JFK Assassination Witness Speaks Out For First Time

Patricia Didelot

JFK's assassination had many witnesses, but one never spoke about the chaos and confusion that followed the President's killing; Until this year.

In an exclusive interview with CBS Miami, retired Dallas police officer R.C. Nelson is talking about what he saw and heard after the JFK assassination for the very first time.

Nelson says he and J.D. Tippit were the only two officers assigned to the south district of the city on November 22, 1963, with Tippit in charge of the entire Oak Cliff neighborhood.

On a normal day, Nelson says about 10 or 12 officers would cover the area, but due to Kennedy's visit, the police force was focused on the President's whereabouts.

In a chilling account, Nelson says he was on the overpass across from the Texas Book Depository -- the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired his fatal shots -- when he heard gun fire.

The police dispatcher almost immediately reported that shots were fired and then there was pandemonium.

Nelson didn't know it at the time, but those shots were the ones that Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired to assassinate the President as his motorcade went down Dealy Plaza in Dallas.

The retired officer says he was at the scene within two minutes and asked a motorcycle patrolman what had happened.

"Somebody shot and killed Kennedy. He was up there (pointing to book depository). I saw the rifle in the window when I looked up."

Texas book depository

When Nelson called a superior asking how to proceed, he was to told to just stay in place to supervise the area.

Shortly after JFK's assassination, a second call came in informing officers of another shooting. This time the victim was Nelson's partner, J.D. Tippit. The two were not paired together that day.

Nelson described officer Tippit as 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 official reports indicate that Tippit stopped Lee Harvey Oswald as he walked in the Oak Cliff area, just minutes after the Dallas Police Department broadcast a description of the JFK shooting suspect over police radio.

Nelson says he can't imagine Tippit pulling Oswald over. He believes that things happened the other way around and Oswald flagged Tippit over.

Lee Harvey Oswald killed officer J.D. Tippit and fled the scene, according to the official accounts.

"I think he (Oswald) was amazed that he wasn't arrested after the shooting. The book depository was covered with cops and he walks out! He didn't appear to have a plan. He couldn't go home. So he hails a cab and then gets on a bus."

"While we were preparing to go into the library, we heard someone had gone into the Texas (movie) theater without paying," Nelson recalls. "It was about three blocks away and we converged on the Texas theater."

The movie theater was only two blocks away from where J.D. Tippit was shot by Oswald.

He arrived at the back entrance of the theater first, but then went to the front and found three police officers, Nick McDonald, C.T. Walker, and Charles Harrison were bringing Oswald into the lobby.

"Apparently, Oswald hit McDonald, then pulled a gun on him and one of the other (cops) knocked the gun away," R.C. Nelson says. "That's when McDonald punched Oswald. Both of them had bumps on their heads. I watched as Oswald came out of the theater in handcuffs."

That is not where the JFK assassination and Nelson's connection to it ended.

Two days later, as the nation tried to come to terms with the death of the President, Nelson was assigned to city hall's basement main door entrance.

Oswald was set to be moved from city hall, where he was held, to county jail through the basement under heavy police protection.

As officers were going through the basement Nelson once again heard shots ring out as he stood 20-feet away from the spot in which Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald.

Nelson remembers seeing Ruby bent over, as police officers tried to subdue him and someone yelled, "Get his gun!"

"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."

Lee Harvey Oswald assassination

In new revelations, never heard before, Nelson shares what happened right before Ruby shot Oswald, according to CBS Miami.

A decoy car with plain dressed officers was brought in to distract the media, "they drove up the north ramp which was actually the entry ramp into the basement and drove around the block," Nelson said.

According to Nelson's account, Lieutenant Sam Pierce said Ruby walked right by the decoy car and walked down the north ramp into the basement.

Shortly after the shooting, however, Nelson was told Dallas Chief of Police Jesse Curry wanted to see him.

The chief told Nelson, "R.C., this isn't going to be held against you with all the TV cameras that were coming into the basement."

Nelson believes the Chief thought Ruby had gone past him:

"You can tell them anything you want, but Ruby didn't come by me!" Nelson told his boss.

Over the following year, the Warren Commission was established to investigate JFK's assassination as well as Lee Harvey Oswald's involvement in it.

R.C. Nelson was never contacted to testify.

"I thought it was kind of strange, because all during the Warren Commission hearings, no one knew how Ruby got into the basement," Nelson said.

Nelson says several authors have contacted him and he has been accused by some of being involved in a conspiracy, which he denies.

As to why he decided to speak about the assassination of JFK now, he says, "I want my family to have something recorded so my great-grand kids will know the real facts."

Friday, November 22, marks the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination on a beautiful fall day in Dallas, Texas, an event that changed the course of American history forever.