Retired Dallas PD officer recalls his shift on 11/22/63

POSTED: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 2:37pm
UPDATED: Sunday, November 24, 2013 - 10:16pm

Friday marks the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. It’s an event in American history that has captivated the minds of people young and old. One Temple resident was a Dallas Police officer on duty the day it all went down

“It’s just like yesterday for me. Seems like that because I was involved in a lot of it. Instead of being home with my family I was down there dealing with that mess,” said Hurshell Hatley, 88.

Hatley was a Dallas Police officer for nearly two decades.

On November 22, 1963, the entire department was working security for President Kennedy’s visit.

And as fate would have it, Hatley was stationed near the infamous ‘grassy knoll’ in Dealey Plaza. Before standing guard for the oncoming motorcade, Hatley gave a camera to a friend nearby who wound up taking pictures of the parade.

Hatley said it was a pleasant day up until the point he heard three shots ring out.

“It put all of us on our toes, said Hatley. We started being concerned about everything. If we saw two people we didn’t think should be together we separated them. We don’t know this person. We have to be careful and watch him. And while we’re doing that, we have to watch that feller over yonder.”

Roughly 45 minutes later, word spread that a Dallas Police officer had been fatally shot in broad daylight.

Shirley Hatley, Hurshell’s wife of 63 years, feared the worst.

“My neighbor came over and told me, ‘Oh, Mrs. Hatley! A police officer was shot. Do you think it was Hurshell?” Of course, I thought about him being in danger all along, but when I heard that I thought, ‘Well, he’s there. It could have been,” said Shirley.

But it wasn’t Hurshell. It was J. D. Tippit.

Police arrested 24-year old Lee Harvey Oswald for the crime.

Hurshell was called to the police station to help apprehend him. Oswald was interrogated overnight and the next day was being moved to the county jail. But Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner and Dallas PD acquaintance, stepped out from the crowd and fatally shot Oswald in the stomach.

“That had angered me because I had known Ruby. We’d meet him from time to time down there real often and just talk for a little while. We’d go about our business and he’d go about his,” said Hatley.

“I always felt bad about that shooting. I couldn’t have been there to stop that, or have done something about it.”

It’s been 50 years since all this played out.

Hurshell has his theories of who was behind it and why it happened, but admits you can never really understand the mind of a criminal.

“We may never know what’s on the mind and soul of some people. We may never know why some people – I’ve often questioned people sometimes, ‘Why in the world would you do that? You’re supposed to have sense.”

“Well, sometimes a shrug and silence is all you get from them.”



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