Our Hidden History discussed the murder of Dallas Police officer JD Tippit with attorney and author Bill Simpich. Bill breaks down the shooting of Tippit, the arrest of Oswald, and role of specific Dallas Police officers in the events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
We also discussed the upcoming mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, scheduled for November 16th and 17th, 2017 in Houston, Texas. More information about the mock trial can be found at capa-us.org.
Transcript has been lightly edited for grammar and flow
OHH Okay. Bill Simpich is an attorney and anti-war activist. He's been practicing law for 35 years now. He's worked on several important political cases. He's been in court against both the FBI and the CIA: against the FBI in a case where two political activists were the victims of a car bombing and against the CIA for their involvement in Contra drug trafficking. He's been involved in cases against the Bush administration for their civil liberties clamp down, and he's worked on cases of police shootings in the Bay Area.
He's also worked more recently to make sure votes were counted properly in the California Democratic primary. He's written on political assassinations in the '60s such as the murders of Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, CIA attempts on the life of Fidel Castro, and on the assassination of John Kennedy about which he's written a book [available for free] called State Secret and a series of articles called "The Twelve Who Built the Oswald Legend". [For more on these topics, see Our Hidden History's previous interview with Bill, "Secret Operations in the United States and their Effects").
So thank you, Bill, for talking. We're going to talk tonight about the Tippit case. We're going to focus on that because you made a very, very interesting talk at the Assassination Archive and Research Center Conference on the Warren Commission Report in 2014. So I thought you know a lot about that. I thought it'd be interesting.
Bill Simpich Yeah. I'm looking forward to talking about the Tippit story. Quite a saga.
OHH Yeah, it really is. Do you want to ... Do you want to give us kind of the lay of the land and explain the basic story to us? There's a bunch of really interesting points that you have about Officer Westbrook of the Dallas Police -- the two wallets -- but maybe you can kind of give us the overview of things. Then we can kind of dig into some of the individual issues.
Bill Simpich Sounds good. In a nutshell, the Tippit case has never been properly investigated. They say that about the Kennedy case and they're right, but this one is a whole 'nother level of confusion. I think, frankly, much of it is because it happened in Dallas. Dallas Police are powerful, and were cowboys. Then certainly - I can't speak about them now. I think people were genuinely scared to even talk about the efficacy of their investigation.
The overview I got is that to understand the Kennedy assassination, the best place, I think, to dig in is between 12:30 and 2:00 in the afternoon. Because that's the period where Oswald's movements and Tippit's movements are highly contested. I would suggest there's a reason why because what happens during that period of time is nothing short of an incredible series of chases. The question that I pose is whether or not anybody fired from the sixth floor at all and certainly whether Oswald fired from the sixth floor. I'm willing to believe that people posed with guns. I'm not convinced that anybody fired a gun out from that floor. I certainly don't believe that Oswald was one of them.
Then the drama moves to where he lives which was over in Oak Cliff. Now if you're ever in Dallas and you take a look at the map, you go "Gosh." Where Oswald lived was like miles away in Oak Cliff from the sixth floor. But the wrinkle is that you can get from downtown Dallas to the Oak Cliff neighborhood in less than five minutes. Then and now. Because there's a big ol' highway that just goes -- boom -- right from the area of the Depository.
That's what's kind of crazy about it because there's a river called the Trinity River that separates Dallas proper from the immediate suburbs such as Oak Cliff. It's a big river valley, if you will. The way you cross it is on a highway. They really call it a viaduct. You're crossing over the water. That's where Tippit was parked. Did you know that? Right at the end of the viaduct as you enter into Oak Cliff. And Tippit had his car parked right at a gas station right where you get off the viaduct and enter Oak Cliff proper.
For the life of me, this is where things really tried to stall in the investigation of the assassination as far as I'm concerned because Bill Turner who just passed away recently -- William Turner -- was an ex-FBI agent who dove into this case as soon as it happened. He worked this case and others like the RFK case for many years. He worked with Jim Garrison, you name it. [FBI Director J. Edgar] Hoover hated him. He hated Hoover. They had a parting of ways before the assassination.
Turner interviewed five people who either worked at the gas station or lived around that neck of the woods. They knew ... Several of them knew Tippit. They knew who the cop was. That was not the first time he had parked his car. He used it as a lookout. That's what I believe he was doing that day. He was looking for Oswald. In fact, Joe McBride, who wrote I think the best book on the subject recently [Into The Nightmare by Joseph McBride], interviewed Tippit's father before he passed away. Tippit's father told the writer that he, Tippit's father, was told by a Dallas cop [inaudible] that, in fact, Tippit was looking for Oswald that day. I mean that's quite a thing.
OHH Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bill Simpich If this was before Oswald was captured, this was before anybody knew his identity, why was Tippit looking for Oswald? So that's amazing information.
OHH Now who-
Bill Simpich Amazing information.
OHH Who said that Tippit was looking for Oswald?
Bill Simpich Tippit's father.
OHH Tippit's father.
Bill Simpich Tippit's father told Joe McBride, the author of this incredible book on Tippit called Into the Nightmare. McBride spent about 30 years investigating this case. This is what he was told from Tippit's own father before he passed away.
Bill Simpich Tippit was, in fact, looking for Oswald at the time that he died. Did Tippit and Oswald ever meet? Not that I know. I don't think so. I don't think they ever met. I think what happened next is a case of mistaken identity at the very best and collusion and fraud at the worst.
Here's what happened next. If I can take it kind of slow, I think that's the best way to do this. What happened next was that Tippit abruptly left the gas station. Either he never saw Oswald go by or he saw him go by and lost him because he pulled over a fella named Andrews, and he made him stop his car. He questioned him for a minute. He ran inside the Top Ten record store. I've been in there. I've chatted with the people at the Top Ten. The old phone that was in there is still there today. Tippit ran inside, used the phone -- it wasn't the first time he had done that -- and then ran out again.
