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JFK Assassination Witness, Dallas Policeman, Speaks out for First Time

By Alexandra Ward   |  

A retired Dallas policeman who witnessed the chaotic aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is speaking out for the first time ever, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the murder that shocked the nation.

In recollections not even provided to the Warren Commission, R.C. Nelson, 76, talked with CBS Miami about the pandemonium that engulfed the city after gunshots rang out in Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963.

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On that day, Nelson and his partner, J.D. Tippit, were each tasked with patrolling separate sections of Dallas' south district. At the time of the shooting, Nelson was stationed just across the viaduct from the Texas Book Depository where assassin Lee Harvey Oswald reportedly fired from.

Nelson was on the scene within two minutes of hearing the gunshots, and reportedly asked one of the motormen what had happened.

"He was up there [in the book depository]. I saw the rifle in the window when I looked up," the motorman said, according to Nelson.

Shortly after Kennedy was targeted, a call came through dispatch reporting that Officer Tippit had also been fatally shot on his patrol route in nearby Oak Cliff, Texas.

Nelson told CBS Miami that his former partner was a "nice, east Texas guy who loved his family and worked hard and did what he was supposed to do, but wasn’t very curious. He liked to write his tickets and go home. He had a bad habit of not looking at you when he was talking to you."

The lack of eye contact and avoidance of confrontation could have contributed to his demise, Nelson said. He believes that Oswald intentionally targeted Tippit because he wanted to be caught.

"[I] can't imagine Tippit pulling him [Oswald] over and saying 'come here,'" Nelson tol CBS, adding that his partner was hit in the temple, which implies he was looking away from the gunman. "Oswald had not had his glory."

Nelson was then on hand that afternoon as police captured Oswald in a nearby movie theater. He also had a front-row seat two days later, when Oswald was being moved from the city hall to the county jail.

It was then that a Chicago businessman named Jack Ruby stepped around officers and shot Oswald once in the stomach, killing him. Nelson, who was standing approximately 20 feet away, leapt for Ruby.

"I grabbed for his hands and didn’t find a gun," Nelson said. "But I managed to manhandle him into the basement jail house office and handcuffed him."

Nelson told CBS Miami that he decided to speak out about his memories now so that his family will know what he went through.

"For 20 years I wouldn't even talk about it. Several authors contacted me and I just didn’t feel like it," he said. "But lately, many of my family members have tried to get me to tell my story. I want my family to have something recorded so my great-grandkids will know the real facts."

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A retired Dallas policeman who witnessed the chaotic aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is speaking out for the first time ever, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the murder that shocked the nation.
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