The Last Words of Lee Harvey Oswald
In the 1970s, Mae Brussell, an authority on the Kennedy assassination, compiled every statement she could find made by Lee Harvey Oswald between the time of his arrest for the shooting of President John F. Kennedy and Officer Tippit and the time of his death. Her findings were published in the People's Almanac #2 under the title, "The Last Words of Lee Harvey Oswald."
We are told that the quotes have been "edited for space and clarity." Furthermore, because many of the statements are based on people's recollections the statements are not verbatim transcripts. Therefore, we must keep these two things in mind as we examine Oswald's words. Also, since this is only a list of Oswald's statements, we do not know what questions were asked which solicited his response.
12:30 P.M., CST, November 22, 1963
President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.
Officer J. D. Tippit is murdered.
Oswald is arrested at a Texas theater.
"This is it" or "Well, it's all over now. . . I don't know why you are treating me like this. The only thing I have done is carry a pistol into a movie. . . I don't see why you handcuffed me. . . Why should I hide my face? I haven't done anything to be ashamed of. . . I want a lawyer. . . I am not resisting arrest. . . I didn't kill anybody. . . I haven't shot anybody. . . I protest this police brutality. . . I fought back there, but I know I wasn't supposed to be carrying a gun. . . What is this all about?"
Oswald's comment, "This is it" or "Well, it's all over now" implies he has done something wrong.
Everyone has their own personal dictionary. When people are giving a truthful statement their language will usually be consistent. If person views a firearm as being a pistol, he will always call it a pistol. He will not call it a gun because to him it is a pistol. When people are making up a story they do not always follow their personal dictionary. They may use synonyms to describe the same thing. A change in language is an indication of deception unless there is a justification for the change. For example, I have seen statements where an officer referred to his firearm as a gun but when the shooting started he called it a weapon. This change in language is most likely justified. The word gun means he is not discharging it and the word weapon means he is discharging it. Once the shooting stopped he went back to calling it a gun.
Oswald first stated that he carried a "pistol" into the movie theater. Later he said that he knew he was not supposed to be carrying a "gun." The words pistol and gun do not mean the exact same thing. As I read his statement I do not see a justification for changing the language from pistol to gun. In both statements, he said he was doing the same thing, carrying the firearm. Therefore, his change in language indicates he is being deceptive.
"I didn't kill anybody." "I haven't shot anybody." These sound like good denials. However, it is easier for a deceptive person to give a general denial. It is harder for a dishonest person to be specific. Although we do not know what question was asked of Oswald, it appears he understands the authorities believe he killed someone. Most likely they would have told Oswald who was killed. A better denial would have been to say, "I didn't kill the President" or "I didn't kill a police officer."
2:00 - 2:15 P.M.
Oswald is driven to the police department.
"What is this all about?. . . I know my rights. . . A police officer has been killed?. . . I hear they burn for murder. Well, they say it just takes a second to die. . . All I did was carry a gun. . . Why are you treating me this way?. . . I am not being handled right. . . I demand my rights."
Oswald refers to the firearm that he was carrying as a "gun."
Oswald is taken into the police department.
2:25 - 4:04 P.M.
Interrogation of Oswald in the office of Captain Will Fritz.
"My name is Lee Harvey Oswald. . . I work at the Texas School Book Depository Building. . . I was never in Mexico City. I have been in Tijuana. . . I never owned a rifle myself. . . I was present in the Texas School Book Depository Building. I have been employed there since Oct. 15, 1963. . . My usual place of work is on the first floor. However, I frequently use the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh floors to get books. . . Because of all the confusion, I figured there would be no work performed that afternoon so I decided to go home. . . I changed my clothing and went to a movie. . . I carried a pistol with me to the movie because I felt like it, for no other reason. . . I didn't shoot President John F. Kennedy or Officer J. D. Tippit."
Oswald stated that he was "never in Mexico City." When used in a denial the word never is considered to be a weak denial. A more definitive denial is to say, "I was not in Mexico City." However, this depends on what question Oswald was asked. If he was asked, "Have you ever been in Mexico City?" it would be appropriate for him to use the word never because the word never means "not ever." In 1993, the U.S. Congress passed the "JFK Records Act" which mandated the full release of all government files relating to the assassination of President Kennedy. These records show that Oswald was in Mexico City in late September and early October of 1963.