Oswald, curiously enough, was seen inside that record store earlier that day, like that morning. Either Oswald or somebody looking at lot like him. There's some kind of game afoot here. Here's a cop who is running in there, can't ... I want to say was on the phone for a few seconds, might have gotten word from somebody, might not have, and runs out again. In any case, Tippit's going full throttle. Then he pulls over to the side of 10th Street. A man who's walking down the street walks over to his car, Tippit's car, and speaks to him, but he speaks to him through the wing window. Tippit doesn't even roll down the window. There's an extra policeman's uniform shirt hanging in the car. What's that for? Nobody knows.
In any case, at some point Tippit gets out of the car, and he's walking towards the front of the car to come around to the man apparently. But he doesn't get any farther than the front of the car because the man pulls out a pistol, and he shoots him one, two, three times. Tippit's on the ground. He steps over Tippit and delivers a coup de grace shot to his head. [Tippit autopsy report].
I would suggest that is the mark of a trained operative which Oswald was not. He got hit with all the bullets, and he made sure he killed the man with a fourth shot directly to the head. That's not an act of somebody who's got anything but cold blood in their veins.
Then the next thing that happened was equally fascinating. The man who does the shooting reloads his pistol on the spot. He scatters the shells on the ground. Now I can understand maybe needing to reload. I don't know that I'd do it there and let people have a better look at you. Okay?
Bill Simpich I certainly don't understand why you would leave the shells, the best evidence of the shooting that would match the bullets, right?
Bill Simpich Then he starts to run away. Then and only then does he start to run away. So now he sprinkled the scene with the shells which would be the best evidence of the killing. The shooter then jogs away. One or two people try to follow him. They're unsuccessful. There's a merry chase with lots of Dallas cops who come on the scene.
What I should point out at this juncture is at the inception of the cops that are on the scene, the first cop who arrives is a fellow named Kenneth Croy. Kenneth Croy is in plainclothes, and yet somebody unknown walks up to him and says "I found this at the scene," and it's a wallet. The wallet's got the ID of Oswald and someone named Alek Hidell. Croy says he has no idea who the witness was. Well I think, frankly, that Croy was in on the whole thing because you'll see why in a minute just where the two wallets thing comes into bold relief.
More officers come on the scene. Croy's boss, Sergeant Owens, and a fellow who really should not be on the scene it at all, a fellow who's head of personnel, a fellow named Captain "Pinky" Westbrook. Westbrook had been the head of personnel for many years. He's also in plainclothes, by the way, giving orders while in plainclothes. Westbrook is a is a curious case because he had access to all of the personnel files of all of the Dallas Police. So he's in a position of great power. He's also the head of Internal Affairs. He's the one who decides whether somebody is brought up on disciplinary charges as well. So in terms of hiring, firing, disciplinary, you name it, and access to people's most private information, he's got it all.
His second in command that month is a guy who's recently been transferred to his department, a fellow named Jerry Hill. Jerry Hill is an officer who was in the TV business before he became a police officer.
OHH In the TV business.
Bill Simpich TV, television. He was a reporter. So he knows public relations. He knows how to communicate with the public. Jerry Hill and Westbrook are on all the scenes of this assassination. Jerry Hill runs up to the sixth floor within minutes after the shooting, and he's the one who magically discovers the shells and the paper bag on the scene. The paper bag, there's no photograph of this paper bag at all. The shells are cold. They find a gun. The gun is cold. Nobody ever tests the gun to see if it's been shot recently. All signs -- I mention this at length -- to my belief is I don't think this gun was fired at all that day.
OHH Now you're talking about the rifle.
Bill Simpich The rifle, the rifle they found [on the sixth floor of the Texas School Depository Building]. The same is true with the revolver that they eventually found on Oswald. I'll get to that in a moment. But Jerry Hill runs from the scene at the Depository, and then he's helping Westbrook look for shells. He's the one who finds the shells, and he's the one who ... then he and Westbrook wind up running off to the theater, but before they get to the theater - I want to return to the scene of the crime. Because they've taken Tippit's body away. They've got this wallet that appeared from nowhere. All the witnesses who were right on the scene at the time of Tippit's shooting and immediately afterwards say they never saw a wallet on the ground.
So where'd this wallet come from? It came from the sky. It was delivered to the scene. A fellow named Bob Barrett who's still alive, an FBI man, he was interviewed on television not that long ago. He says that Westbrook turned to him and said "You ever heard of a guy named Lee Oswald?" And then he said "You ever heard of a guy named Alek Hidell?" He said no and no to both those things. He's looking through the wallet, and you can actually see the wallet. It's filmed and on television. You can see Westbrook pawing through this wallet. You can't read the Oswald/Hidell stuff, but you've got this FBI man's word for it that that's what he was told.
Then we get a call all of a sudden saying "You should come out to the theater. We got somebody in the theater." So Westbrook runs to the theater scene and he takes charge. Meanwhile, Jerry Hill and his buddies go up to the balcony. They're there to make the pinch. They storm into the balcony, and there's a lot of schoolkids up there. There's a wild fracass. Meanwhile, they see somebody downstairs, some other cops and Westbrook's [inaudible] see somebody downstairs. That's the Oswald that we know.
Apparently what happened was this. This fellow named Johnny Brewer, a shoe salesman, said he saw somebody hiding in the shadows and then went running into the theater. The door they went into, the only place they could get into was the balcony. Then the gal who was ticket taker called the cops at Johnny Brewer's behest and said "Somebody came running in here." All of a sudden, you've got 25 cops at the theater. How do 25 cops come to the theater just because one guy is hiding in a balcony or ran into a theater? I mean it doesn't really make a lot of sense that they were so certain that this was the right guy, but they were. That's what they did.
Bill Simpich In any case, what's so strange about is that ... A couple things. One is Hill and all of his buddies went storming down the balcony so fast that two of them had sprained ankles by the time they got down to the bottom. Oswald, meanwhile, jumped up and said that "this is it" and allegedly pulled a revolver out from his waistband. Okay? He may have done that; he may not have done that. I'm not sure which way that goes.
