updated 1/27/2005 8:10:25 PM ET 2005-01-28T01:10:25

Nick McDonald, the police officer who arrested Lee Harvey Oswald at a Dallas movie theater after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, died Thursday. He was 76.

McDonald arrived at Dealey Plaza moments after Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963. He searched the Texas Theater and helped make the historic arrest, grappling with the man suspected of shooting Kennedy after Oswald pulled a gun.

“He made a fist and bam, hit me right between the eyes,” McDonald recalled years afterward. “Knocked my hat off. I came back and hit him.”

But it was not until later in the day that McDonald realized whom he had captured.

McDonald died at a local hospital of complications from diabetes.

‘Well, it’s all over now’
In a memoir, “The Arrest and Capture of Lee Harvey Oswald,” McDonald recalled going to the rear of the theater after police received a tip that a suspicious man had entered without paying.

“As I peeked through the heavy curtains out into the audience [fellow Officer Johnny Brewer], at my shoulder, pointed out the suspect,” McDonald wrote. As the two officers confronted Oswald, the suspect said, “Well, it’s all over now.”

As police tried to search and cuff him, Oswald pulled a pistol and tried to fire, but McDonald grabbed the weapon and moved to block the trigger with his hand.

“I could feel the hammer glide under my hand,” McDonald wrote. “The returning hammer made a dull, audible snapping sound as the firing pin struck the flesh of my left hand, between the thumb and forefinger.

“Bracing myself, I stood rigid, waiting for the bullet to penetrate my chest.”

But the bullet did not fire.

McDonald jerked the weapon from Oswald, fell on top of him and finally subdued him.

Born March 21, 1928, in Camden, he graduated from Camden High School, served in the Navy and was a Korean War veteran.

After leaving the military, McDonald served 25 years with the Dallas Police Department, retiring as a sergeant and moving to Hot Springs in 1980.

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