Then and Now: Frenzy around Lee Harvey Oswald's arrest

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by REBECCA LOPEZ / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on August 23, 2013 at 9:30 AM

DALLAS -- It's abandoned now, but 50 years ago, the old Dallas police headquarters was chaos.

“They lost control of the building," said former FBI analyst Farris Rookstool.

Hundreds of reporters packed the hallways leading into the homicide division to film and take pictures of the man who killed President John F. Kennedy, sometimes making it difficult for Lee Harvey Oswald to even walk.

Reporters were allowed all kinds of access.

"You had not only the suspect being paraded up and down the hall, you had the evidence up and down the hall, and everyone could shout questions," Rookstool said.

He points out a room on the third floor, "This is where most of the interviews were taking place with Oswald."

In those rooms and offices, Oswald was interrogated for 12 hours about the assassination of President Kennedy and the murder of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. He revealed very little about the crimes.

"He just denies everything," former Police Chief Jesse Curry told reporters at the time.

Oswald did four photo line-ups that today would most likely be tossed out.

"They had fingerprinted him multiple times, and he still had ink on his fingers," Rookstool said.

The cell where Oswald was in isolation still stands. He spent two nights there.

A WFAA reporter at the time reported, "During most of the night he tossed and turned."

Oswald’s wife, mother, and brother were allowed to see him.

“They came in, and Oswald actually used the phone to talk to them on the other side of this glass," Rookstool said.

His phone calls were monitored; police listing to what he had to say.

When it came time to finally move Oswald from Dallas police headquarters to the county jail, the chief of police was asked this question by a WFAA reporter: "Chief, do you have any concern for the safety of your prisoner in view of the high feeling of the people of Dallas over the assassination of the president?

No," he replied, "but precautions will be taken of course."

The chief's words would later come back to haunt him. Two days after killing the President Kennedy, Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby.

"Here comes the man from the right, watch him," the reporter narrated. "Fires the gun. Oswald slumps to the floor."

The sally port where he was gunned down looks almost the same today.

Rookstool took WFAA to the area, "They literally took him and dragged him back in here until an ambulance could get here."

Oswald was rushed to Parkland Hospital where he died an hour-and-a-half later.

He went through the same entrance that President Kennedy was rushed through two days before.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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