What I am sure about is a couple things. One is that there's a couple reports saying that Oswald was taken out of the balcony which is not true. He was actually taken out the front door. There's also an eyewitness who for 20, 25 years -- he's a man who worked in the area -- said he saw Oswald being taken out from the fire escape in the back. Only in the '90s did he learn that Oswald was taken out the front. I think what happened was the real Oswald was in the theater the whole time waiting for some kind of information from whoever he was getting information from. Then the second guy drew attention to Oswald or somebody who looked a lot like him by forcing his way into the theater without paying and being very obvious. That's what brought the police around.
So I think there was somebody who was impersonating Oswald that got taken out the back. I think there's confusion on the cops' side. I think they were expecting to see Oswald from the back and kill him at that time because he almost got himself killed downstairs. But he kept screaming "police brutality" and this and that. He may have even pulled out the gun himself, but he clocked ... He punched the officer right in the face and got into a clinch with him. So it would have been very hard to kill because it was all in close quarters.
OHH Now was it ... was it full? Were there a lot of people, just a lot of regular people attending the movie.
Bill Simpich [inaudible]. There's about 20 people in the theater. To top it off, Westbrook told one of the fellows "Okay. Make a list of all the people in the theater so we can interview them." The guy promptly lost the list so we only have like two witnesses from inside the theater. Maybe three: one of the guys who worked there and two people who were sitting there.
The guy who worked there, a guy named Butch Burroughs said he sold popcorn to Oswald right about one o'clock which was before Tippit even got shot. Another fellow named Jack Davis said he was sitting next to Oswald during the beginning credits of the theater ... of the showing of the movie which was at 1:15 which was right when the ... moments after Tippit got shot. So I don't think, quite frankly, that Tippit ... that Oswald was anywhere near Tippit scene ever. I think it was somebody else. Then attention was brought to everybody's attention to draw the police to the theater where Oswald was.
OHH You said 25 cops went into the theater. We know that kind of most of the cops were supposed to have been in Dealey Plaza. Where did this whole big gang of cops come from? Do we know? Were they kind of...
Bill Simpich They almost run into the Tippit scene shortly after one o'clock. Remember the assassination is at 12:30. They all come onto the Tippit scene after one o'clock. And with good reason. I mean a fellow cop had been shot dead. To them, to a man -- and I did mean a man because there were very few women in the department -- they'll tell you that they were more upset by the Tippit shooting than they were by the Kennedy shooting. It mean it may be a national and a worldwide tragedy, but for them its a brother officer going down.
I would posit that the Tippit shooting is certainly something that motivated the department to do whatever they had to do to make sure that the man they caught was going to be the man who went down for it. I mean now there's no division of the cops' minds about who the guilty party was at this point. The guy who shot their officer is the guilty party. As far as they're concerned, that guy is Oswald. That's the end of the story.
Oswald was indicted for the Tippit murder before he was indicted for the Kennedy murder.
Bill Simpich That's the way that played out. So the worst of it here is they pick up Oswald, right? Five cops and Oswald jam themselves inside the car. They reach inside Oswald's pocket. What do they supposedly find? A wallet. The wallet supposedly has, again, Oswald's ID and Hidell ID. Now there's two wallets, right? This Hidell ID is very important because this Hidell ID was used to match with the gun, the rifle.
By the morning of the next day, they've got word from Chicago that a rifle was purchased from a mail order place there. They can track the mail order all the way to the Dallas Post Office where all of a sudden they can't ever make sure that it was actually delivered there or that anybody ever picked it up, but it's a mail ordered rifle ordered under the name of Alek Hidell.
So people like my parents, this was the final proof that Oswald was the person who shot the president, and the story was over. Because although you didn't have a photo ID and you didn't have an eyewitness, you've got a mail ordered rifle ordered in the name of the alias of Oswald. It's clear Alek Hidell was his alias. It's clear that Oswald was a photographer and had had some fun making a fake draft card with a photo on it which didn't exist that said Alek Hidell on it. All that was pretty clear.
The thing that's not so clear of course is why would you carry ID like that to an assassination.
OHH You were saying there was one ID that was Oswald and one ID that was Hidell, both in the wallet.
Bill Simpich Right. To top it off, there's now the two wallets: one wallet that was found at the scene [of the Tippit shooting] supposedly and one wallet that was supposedly found in his pocket. Now the wallet that was supposedly found in his pocket could now be found in the archives. The wallet that was supposedly found at the ... The wallet that was filmed at the scene of the [Tippit shooting] crime has disappeared. We still have video footage of it, okay? People had a great time trying to argue about whether it's the same wallet or two different wallets.
You can go either way on it, but I would suggest, like a lot of things in this case, it doesn't matter which conclusion you come to. The important thing is these two wallets are virtually identical. The stories about the two wallets are identical that they had Oswald's ID and Hidell ID in them. Why in the world would an assassin leave his wallet at the crime scene? I mean it just ... It beggars the imagination.
OHH It certainly does.
Bill Simpich Why wouldn't anybody have seen it at the crime scene? Instead it's just handed to a cop and said "This is what I found" from a mysterious witness whose name is not obtained. It's like 20 mysterious witnesses who could have really cleared up what happened in the theater, and then the list was lost so we don't have them. This case is based on phony evidence from top to bottom.
OHH So this wallet was filmed by a TV crew that had shown up at the murder of the Tippit scene. Is that right?
Bill Simpich That's correct.
OHH And then it was shown on TV.
Bill Simpich Yeah. That footage is on YouTube today. You can see the photo examination for yourself if you go to YouTube and see my talk on Captain Westbrook and the Tippit shooting.
OHH Right. And everybody really should watch that. That was a really great talk. So you've got ... Well do you feel like kind of them finding the wallet is the end of the basic scene that you want to paint and we should go over these point by point?
Bill Simpich Yeah. Yeah. No. I think that's a good place to wrap it for now. Let's go back and parse it anyway you want.
OHH Okay. Great. One of the more interesting things that you discussed in your talk was just the original ID that was given to even ... The description that was put out for the police to even look for Oswald. So do you want to ... We've heard forever that it was someone in Dealey Plaza had kind of seen him through the sixth floor window, but you kind of prove that's not correct with documents from Hoover and other people. Do you want to talk about that whole ... The ID.
