Nightly News   |  November 09, 2013

He was the man trying to protect Lee Harvey Oswald

He’s the detective who escorted Lee Harvey Oswald when the alleged presidential assassin was shot and killed. NBC’S Lester Holt reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the murder of president john f. kennedy 50 years ago this month and the death of his assassin lee harvey oswald days later opened the door to speculation and conspiracy theories . lee harvey oswald was arrested for the killing of a police officer shortly before he was i.d.'d as the president's killer. tonight we are hearing from the now 93-year-old retired detective who first interrogated oswald . it was escorting him from the police station when he, too, was gunned down. the police had their man. but in the time it took jack ruby to raise a gun from his side.

>> he had the pistol in his hand, holding it against his leg.

>> you knew it was meant for oswald .

>> oh, yeah.

>> reporter: lee harvey oswald , the president's alleged assassin.

>> he's been shot.

>> reporter: was dead. shot as he was escorted through a crush of police and reporters. he was handcuffed to jim lovell .

>> i jerked back to pull him behind me. instead of moving him, i turned his body a little bit. so instead of hitting him dead center , hit him three inches to the left of the naval.

>> reporter: you were trying to protect oswald .

>> i didn't have any leverage.

>> reporter: there were phone threats against oswald .

>> i told him i hoped if anybody shot at him that they were as good a shot as he was meaning they would hit him and not me. he laughed and said, nobody's going to shoot at me.

>> reporter: detective lovell was the last one to talk with oswald . in the twists and turns of november 22 , he was also one of the first. 45 minutes after the president was shot word came that a dallas police officer had been shot and killed. the suspect, lee harvey oswald . detective jim lovell was assigned the case. he questioned oswald , unaware at that moment of his connection to the president's shooting.

>> i remember a lot about him. he was calm and collected, just like you and i are sitting here the talking. he answered my questions immediately. he didn't answer them truthfully always but he didn't hesitate to answer any of the questions i asked him.

>> reporter: the suit and stetson he wore are displayed in a museum feet from where oswald shot the president. lo lovell accepts his place in history and history's judgment. do you feel you failed in your duty to protect him?

>> evidently. he died.

>> reporter: lovell 's granddaughter, now a film maker decided to document her grandfather's story.

>> as i started to interview his colleagues and reporters from back then and learned more about the whole incident, a larger story started to stand out to me.

>> the prime suspect , 24-year-old lee oswald of dallas --

>> reporter: in the documentary "capturing oswald " premiering this week greenling focuses on what she is sees as a feat of detective work.

>> when you look at the unibomber and the boston bombers how long it took it's astounding that in 1963 without walkie-talkies, gps that they were able to capture oswald in 88 minutes .

>> reporter: on that point jim lovell agrees, dismissing the theories. he's certain the man he came face to face with and who died before his eyes planned and carried out the assassination of president kennedy by himself. the cops had their man. could you have imagined that 50 years later you would still be telling the story?

>> i couldn't imagine it back then. in fact, if anybody had asked me right after it happened how long it would be in the news i would say, give it six months. you won't hear more about it.

>> reporter: boy, you were wrong.

>> yes, i was wrong about it.

>> reporter: as we approach november 22 we invite you to stay with nbc news as we look back to the assassination of president john f. kennedy 50 years later. check out