We see he again used the word "never" when denying owning a rifle. He also adds the word "myself" which over emphasizes his denial of owing a gun. The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald purchased the rifle through the mail using an alias and had it delivered to his Post Office box.
Oswald wants us to believe the reason he left work early is not because he shot the President, but because in all the confusion caused from the President being shot he figured "there would be no work performed that afternoon."
Oswald stated that he carried a "pistol" to the movie. Yet a few minutes early while being driven to the police station he stated he was carrying a "gun." He continues to change his language which is an indication he is being deceptive.
He said the reason he carried a pistol is because "I felt like it, for no other reason." His statement, "for no other reason" is not needed and is over emphasizing that he only felt like carrying a pistol. This is an indication there was another reason why he carried a firearm that day.
Oswald did make a good denial when he said, "I didn't shoot President John F. Kennedy or Officer J.D. Tippit."
4:45 - 6:30 P.M.
Second interrogation of Oswald in Captain Fritz's Office.
"When I left the Texas School Book Depository, I went to my room, where I changed my trousers, got a pistol, and went to a picture show. . . You know how boys do when they have a gun, they carry it. . . The only package I brought to work was my lunch. . . I bought a pistol in Fort Worth several months ago. . . I refuse to tell you where the pistol was purchased. . . I never ordered any guns. . . I am not malcontent. Nothing irritated me about the President. . . Everybody will know who I am now."
He referred to the pistol using the article a. He does not call it "my pistol" and therefore does not claim possession of the pistol. If the pistol did not belong to him, then calling it "a pistol" would be correct. The other reason he may have called it "a pistol" is because he may possess other firearms. He may have other pistols or rifles.
Again we have him changing his language from "pistol" to "gun."
At his arrest and during his first interview, Oswald referred to the theater as a "movie." Now he changes his language and calls it a "picture show." I do not see a justification for the change in language. He wants us to believe that he left work early and decided to see a movie. However, his change in language indicates he is being deceptive. There is a good chance the only reason he went to the movie/picture show was to avoid the police after killing Officer J.D. Tippit.
A long brown paper bag was found on the sixth floor of the Depository. The Warren Commission believed that Oswald used the bag to conceal the rifle that he brought work the day of the assassination. Oswald stated, "The only package I brought to work was my lunch." This sounds like a good denial but it depends on Oswald's definition of the word package. Even if your lunch was in a brown paper bag, most people would not refer to it as a package. A co-worker stated that Oswald did have a long paper bag the day of the assassination. Oswald told his co-worker that the bag contained curtain rods. This co-worker also testified that Oswald did not bring a lunch with him the day the President was killed.
He used the weaker word never when denying that he ordered any guns. Again, we do not know what if any question was asked of him.
His last statement, "Everybody will know who I am now" implies that Oswald believed he will be in the public spot light for some time. If he was innocent, he should be hoping that he will be deemed no longer a suspect, released and forgotten about.
Oswald appears in a lineup for witnesses Cecil J. McWatters, Sam Guinyard, and Ted Callaway.
Oswald yelled to reporters in the hall.
"I didn't shoot anyone. . . I want to get in touch with a lawyer, Mr. Abt, in New York City. . . I never killed anybody."
Oswald gave a vague denial using the same type of language when he was arrested. By using the words "anyone" and "anybody," he was not being specific. We would expect him to say, "I didn't kill the President" or "I didn't kill a police officer.'
He also had a change in language from "anyone" to "anybody." He again used the word "never."
Oswald is arraigned for murder with malice of Officer J. D. Tippit of the Dallas Police Department.
A paraffin test is conducted in Captain Fritz's Office.
"I will not sign the fingerprint card until I talk to my attorney. . . What are you trying to prove with this paraffin test, that I fired a gun?. . .You are wasting your time. I don't know anything about what you are accusing me."