Bill Simpich Yeah. This is one of the things that got me really going on the whole Kennedy case in terms of writing about it as opposed to reading about it because I was incensed and so angry. The only other person who had really picked up on this was Peter Dale Scott who is a marvelous sleuth in his own right.
There was an ID that was on the radio 15 minutes after Kennedy was shot. It's over the Dallas radio. It says the shooter was 5'10" and 165 pounds. There's a little bit more to it, but that's the essential part of it. Now I was always struck by that. They said it five more times. Where did it come from? It came from a fellow named Herbert Sawyer who was a detective on the scene. He was guarding the back door of the Depository to make sure nobody was running out from there without being checked first. There's the sealed off building [inaudible].
5'10", 165. He was told this by a person. They said "What did he look like?" He said "Well he was white. Not too young, not too old. Not too fat, not too slim. He's kind of average looking." "Okay. So what was his name?" "I don't know." "What did you do with him after you got this statement?" "Oh, I gave him over to one of the sheriffs." "Do you know which Sheriff?" "No." "Did you ever see this man again?" "No."
Was Sawyer implicated in this case? Unclear. Maybe yes, maybe no. Not that important. The important thing was this crazy ID. This ID came from an unknown man who was turned over to the sheriffs. There's a fellow who claims to have been that unknown man, and that man was Howard Brennan. Howard Brennan was a pipe fitter or something like that, a workingman. He claims to have seen the man, but the ID, one, doesn't make any sense and, two, if you go through the records even J. Edgar Hoover didn't believe that the man had seen this guy. The ID doesn't make any sense.
Brennan would have been looking up to the sixth floor. Okay? Now maybe he saw somebody posing with a gun, maybe not. But the important thing is you wouldn't be able to tell whether the person is 5'10" or 165 pounds looking through a window from the street. You'd be lucky to even be able to see the gun much less the person's face. If you say the person's face, you don't see their whole body. You don't see how tall they are. You don't see ... You can't see their weight. The one thing you can tell is the color of their shirt, but we don't have any of that in this description. That's the first thing you see. "He's wearing a white shirt. He's wearing a blue shirt." But there's none of that.
That's a phony ID. I wrote about it in my book at great length. Brennan didn't see Oswald, and he didn't see anybody 5'10", 165 in the window. No. The 5'10", 165 description comes from a description of Oswald. There's only one that you see. Oswald was a smaller guy. He was 5'9", but more importantly when he died, he weighed 126. He would have never weighed more than 135, 140. The 165 was simply too stocky a guy for Oswald.
Where you do see it is you see it back in the Soviet Union. There's a very mysterious description of Oswald that supposedly came from his mother. I don't believe it did, but it says 5'10" and 165. You see this description drifting through intelligence documents. You even see it in Mexico City. In one ... There's two different sets of documents in Mexico City. That's one set. Another set is completely different. It says ... This one describes Oswald as 6', husky, and a completely different description yet again. This 5'10", 165 is an intelligence legend.
Now why all of a sudden are you seeing this intelligence legend being broadcast over the radio? Well I would suggest that whatever happened in the story, whether it was a real person or a fake person, it got translated in a very odd way over the radio. The other thing that's really interesting is all through the Warren Commission, they know that Oswald was described as 5'10", 165. Did they ever think it was strange that the radio was basically repeating what was in the intelligence documents about Oswald? I mean that's more than just coincidence. That's more than just coincidence. Something very strange has happened here.
I personally believe that Sawyer was in the middle of it all. Sawyer wound up having to leave the police department in disgrace. He quit rather than being charged with perjury. That's yet another story. So that 5'10", 165 description is, in my mind, completely phony and illustrates the intelligence fingerprints all around Oswald.
OHH Okay. So you were talking about Sawyer. You've talked about Hill. You've talked about Westbrook. Let's start with ... Maybe we can talk about kind of who you see as the core of maybe the people in the Dallas Police who seem to be guiding events or know a little bit more than they should have. Can we-
Bill Simpich We can start with Westbrook and Hill. Yeah.
OHH Okay. Yeah.
Bill Simpich Those two guys.
OHH Well yeah, it'd like to ... Let's talk about Westbrook, and I especially want to hear what you know more about what he went on to do because you said he went on to even be working with the South Vietnamese police kind of in a very ... We know the CIA used to do training for local police forces in the United States. That kind of became a scandal in the era of Watergate and the Church Committee, but we also saw that local police would end up going - presumably with the CIA training - to places like Vietnam where they would train the police forces of those regimes over there. Do you want to talk about him and his background.
Bill Simpich Well let me start with what I think is the weakest argument first because what you just brought up, not because of any disrespect for you but because we don't have a document-
Bill Simpich ... proving he was a liaison between the CIA and the South Vietnamese police department. This is all hearsay and so it has a ring of truth, but I don't have the document. So I'm always kind of wary of making that claim.
OHH Ah, okay.
Bill Simpich Okay? But I will say this. Westbrook and Hill both approached this case in a very strange way. First off, Westbrook had no business being on the scene in the first place. He had as much business being on the scene as I would. Okay? I was 11 years old at the time. He worked in the personnel beat for Internal Affairs for the police department. He's not ... He has no experience being out there at the crime scene. None. He's not supposed to be doing that work.
Bill Simpich They deferred to him because he was a Captain, but he's not supposed to be there. He's not wearing a uniform. He claims to have just been caught up in events. He walked all the way from the police department to the sixth floor and then jumped in a car and drove to Tippit's scene and then jumped in a car and drove to the theater. Hill is in the same boat on that. Hill actually got to the theater ... got to the Depository with 20 minutes and is like ... You can see him in film. He's like leaping out of another officer's car and running upstairs.
It's kind of problematic why these gentlemen are there at all. Hill is answering to Westbrook. Hill is not a detective. He's just not. He's not supposed to be in there. Of course it was a chaotic scene. How did they even know to go in there? The initial calls that went out are saying they thought the shots came from the overpass, not from the Depository. That came a little bit later.
