Oswald was arrested in the Texas Theatre in W Jefferson boulevard about two hours after the murder. There are two narratives. The first, official, narrative says he was moving away from the Tippit murder and a shoestore owner named Johnny Brewer saw him duck into his doorway as he heard police sirens. Brewer was just listening to the radio news about JFK’s murder so, guessing what was up, he followed the suspicious, hunted looking man up the street until the man ducked into the Texas theatre. Brewer, playing vigilante, asked the ticket saleswoman if she had sold a ticket. She had not, but the owner of the concession stand inside the theatre confirmed that he had a set of doors swing open but had not seen a man pass. Brewer worked out that his suspect had snuck into the theatre without paying and had now gone up to the theatre balcony, which avoided the necessity of walking past the concessionaire. He called the police.
The police turned up quickly. They swarmed the theatre and entered the cinema salon simultaneously as the lights came on. There were less than a dozen patrons in a venue with a capacity of 900. A man sitting near the front tipped a policeman called MN McDonald which one of the customers was the wanted one: he was sitting in the third row. Raised gun, he turned into Oswald’s row; a foot away Oswald stood up and raised both hands and said something like “It’s all over now.” Oswald slugged the cop in the face and pulled out his revolver, which misfired. McDonald wrestled Oswald to the ground and then other policemen came to his aid. Oswald was bundled out and brought into the policecar. After he had been interrogated, his revolver was examined: six bullets of the same mix and type as had been found in Tippit’s body (it was subsequently revealed) The man who had assassinated JFK had also killed a cop, Tippit, and would have killed the second policeman, McDonald, had not his gun misfired.
That is the official story. But it is not the only story. Some witnesses have other accounts of what happened in the cinema that afternoon. Burroughs, assistant manager, told the author Jim Marrs that someone had slipped into the theatre at 1.35pm that day But that person was not Oswald, who arrived shortly after the main feature at 1pm. At about 1.15pm this man went to the concession stand to buy popcorn. This was the man subsequently arrested by police after a scuffle. Burroughs said that Oswald had behaved oddly. In an almost empty theatre, he had sat down next to several cinema-goers in turn. The last a pregnant woman who disappeared up to a women’s restroom never to go back to her seat.
Burroughs’s story was backed up by someone called Jack Davis, who went on to become a local celebrity and radio host, but back in 1963 was an 18-year-old who had come to watch a war movie. He was surprised that the man (whom he subsequently realised was Oswald) came up and sat right next to him in the dark, almost empty theatre. Oswald did not say a word but after some minutes got up and sat next to yet another customer – and did it once again. Later, when the lights came on, he left to see the manager – heard the scuffle at the back of the theatre, and the man who had sat next to him during the performance was bundled out by a couple of policemen.
What was Oswald doing, moving about like that? An interesting clue could derive from the fact that Oswald had half a cardboard box-top on him. Allegedly this is used by spies to communicate with each other. If the two halves of the boxtop match along the tear than that verifies the other’s bona fide. (Spies also do it with torn dollar bills.) Could Oswald’s behaviour be explained by the fact that he was in on the conspiracy – without having fired the actual gun – and was now looking to meet someone for further instructions? This is speculation, but had that person who had agreed a rendezvous with Oswald there also called the police there, as part of a complex plan to have Oswald established as the lone shooter and then have him killed before it could come to court, perhaps while resisting arrest at the theatre? Some witnesses claim to have seen Jack Ruby at the Texas theatre, and there are various testimonies that indicate that Oswald had been a regular at the Carousel Club in his last weeks alive. Ruby had also sorts of links to the mafia and maybe the CIA. (Here there is the danger of going down the rabbithole of complicated networks of whom knew who where.)
Oswald failed to be shot resisting arrest – the story that his revolver misfired when the cop grabbed him is disputed by the pathologist Cunningham speaking before the Warren commission –
No tape recording was made of Oswald’s testimony when he was brought the police that afternoon. He denied being the murderer. But he told reporters as he moved from the area to another that “I am just a patsy.” The next day he was shot by Jack Ruby, officially because Ruby said he wanted to spare the widow Jackie the agony of a trial. Ruby had to have been let into the police station basement somehow. Was he shot the day after because the conspirators had missed the chance to have him shot in the Texas theatre? Ruby spent years in prison for killing Oswald, then died of cancer while incarcerated. If he was part of a conspiracy, he paid a heavy price for his sacrifice.
So what to make of narrative number 2? One problem is that both accounts, from assistant manager Burroughs as well as Davis, came years after the event and were told to Kennedy researchers. It is possible that their memories are deceiving them about the events. Of course, the whole thing had become a legend of epic proportions by the time the two men who saw Oswald arrive shortly after 1pm told their stories.
Another problem is the same as with the Tippit killing. Assuming that Oswald left his lodgings a few minutes after one, it was impossible for him to be at the scene of Tippit’s killing a mile away a few minutes later – seven or eight minutes past one. (Even getting on a bus he wouldn’t have made it on time; no bus drivers have come forward to testify) There are no witness testimonies of him walking or running that stretch between his lodgings and the Tippit scene. .
But equally, it would have been impossible to reach the Texas theatre, which was near the scene of the Tippit killing, a few minutes after one, which was when Burroughs said Oswald entered the theatre. Unless Oswald was given a lift – by a co conspirator.
One can spend years trying to determine whether Oswald was guilty of shooting Tippit, whether he was the gunman or whether he was just in on the conspiracy. Some researchers have added additional layers of complexity to suggest there was a “fake Oswald” running around in order to create an elaborate story around Oswald’s guilt.. Serious researchers lament the existence of these fantasist who descridet serious journalists who make the case for conspiracy. If there are two dozen very good, serious books about the Kennedy assassination that argue cogently for a conspiracy, there are dozens more crackpot ones that destroy the reputation of the serious by being lumped by the mainstream media with them.
One has to prioritise. And the important thing – regardless of Oswald’s possible low level connections to the CIA, or the anti Castro movement (while posing as a Marxist). His alleged acquaintance with Ruby – is not Oswald. But that there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy evidence by the presence of multiple gunmen: on the grassy knoll, on the sixth floor of the School Book Depository and maybe one other location.