A paraffin test is used to determine if a person fired a gun by checking for the presence of powder particles. Oswald told the police they were wasting their time. This is the perfect opportunity for Oswald to explain why this was a waste of time by saying something like, "Because I didn't fire a gun." However, he makes not such denial.
A paraffin test was applied to Oswald's hands and right cheek. While his hands reacted positively his cheek did not. Prior to the assassination the FBI had conducted experiments showing the unreliability of the paraffin test.
11:20 - 11:25 P.M. Oswald appears in a lineup for a press conference. The media asked him about his earlier arraignment.
"Well, I was questioned by Judge Johnston. However, I protested at that time that I was not allowed legal representation during that very short and sweet hearing. I really don't know what the situation is about. Nobody has told me anything except that I am accused of murdering a policeman. I know nothing more than that, and I do request someone to come forward to give me legal assistance."
When asked, "Did you kill the President?" Oswald replied, "No. I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question. . ."I did not do it. I did not do it. . . I did not shoot anyone."
The shortest sentence is the best sentence. The word really is not needed. This word is often used to bolster a statement when in fact it usually weakens the statement. His language indicates Oswald did know what the situation was about.
Oswald was asked if he killed the President. He gave a direct answer of "No." The problem is he followed up his answer with, "I have not been charged with that." It sounds as if Oswald was saying, "No, I have not been charged with that." He was not asked he had been charged with killing the President. He was asked if he killed the President. It appears he did not answer the specific question which means he is withholding information.
Oswald made several denials stating he "did not do it" and that he "did not shoot anyone." We do not know if he was asked if he killed the President or Officer Tippit. He again used the word "anyone" and is not specific in his denials.
1:35 A.M., November 23, 1963.
Oswald is arraigned for the murder with malice of John F. Kennedy.
10:30 A.M.-1:10 P.M.
Oswald is interrogated in Captain Will Fritz's Office.
"I never owned a rifle. . . I didn't shoot John Kennedy. . . I didn't even know Gov. John Connally had been shot. . . I don't own a rifle. . . I don't own a rifle at all. . . I did have a small rifle some years in the past."
Oswald states, "I never owned a rifle." He contradicts himself when he later states, "I did have a small rifle some years in the past."
His denial, "I didn't shoot John Kennedy" is a good denial.
In his statement, "I didn't even know Gov. John Connally had been shot" the word even is not needed. Remember, the shortest sentence is the best sentence. Extra words give us extra information. The word even shows a contrast of ideas. This is an indication that he did know that Governor Connally had been shot.
"I don't own a rifle" is a good denial. The problem is he follows this by saying, "I don't own a rifle at all." The repetition is an indication he may be trying to convince us he doesn't own a rifle. The additional words "at all" again show us he is overemphasizing not owning a rifle.
1:10 - 1:30 P.M.
Oswald is visited by his mother, Marguerite Oswald, and his wife, Marina Oswald.
"It's a mistake. I'm not guilty."
It is easy for a deceptive person to say, "I am not guilty" because technically speaking one is innocent until prove guilty. A better statement would have been to say, "They arrested the wrong person because I did not shoot the President."
3:30 - 3:40 P.M.
Oswald is visited by his brother Robert Oswald.
"I don't know what is going on. I just don't know what they are talking about."
"I don't know what is going on" is a good statement. Stating it a second time indicates he is overemphasizing not knowing what is going on.
The word just is often used to minimize things. It is acceptable to use this word to minimize time; "He just left the building." To most people, this means the person left the building within the last few minutes. When the word just is used to minimize ones actions it is an indication the person did more than he is telling us; "I just walked in and found her on the floor." Not using the word just makes it a better statement. The same thing applies in this case where Oswald is minimizing his thoughts; "I just don't know what they are talking about." His use of the word just indicates he does know what they are talking about.
5:30 - 5:35 P.M.
Oswald is visited by H. Louis Nichols, President of the Dallas Bar Association.
"Well, I really don't know what this is all about, that I have been kept incarcerated and kept incommunicado."