He went up there and charged up to the top floor with great certainty about his approach. You can see a picture of Hill leaning out the window shouting to the police to bring the crime lab up. So I think, frankly, Luke Mooney claims that he found the shells, but I think that Luke deferred to Hill in this little operation here. It's entirely possible that Hill planted the shells and then said to Luke "Look. Look at this. I'll go back and call the constables." And he did. Then within moments Hill is screaming off and so is Westbrook off to the next scene which ... again, it's understandable that they put themselves in leadership roles immediately at the scenes.
Hill admittedly lied to the Warren Commission in a couple respects. He claimed to have found an automatic shell at the scene, but he didn't admit it til the 1980s when they asked him if he was the person who called in on the 1960s investigation. He says "No, that wasn't me," but he admitted it 20 years later when there was no longer any heat that could be applied to him. Why he called it in as an automatic? It's not a mistake that would be easily made -- at all. Which I talk about at length as well.
The bottom line with Hill and with Westbrook is why were they in leadership positions over and over again on the scene when they're not really supposed to be and why are they giving false information and not admitting information like "Hey, we found a wallet at the crime scene. Hey, it's Oswald's wallet." Why isn't he admitting that? Bob Barrett, the FBI man, asked about this, and he goes "Oh, Bentley called it in." Bentley was a guy who supposedly found it in his pocket. I'll get to Bentley a little bit later. "We didn't want to ..." He apparently just didn't want to screw things up.
Here was the most important investigation in history of the United States, to me at least: the assassination of President Kennedy. They're fibbing about the most important evidence: whether or not there's a wallet that was found at the crime scene and whether or not that wallet had the ID of Oswald and Hidell in it. And they're lying about it. When Bentley ... Barrett was asked a couple of years ago about Bentley's claims that he found it, the wallet, in Oswald's pocket. He goes "Now that's hogwash. That's just not true. I saw it with my own eyes, and that wallet was at the crime scene." I mean here you have the FBI agent calling the guy who was the head of the project, calling Bentley, calling him a liar.
Then you've got a situation where at the theater there's a scuffle with Oswald and the arresting officer. Jerry Hill, the guy who winds up with the revolver ... And Jerry is claiming that there is a mark on the bullet that shows that Oswald tried to fire the gun and shoot the officer inside the theater. Then, again, it's the FBI who is called to testify to the Warren Commission. He goes "Actually, that's not true. There is no such mark on the bullet." So Gerry Hill has lied yet again about something really fundamental to the case about whether or not Oswald tried to kill an officer in the act of being apprehended.
Hill is not trustworthy to me at all and neither is Westbrook, but it gets a little bit worse because at 5:00, 5:30 Jerry Hill gets on national television. He's the guy who proceeds ... And he's good at telling the story. He was a trained TV reporter, right? He tells the entire story of Lee Harvey Oswald in the Soviet Union as a defector and then marrying this lady, Marina, a Russian woman from Minsk. Now he's telling this to the entire world. This guy's just a beat officer working in personnel. Somebody asks "Jerry, how in the world did you get all that information?" He's miles ahead of ABC and NBC and CBS. He's like "Oh, I got it all from Westbrook."
Bill Simpich That's quite a thing. That's quite a thing. He says he got it from Westbrook about 3:30 and he tells the story at 5:00, and then goes to his little church group at 6:00. He pretends to be as befuddled as everybody else. I mean he's just changed the course of history by telling the world the background of the assassin, the background that major news agencies still were trying to catch up on.
It's an incredible story. I don't believe it. I don't think there's any reason anybody should believe that Hill was anything but a witting player in this whole drama. I think he was a witting player before it happened. I don't think this is just serendipity. I think this is part of a scheme to make sure that the "right" person is brought down.
OHH Now do we know what happened to ... Do we know what happened to either of these guys kind of in the rest of their lives? I mean I know it sounds like that Office of Public Security [sic] (the unit was called the Office of Public Safety) thing is a little not very hard. Do we know anything about kind of what happened to these guys after the fact.
Bill Simpich Well they certainly weren't disciplined.
Bill Simpich They certainly weren't punished. Westbrook was put in charge of trying to figure out what happened to Jack Ruby when, in fact, one of the people who was helping hide Ruby's body in the basement before the shooting was this guy Kenneth Croy, the same guy who came up with the wallet at the crime scene. They were ... There's people who believe that Jerry Hill was in the car that picked up Oswald at one o'clock if Oswald ever ... Assuming Oswald went back to his home and got his revolver which is the story we've been told because one of the numbers that the lady gave matched the car that Hill was in.
Westbrook assured everybody that it wasn't a Dallas police car that was involved in that.
OHH Now this was... This was when ... This was the owner of the boardinghouse where Oswald lived.
Bill Simpich Right.
OHH She heard the horn honk.
Bill Simpich Right. Exactly. Westbrook never revealed that one of the numbers of the car that supposedly picked up Oswald was the very car that Jerry Hill was in that day. He didn't reveal his conflict of interest during [inaudible]. He never mentioned Jerry Hill's name.
Westbrook left the force and went allegedly to Vietnam shortly afterwards. Jerry stayed with the force and had a pretty humdrum life, was occasionally interviewed. I really am very critical, frankly, of the research community for giving those guys such a big ol' pass. There's only a couple people who were tough enough to try to get Jerry to give interviews. Jerry did give interviews occasionally, and he was very evasive. He spent most of his time just saying what a good guy he was, what good guys were on the Dallas Police Department. He was very careful to not commit himself to a lot of that.
One of the things that troubled me the most is that other fellow that I really look at very carefully is this guy Paul Bentley. Bentley was with Hill in the balcony. He was one of the guys who hurt his leg so badly running down the stairs. Bentley was the head of the polygraph department. Bentley was the guy who had supposedly found the wallet in Oswald's pocket which I don't believe happened. Certainly the FBI didn't believe it happened.
