May 14, 2013, The Daily Mail, Lee Harvey Oswald detective tells of how he tried to save him from Ruby as he is honored for service, by James Nye, [Detective James Leavelle]
Photographed alongside a wincing Lee Harvey Oswald as he is shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby on November 24th, 1963, Detective Jim Leavelle has entered history as the 'man in the cowboy hat'.
Immortalized in the iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning photo taken two days after President Kennedy's shocking assassination, Leavelle has now 50-years later received the police commendation award for his years of service on Dallas' police force.
On Tuesday, Dallas Police Chief David Brown honored the man handcuffed to accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald as he tried to save him and officially renamed the department’s Detective of the Year Award after Leavelle.
'To say I’m surprised is putting it mildly,' said Leavelle, 92, who joined the Dallas force in 1950 and retired in 1975. 'I can think of so many other officers who should be standing here, receiving this award.'
On presenting him with the Police Commendation Award, Dallas Police Chief David Brown was effusive with his praise.
'Being the chief and being able to recognize such an iconic figure is just special,' said Brown who was three-years-old at the time of the president's death.
'This is an honor for me personally, being a Dallasite, knowing the rich history of Dallas.'
This recognition for Leavelle, just months before the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination follows on from the permanent commemoration of Dallas office J.D Tippit - who was the first officer to encounter Oswald and was shot dead 45 minutes after the incident on Dealey Plaza.
A historical marker was erected at the Oak Cliff street corner where he was shot and Leavelle was there for that - just as Tippit's widow, Marie Tippit was in the audience for his commendation on Tuesday.
Leavelle was the first man to interrogate Lee Harvey Oswald after his arrest in the Texas theater in Oak Cliff and was handcuffed to Oswald as they exited Dallas police headquarters that fateful evening.
'Lee, I hope that if anybody shoots at you, they are as good a shot as you were,' said Leavelle to Oswald as they prepared to leave.
Asked what was going through his mind as Ruby approached Oswald and fired, Leavelle told a story he has repeated hundreds if not thousands of times over the past half-century.
'I've been asked that question many, many times,' Leavelle said to the Dallas Morning News.
'And I've often wondered — maybe you can answer it for me — what goes through your mind when you ask me that?
'You don't have time to let things go through your mind, you react,' he said.
'You do what you got to do. You don't stop to think.'
Recalling that he saw Ruby with the pistol in his right hand by his right leg - he said that no one around appeared to notice what was about to occur.
'I looked down and I saw that,' Leavelle said.
'I tried to jerk back on him and put him behind me,' he said of Oswald.
'Him being real close all I did was turn his body so instead of the bullet hitting him dead center it hit about 3 or 4 inches to the left of the navel.' Oswald was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital and died.
While Leavelle conceded that retelling the story can 'occasionally' get 'a little monotonous,' he said he thinks it's been an important story to tell over the years from his first-person perspective. He said he started telling the story when schoolchildren would ask.
'I don't mind doing it because I know that the people asking it are interested,' said Leavelle, who also survived the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Lee Harvey Oswald, assassin of President John F. Kennedy, reacts as Dallas night club owner Jack Ruby, foreground, shoots at him from point blank range in a corridor of Dallas police headquarters. At left is Detective Jim Leavelle
Dallas Police Chief David Brown (left) presents former Detective James Leavelle with the Police Commendation Award
24 Nov 1963, Dallas, Texas, USA --- Jim Leavelle (left) escorts Lee Harvey Oswald during a press conference two days after his arrest in conjunction with the assassination of President Kennedy
The accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, center in handcuffs, is escorted to the Dallas city jail as nightclub owner Jack Ruby, foreground, approaches Oswald with a pointed revolver
24 Nov 1963, Dallas, Texas, USA --- Lee Harvey Oswald lies on a stretcher after being shot by Jack Ruby during a press conference two days after his arrest in conjunction with the assassination of President Kennedy
The body of Lee Harvey Oswald lies in a casket at Parkland Morgue in Dallas, Texas
The Dallas Police Department mug shots of Lee Harvey Oswald following his arrest for possible involvement in the John F. Kennedy assassination and the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit
Dallas, Texas, USA --- Prior to the assassination, President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and Texas Governor John Connally ride through the streets of Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963
Dallas Police Department Lt. Bryan Cornish, left, looks on as Sr. Cpl. Rick Janich, right, escorts retired detective James Leavelle to an awards ceremony Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at the Jack Evans Police Headquarters building in Dallas