As I have previously mentioned the shortest sentence is the best sentence. The word really is not needed. This word is often used to bolster a statement when in fact it usually weakens the statement. The word really indicates Oswald did know what this was all about.
6:00 - 6:30 P.M.
Oswald is interrogated in Captain Fritz's Office.
"I have no receipts for purchase of any gun, and I have never ordered any guns. I do not own a rifle, never possessed a rifle."
As I stated earlier, the word never is considered to be a weak denial. Saying, "I did not" is a more direct denial.
His statement that he "never possessed a rifle" contradicts his previous statement, "I did have a small rifle some years in the past."
9:30 - 11:15 A.M., November 24, 1963.
Oswald is interrogated in Captain Will Fritz's Office.
"After all this commotion started, I just went downstairs and started to see what it was all about. . . I don't recall the shape, it may have been a small sack, or a large sack; you don't always find one that just fits your sandwiches. . . The sack was in the car, beside me, on my lap, as it always is. . . I didn't get it crushed. It was not on the back seat. Mr. Frazier must have been mistaken or else thinking about the other time when he picked me up. . . I never ordered a rifle under the name of Hidell, Oswald, or any other name. . . I never permitted anyone else to order a rifle to be received in this box. . . . I never ordered any rifle by mail order or bought any money order for the purpose of paying for such a rifle. . . I never received a package sent to me through the mailbox in Dallas, Box No. 2915, under the name of Alek Hidell, absolutely not. . . American people will soon forget the President was shot, but . . . When the head of any government dies, or is killed, there is always a second in command who would take over. . . I did not kill President Kennedy or Officer Tippit. If you want me to cop out to hitting or pleading guilty to hitting a cop in the mouth when I was arrested, yeah, I plead guilty to that. But I do deny shooting both the President and Tippit."
His use of the word just to minimize his actions indicates he went downstairs for another reason not because he wanted "to see what it was all about."
Buell Frazier was a co-worker who gave Oswald a ride to work the day the President was shot. Frazier testified that Oswald was carrying a package when Frazier picked him up. Oswald told Frazier that the package contained curtain rods. The authorities believe the packaged contained a rifle. Oswald denies he took a package to work with him that day. He states that Frazier "must have been mistaken." If Oswald did not have a package with him that day, we would expect him to state with certainty that, "Frazier was mistaken" and not that he, "must have been mistaken."
Four times he uses the word never. >
Oswald gave two good denials; "I didn't shoot him" and "I did not kill President Kennedy or Officer Tippit." However, he follows this up by saying, "I do deny shooting both the President and Tippit." When a person used the word deny in refuting something it is considered to be a weak denial. This is because the word deny can mean "to refuse to accept." If a person refuses to accept the fact he is an alcoholic, we say he is in denial. By saying that he denies shooting the President and Officer Tippit, Oswald may be saying he refuses to accept the fact that he shot the President and Officer Tippit.
Preparation begins to transfer Oswald to the county jail.
Lee Harvey Oswald is fatally wounded by Jack Ruby.
As I previously mentioned not all of these statements credited to Lee Harvey Oswald are exact quotes. We also do not know what questions were asked of Oswald. Based on the statements compiled by Mae Brussell, Oswald does show signs of being deceptive.
Truthful people will usually remain consistent in their language. In referring to the firearm that he was carrying when he was arrested at the movie theater, Oswald sometimes called it a "pistol" and other times called it "gun." He had another change in language when he said he went to "the movie" and later said went to a "picture show." These changes in language indicate his story is not coming from memory.
He started out giving some general and vague denials; "I did not kill anybody" "I haven't shot anybody." A good denial is when a person is very specific; "I did not shoot the President."
He often gave a weak denial using the word never as opposed to saying, "I didn't."
Several times he said he never owned a rifle yet he also said, "I did have a small rifle some years in the past."
Oswald's statement, "Everybody will know who I am now" indicates he believed he would receive a lot of publicity. Most innocent people would not be thinking that.
Later in his statements Oswald did give some good denials saying that he did not shoot the President. However, when we consider everything he said and did not say, his language tells us that he was responsible for shooting President John F. Kennedy and Officer J.D. Tippit.