Bentley was also the guy who interviewed Buell Frazier, Oswald's buddy at the Texas Depository, about whether Oswald had brought in a big bag. Frazier said the bag he had was very small and couldn't possibly have fit a rifle. Frazier was polygraphed that day, and apparently he got a clean slate because he was sent home without any charges that night. For the rest of his life, Bentley denied ever having polygraphed Frazier even though other people on the team admitted it. Even though Frazier said "I was polygraphed," they couldn't find any documents about the polygraph and Bentley would never say a word about it. He said "I just don't remember anything about him being polygraphed at all."
Bentley, I think, was a literally a bent officer. I think he was lying throughout. I think those three, to me, are in the core of what happened in terms of framing Oswald as a suspect that day.
OHH Now what was the threat they didn't ... I don't know if ... Do you know about the confession they tried to get Frazier to sign or threatened him with.
Bill Simpich The problem with that story is it's apocryphal. It all comes from Frazier.
OHH Ah, okay.
Bill Simpich We don't have any documents. We have a lot of bluster about how Will Fritz tried to get him to sign it, and he threatened to punch him. An Buell said "Well I'll punch you" several times and "I'll get some good licks in before...". It's all bravado.
I'll tell you my problem with this whole piece of the story. I think Buell Frazier was scared, and I think ... I don't know if you've ever heard this story, but I do like to tell it. It's quick. Buell Frazier and Oswald didn't have much in common. One thing they did have in common was they liked to talk about rifles. Okay? They did. Buell had a rifle. He had what's called ... And Oswald allegedly had a rifle although I don't know which rifle it was. Buell Frazier had what's called an Enfield .303.
What's so interesting is that at two o'clock in the afternoon of the assassination, NBC picked up the story saying "they found a rifle in the Depository and the rifle was an Enfield .303". That's the moment where Buell Frazier just kind of disappeared from the map. He just literally ... Nobody knows where Buell Frazier was between two and six o'clock. Buell says that he was with his stepfather in the hospital, just like left the scene of the assassination and went to visit his stepfather who he hated, by the way. He had a terrible relationship with him. He was found there with him at six o'clock that night, but I don't think he was there at two o'clock.
I think he was there with his sister shuddering, saying "Oh my god. Somebody's trying to frame me for the assassination of the President. What am I going to do?" I think they talked about it for an hour and a half, and then his sister went across the street when the cops were talking to Ruth Payne who lived right across the street. She engaged them in conversation and told them her little piece of the story which she knew wasn't very much, but she didn't tell them where Buell was. We've never had a satisfactory statement from Buell where he was between two and six o'clock that evening.
I think Buell was quick rightly scared for his life. I think they made up that story, quite frankly, about him having the small bag. They didn't want to get caught up with knowing that Oswald had carried a gun so they made sure the story went so that the bag was much too small for a rifle to conceal. I would guess that's how that played out.
Well it turned out that that story got run on Jerry Hill's old station. Then that got picked up by NBC, and then within an hour, they retracted the story mysteriously. Nobody knows where that story came from, and nobody knows how it was retracted. We all know you can hear it yourself if you listen to a full copy of the tapes of the assassination that day. This Enfield .303 story just appears right out of nowhere.
OHH Interesting. And that's the ... I guess that would be the third rifle that they heard about because you have the Mauser that was-
Bill Simpich The Mauser, the Enfield, and finally the Carcano. Now oddly ... Well some people think that they found a Mauser on the sixth floor. I don't think they did. I think they found a Manlicher the whole time. I think that there might have been some chit chat among the officers with the personnel inside the building about the Mauser because, in fact, one of the heads of the building brought in a Mauser to showoff a couple days before the shooting. So I think there might have even been some jiggery pokery where people said "Well we found a Mauser. We're trying to get somebody else to say something about what they knew."
Because I don't think all the cops there were on the take by any means. There was just a few bent cops, and then cops are free of course to use information they pick up to try to get other people to talk by telling fibs. So I think the Mauser story may have been circulated simply to see if somebody would cough up some more information about a Mauser because they had heard a Mauser had been at the building that week. Nothing more.
OHH Interesting. Sorry. Where was I? Okay. So you want to ... I mean we've talked a lot about the two wallets, but do you want to talk about how the cover up more of that? Because it's interesting to figure out even ... Nobody talks about that other wallet for decades and decades, and then suddenly it appears in Hosty's book and in well, I guess, the videos rediscovered. Do you want to talk about how this kind of came to the front and how that initial wallet got "lost".
Bill Simpich Well that's the problem, isn't it? Because nobody mentioned it for 32 years til Hosty stuck it in his book in 1995. I'm cynical enough to think Hosty put it in his book because he wanted to sell books, and he knew he had a piece of dirt so he thought he'd insert it in there. I've never really completely known what to make out of Hosty other than that I don't think he was in on it, the crime, but I think he knew more than he was supposed to know on his own admission.
I think he used ... He decided to release that little piece of information as a way to try to vindicate himself in the ... Frankly, in the research community because the research community held him in very low esteem because he had lied in the past about Oswald and his relationship with Oswald and the fact that he'd destroyed documents the day of the assassination or the day of Oswald's death supposedly at the order of his boss who said "You've got a note from Oswald before the assassination. Oswald ..." He'd gone by Oswald's ... Mrs. Oswald and Mrs. Payne and said he wanted to talk to Lee in the weeks before the assassination.
He was doing his job because Oswald was a redefector to the United States. He had been arrested in New Orleans. It made sense for them to follow up and see what Oswald was up to because he worked the subversive beat... Most of his people curiously enough were right wing who looked at, not left wingers. One thing I've thought about is that it's not impossible that he thought Oswald was a right winger disguised as left wing. That's not all that important though at the end of the day.
The important thing is that Hosty stuck it in his book, and that's when people started thinking about this wallet story really seriously for the first time. That film had always been around about these guys looking at a wallet, but they'd never considered the wallet that important until they realized that the wallet was allegedly Oswald's wallet. They started talking to more cops, and the cops were willing to talk a little bit about what they knew about the wallet. It all grew like topsy in the last 20 years, the wallets.
