorized photo to the left. Ultimately, their roles as key participants in the event led to the enormous weight and significance placed on their testimonies: as the only people who can truly describe what went down in the Texas Theater, their memories, despite occasional contradictions, serve as the most vivid, direct, and accurate accounts. 

Timeline of Events

The Scene of the Theater Arrest

Interior of the Texas Theatre

Photo taken of the Texas Theater's interior by an officer at the scene of the Oswald arrest.

Lobby of the Texas Theater on the Day of Oswald's Arrest

Photo taken of the Texas Theater lobby by an officer at the scene of Oswald's arrest.

The five arresting officers all arrived at the Texas Theater shortly after an individual called and reported the presence of a suspicious man matching the physical description of the suspect; the officers received the radio around 1:55 pm. Oswald had ran from his house to the Texas Theater and sat down by himself towards the center-back of the theater, a loaded gun still on him. 

When Hill arrived on the scene, he first ran up to the balcony to check, as someone had reported the suspect going to the balcony. Walthers ordered the manager on duty to turn on the main lights; hearing a struggle from the center of the theater, Walthers went downstairs to attempt to assist the officers who were struggling to disarm Oswald. Walker entered the building by way of a rear alleyway; with his weapon drawn, he proceeded into the seating area of the theater, where the house lights had already been turned on. Carroll and Lyon arrived at the theater together; they checked the balcony and found no one that matched the description the office had given them. As they were retreating from the balcony, Carroll describes hearing "Here he is" very loudly and immediately sprinting to the main level. Ultimately, according to all of the officers' accounts, an officer by the name of MacDonald made the first contact with Oswald, shortly after Oswald said something to the effect of "It's all over."

In most of the accounts, Oswald strikes MacDonald in the face at this point in time; the scene inside the aisle quickly turned into a melee, with multiple officers involved in subduing Oswald. Hill got into the same row as Oswald and grabbed his left arm, Officer MacDonald held him from the right, and CT Walker and an officer Hawkins held him from the front, forcing him into his seat. K.E. Lyons and Paul Bentley also ran to the scene, despite Lyons having just sprained his ankle coming down from the balcony. Before Oswald was successfully disarmed, Carroll recalls seeing the gun pointed directly at him; Carroll was the one who disarmed him, sticking the pistol in his belt immediately, as per his own testimony. 

Above is a brief video taken by the news media right as Oswald and his arresting officers exited the theater: all of the officers described in their folders a mass influx of media to the scene, managing to snag images of Oswald as he was being led to the officers' squad car. As they were leading Oswald out of the theater, the officers all attest to him having certain verbal outbursts, with many corroborating each others' claims of him shouting about police brutality as they all entered the lobby. 

Transporting the Suspect 

Once Oswald had been successfully handcuffed by Hill and an officer, Ray Hawkins, and disarmed, the officers' next task was to get him to City Hall for arraignment as quickly as they could. While the officers' accounts occasionally diverge on the exact details of the car ride, some common themes emerge: these include Hill possessing and investigating Oswald's pistol and Oswald largely refusing to answer questions about his identity. A common point of question in Belin's depositions of the officers is a likely interaction in the car between an officer and Oswald: while there are a few different versions of this, it seems likely that the officer said that Oswald killed an officer, to which Oswald responded something like "People fry for that," and the officer responding with "You'll find out." 

Lee Harvey Oswald at Dallas Police HQ After Arrest

Image of Oswald, thought by some to be making a leftist fist sign, at the Dallas Police headquarters.

Within about ten minutes, the officers finally arrived at City Hall, and Oswald was led to the Homicide and Robbery division for interrogation. At this point in time, the media were especially concentrated in the hallways, leading to the capture of iconic images such as the one above. Ultimately, following the successful delivery of Oswald, the officers who had worked together in the theater melee finally began to diverge: Lyons went to the hospital to tend to his ankle, Walthers went to examine the Ruth Paine house, Walker remained in the interrogation room, and Hill turned over the physical evidence, remaining late at the station and fielding several interviews. 

Conclusion: Most Valuable Witnesses

Ultimately, these officers' accounts together provide the most holistic and detailed account possible of the arrest; because of their direct participation in catching the suspect in Tippit's murder - as well as, inadvertently, the President's murder - their recollections are among the most important to take into account when it comes to Oswald's arrest. While their folders were at times somewhat contradictory, which has courted some controversy in the public perception of the President's assassination, they provide a detailed image of Oswald's personality, the chaos of dealing with two assassinations within an hour of each other, Dallas police procedures, and the mass influx of the media. 

Links to Warren Commission Folders 

Oswald's Arresting Officers