Capturing Lee Harvey Oswald just part of Paul L. Bentley's story

Print
Email
|

by By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

kvue.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:37 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 6:37 PM

Paul L. Bentley was frequently asked to speak about his 21-year career with the Dallas Police Department.

Initially, many were curious about polygraph examinations, the new technology he brought to the Police Department in 1951. The wonders of the lie detector made him a favorite speaker for church educational and civic groups.

That was until Nov. 22, 1963, when Mr. Bentley pulled a ligament in his ankle diving across rows of seats at the Texas Theatre to subdue Lee Harvey Oswald.

For the rest of his life, the Dallas detective's lie-detector work would be a sidebar to his role in Oswald's capture.

People from around the world visited his Dallas home to hear his story. Many wanted to see his Masonic ring, which grazed Oswald's face during the scuffle.

Mr. Bentley, 87, died Monday of an apparent heart attack at his Dallas home.

Graveside services will be at 10 a.m. today at Grove Hill Memorial Park.

A memorial will be at 1 p.m. today at Park Cities Baptist Church, where he had been an active member for more than 30 years.

Mr. Bentley felt he was simply doing his duty, with both the capture of Oswald and the presentation of his story, said his grandson, David Ottinger of Dallas.

"He was very humble," Mr. Ottinger said. "He did that because of the immense interest."

Born in Dallas, Mr. Bentley was a graduate of Crozier Tech High School.

He served five years in the Army Air Forces, including 18 months as a master sergeant in the Pacific Theater.

In 1947, Mr. Bentley joined the Dallas Police Department, starting in radio patrol, moving on to traffic, before joining the racket squad, where he worked cases involving vice, narcotics and fugitives.

In 1951, he was the first of two Dallas detectives trained to be polygraph examiners, making Dallas the first Texas law enforcement agency outside of the Department of Public Safety in Austin to have the technology.

The day of President John F. Kennedy's visit to Dallas, Mr. Bentley was assigned to monitor the procession from the corner of Main and Harwood streets, less than a block from the police station.

After the procession passed, Mr. Bentley returned to his office, when there was an announcement that the motorcade had been fired on.

Within minutes, he learned that Officer J.D. Tippit had been shot in Oak Cliff. A captain asked Mr. Bentley if he wanted to go to the Oak Cliff scene.

After assisting at the shooting site, Mr. Bentley and other officers went to the Texas Theatre, following up on a report of a suspicious person.

Mr. Bentley entered the front of the theater and followed a lead to the mezzanine and balcony, checking restrooms along the way.

He told the projectionist to turn on the house lights.

He returned to the ground floor as Officer M.N. "Nick" McDonald approached Oswald, the suspect rose and pointed a gun at McDonald. Mr. Bentley made his move from behind.

"That's when I tried to get as close to him as possible, trying to grab the weapon," Mr. Bentley told The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in a 1994 oral history. "I came over the backs of seats, and I hung my right ankle in between the seat and in scuffling with him to get him under control."

Mr. Bentley speculated that he scratched Oswald's forehead as he grabbed for the suspect's weapon.

Mr. Bentley helped transport Oswald downtown, riding in the back seat of a police car with the suspect in the middle, Mr. Bentley to his left and another officer, C.T. Walker, to his right.

Mr. Bentley said he was back at his desk before he realized he had injured his ankle. He could not see his shoe for his swollen ankle, he said in his oral history.

Mr. Bentley retired from the Police Department in March 1968.

He became director of security for First National Bank in Dallas, before working with several Dallas security firms, beginning in 1979. He retired in 1986.

Mr. Bentley was a deeply religious man, his grandson said.

He was an active member of Forney Baptist Church in Dallas, before joining Park Cities Baptist Church in 1975.

He was also active member and past president of the North Dallas Golden K Kiwanis Club.

In addition to his grandson, Mr. Bentley is survived by his wife, Mozelle Bentley of Dallas, a son, James Bentley of Dallas, and a sister, Mildred Waldroop of El Monte, Calif.

Print
Email
|