OHH Now there's one other character that you talk about in ... You briefly talk about him in your talk, but then Don Thomas [AARC conference presentation], another researcher, had kind of talked a little bit more and added a really interesting wrinkle about his station wagon being seen around the scene of the Tippit shooting. I don't want to screw this story up -- it's a long story -- but do you want to talk about Mather.
Bill Simpich Mather? [laughs] So the Carl Mather story is a complete doozy. You got to keep in mind that did the work on it went on to become the mayor of Dallas if you can believe it, a fellow named Wes Wise. Okay? So this not exactly a not well-documented story. This is a very well-documented story.
OHH Oh, okay.
Bill Simpich The way the story goes is this. Carl Mather was friends with J.D. Tippit. In fact, the story is that Mather and Tippit were together at, I believe, Tippit's home that morning. Now Tippit is assassinated 45 minutes after Kennedy, more or less. Somewhere between 1:00 and 1:15 in the afternoon. At two o'clock, a mechanic -- who used to be a cop I might add which makes sense when you hear what's about to happen -- sees this guy in a red car parked near his garage. He's looking kind of shifty. There's no reason for him to be there. So he walks up to him to try to talk to him, and the guy drives away. Because he drives away so suddenly, he wrote down his plates, the mechanic did.
Then Wes Wise, the reporter who becomes the mayor, talks to this mechanic who used to be a cop, and the mechanic-cop turns over the plates to Wes Wise. Wes Wise does a run on the plates, and the make comes up to be Mather's car which is kind of strange because Mather's car is a blue car, not a red car. But apparently the plates got taken off and put on this red car. To top it off, the fellow who ... The mechanic-cop who called in the plates said "I'll tell you right now. If you ask me who that guy was driving the car, I'd say it was Lee Oswald." I guess that was impossible because he was under arrest at that point. That was right at the time Oswald got arrested.
The story goes that Mather lent his car or his plates at least to somebody who was like an Oswald kind of double. I mean it's remarkable that they got the plates. Mather was deeper in the story because now Tippit's dead. Mather and his wife go to the Tippit home, and they are the ones who comfort Mrs. Tippit. To make it even stranger, Mrs. Mather goes off and leaves Mr. Mather with the grieving widow, and the thinking is that Mr. Mather was needed to handle the poor distraught widow while Mrs. Mather went off to deal with the phone. Whoever heard of the husband being the one to stay and comfort the grieving widow? It's usually women comforting women-
Bill Simpich ... not this kind of thing. So it's kind of strange to put it mildly. It gets a little stranger when you think about where Mather worked which was at Collins Radio. Collins Radio was deeply intelligence-connected. In fact, they were the shop that made the radios that were used by the CIA. Collins Radio has a long military intelligence connection.
Carl Mather is a person of interest, and we're going to see a few documents hopefully this year about the Carl Mather story. I believe he was given immunity in order to talk to the House Select Committee of Assassinations at all. We may learn a little bit more about that in October [with the 2017 ARRB releases]. The Carl Mather story is fascinating.
OHH And those have been held back for documents that-
Bill Simpich Yeah. Yeah. The interview with Mather, I believe, has been held back. So I think we'll get to see it in October. I don't know how much we'll really learn to be honest. Maybe a little bit more than we know now.
OHH That's interesting.
Bill Simpich Wes Wise, he ... Wes Wise has never let go of the story. After he became mayor of Dallas, he just stopped beating the bushes the way he did in years past. I think it was because he felt hopeless. That's the way I heard it secondhand. He just felt like nobody was really interested in getting to the bottom of the case among those in authority that had power. So they really left it for the citizens and the research community to piece together all these jigsaw pieces over the last 50 odd years.
OHH When was we mayor just out of curiosity.
Bill Simpich 1970s.
OHH Oh, okay. Okay.
Bill Simpich Interim mayor if I recall.
OHH Okay. So are you still good to talk a little more?
Bill Simpich Yeah.
OHH Okay. If we talk about ... When you made your talk, the first question was: what was the motive for the Tippit killing? I know that ... I just want to get your thoughts. I know in Joseph McBride's book ... I haven't read the book, but I've heard him talk. He was saying that he heard word that Tippit could have been involved in narcotics trafficking. I wonder if we can talk a little bit about Tippit himself, what you know, and then what kind of ...
This is something I feel like you probably know about because you've worked a lot on police cases and CIA corruption cases. What was kind of the scene of the Dallas Police Department? What corrupting influences were there? What ... We know Dallas was kind of a horribly racist town. I heard something that only 1% of the African-Americans in Dallas were registered to vote even in 1963. What were some of the forces at play kind of within the Dallas police and maybe with Tippit being involved in the same underworld as maybe not directly, but as Jack Ruby was part of just kind of the underworld of Dallas and how that interacted with the Dallas Police Department.
Bill Simpich Well it's funny. Kenneth Croy, the dirty cop I talked about earlier who found the wallet supposedly, he supposedly during the moments between Kennedy's assassination and the Tippit assassination, that hour ... He was having lunch with his estranged wife at a place called Austin's Barbecue which was a known place for the Bircher crowd and the Klan crowd. Tippit worked security there. He moonlighted there. So he was familiar with that milieu certainly.
I don't know anything about narcotics stuff. I don't know whether he was a clean cop or a dirty cop. I think he was a right wing cop for what it's worth. I don't know that he was in on the hit or not. I'm not, at this point, casting any dispersions on Tippit's character. My thinking -- and this is just my thinking -- is that I think Tippit was supposed to die. Some people ... And I've thought about it. It might have been a busted up operation, and they wound up killing him because things had gone wrong. Okay?
But in any case, the net effect of the Tippit assassination, as I said earlier, was to pull 100% of the cops to be 100% in terms of bringing down Oswald by any means fair or foul because a cop is now dead. It really heightened the contradictions and made an already crazy situation 10 times crazier. That's my thinking. I don't know if Tippit was a good cop or a bad cop, but my personal hunch is that he was doomed to die.
OHH You are going to do ... In Houston in November, you're going to be part of the mock trial [of Lee Harvey Oswald]. Is that right.
Bill Simpich Yeah. Larry Schnapf and I are going to do like what I call the forensic evidence. We're going to examine the bullets and the shells and the rifle and all the minutia, and sort of less ... There's also an attorney as well as a pathologist, Bob Tanenbaum who was one of the HSCA attorneys. They're going to do their piece of the case that revolves around the autopsy which is a big subject that also covers a lot of ground. We'll be up against a prosecutor from Notre Dame, and we've got a Texas judge.
The Notre Dame prosecutor is very motivated because his dad actually met Kennedy the night before his assassination in Fort Worth or in Houston. We'll be doing this in Houston. So somewhere out there is where they met. It's always been a big thing in their family. We're all pleased to be working together. At the same time, we'll be trying to really treat this as a very serious enterprise in terms of making sure we get the evidence right. My hope, frankly, is that we'll be able to convert the prosecutor and the judge by the time this case is over.
I don't think anybody ... Only in the last 20 years have we had enough access to the evidence to show just how phony it is. Our predecessors in researching this case didn't have the access to the massive amount of documents we have now thanks to the Oliver Stone movie.
Bill Simpich In case your listeners don't know, when the Oliver Stone movie got released, Congress was so outraged and the public was so outraged that they wrote Congress causing Congress to release like six million pages of documents that had been withheld for decades on this case. So we know a heck of a lot more about this case than we did in 1991 which is when the movie came out.
OHH Right. Even the files from the House Select Committee, I guess, which was kind of initially ... Those had even been put aside for 50 years.
Bill Simpich That's right. It was a travesty. When you did an investigation, all you were doing was preventing the public and investigators from seeing the most important files.
OHH Kind of, I guess, that would be the opposite of the ... I guess looking back, the Warren Commission probably felt they made a huge mistake by releasing the [twenty-six] volumes. So that's the exact opposite of what they did for the HSCA. They kept them all-
Bill Simpich Well they ... Well it's funny. They did the 12 volumes for the HSCA as well, but I think you're right. I think they regretted releasing those volumes at the end of the day. They were in between a rock and a hard place. They had to do something to keep people quiet. Allen Dulles's thinking was "Let's give them written documents. Nobody in this country reads anyway." To tell you, Allen Dulles wasn't far from wrong. I mean I am somebody who does love to read, and most people don't consider this kind of reading a priority.
OHH Right. Is there anything else that you want to add onto what we talked about about the Tippit case? Is there anything we didn't-
Bill Simpich No, I think we did a pretty good job covering it. There's no reason to go into minutia. I think we hit the broad strokes. I don't think that people want to be dragged into the weeds. I'll want to keep the broad highlights in everybody's mind. Two wallets of Oswald's were found at the scene: one supposedly at the murder scene of Tippit and the other at the theater. That doesn't make a lick of sense. Why in the world would he carry Oswald and Hidell cards if he was going to deny killing the President?
Of course, the Hidell card was absolutely essential because the rifle that killed the President was ordered under the name of Hidell. Why would you create a paper trail that connected you to the assassination of the President and then deny it instead of taking credit in front of the whole world? It doesn't make a lick of sense unless you're being set up. The same is true with the death of Tippit. He denied having anything to do with the death of Tippit just like he denied having to do with the death of Kennedy, and I think he told the truth.
OHH Right. I mean there seems to be no obvious escape plan for him, right? There was not much money in the wallet.
Bill Simpich No. No. He didn't have a bus ticket. Now the question, the 64 dollar question was why did he go to the theater. I don't think he went to the theater to hide although that's a possibility. I think he went to the theater because he was supposed to meet somebody. In fact, he had a half of a card of the place where his mother worked at Cox's in Fort Worth. He had a half of a card in his possession. I think he was supposed to meet somebody who had the other half. That's an old trade craft thing.
Oswald always wanted to be a spy. Whether he was or not is another thing, but he wanted to be a spy. I think he thought of himself as a spy. Who he was spying for is one of the great questions, but I think he thought that he was working with the US government. Whether it was FBI or ONI or CIA, it doesn't really much matter. That's what he thought he was doing. He thought he was ... I think he thought he was helping. I think when he went to the theater he was trying to find his contact who he was supposed to meet in terms of any emergency and try to get some guidance.
OHH I mean your best sense of his role is basically just the absolute patsy. He was-
Bill Simpich Yeah. I think he was an absolute patsy. I think he got completely set up. So now why in the world would he be dicking around at lunchtime? Why in the world would he run home to get his revolver? I mean what kind of operation is that? After you've killed the President, run home and get your gun? That's a little late, isn't it? And leave a rifle that ties you and not even throw away the ID that ties you? I mean none of it makes any sense.
I think he ... When you read the description of his reaction as the evidence started dropping in on him throughout the day, he gets more and more ashen and less and less and less cocky.
OHH Right. Yeah. No. Some of those photos of him are pretty heartbreaking after you kind of see-
Bill Simpich Yeah.
OHH ... at the beginning he's very...
Bill Simpich He's very "I stand on my rights." Then he realizes the ground's been cut out from under him.
OHH Right. Well it was a ... There is in one of those speeches by Fidel Castro (Speech of Nov. 23rd, 1963 & Speech of Nov. 27th, 1963) where he talks about Oswald, he makes a point that if you do something like this, you either have a plan to escape and ... If you're not going to admit it, you have a plan to escape or if you do it because you're a fanatic, you're going to say "Yes, of course I did it." Oswald is definitely a-
Bill Simpich He did neither.
Bill Simpich He did neither. That's the tip off. It doesn't make a lick of sense unless you've been set up.
OHH Cool. Well I think that's a good place to end. Yeah. No. We're all looking forward. I know there's a lot of people talking about the mock trial so good luck with that. Thank you for talking.
Bill Simpich My pleasure. It's really great to share one's thinking on a case this important and how it affects American history and how, I think, in the decades to come we're going to put a resolution on this case in a good way.
OHH Oh, I hope so. It's definitely about time for that. Great. Well thanks a lot, Bill. I hope that we can talk again.
Bill Simpich Look forward to it. Take care.
Bill Simpich Bye-bye.