My analysis of the Warren Commission (WC) testimony of Captain William Westbrook of the Personnel Department of the Dallas Police Department (DPD) is indebted partly to Dale Myers’ book, With Malice (1998) and partly to Bill Simpich’s article of April 21, 2014, namely, Who Found Oswald’s Wallet?
Simpich begins by citing TV news from the fall of 2013, when an ABC affiliate showed footage taken by Dallas WFAA-TV on 11/22/1963. That film shows Captain William Westbrook carefully handling a wallet at the scene of Tippit’s murder, only minutes after the murder. That wallet belonged to Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO) and contained identification of himself and of his alias, Alek J. Hidell.
For 55 years, however, the official WC story was that the first time the DPD saw LHO’s wallet was when DPD Detective Paul Bentley removed the wallet from Oswald’s back pocket while driving LHO from the Texas Theater to police headquarters. Paul Bentley did not testify before the WC, however, he gave public interviews. Let’s look at his own words:
WFAA-TV INTERVIEWS WITH DALLAS POLICEMEN PAUL BENTLEY AND NICK McDONALD (11/23/63)
Minute 8:41 -- “I asked for his name, and he refused to give me his name. I removed his wallet from his back pocket and obtained his identification...”
That’s part of the information – but Bentley didn’t say exactly where he and LHO were at the time that he removed LHO’s wallet from his back pocket. He gave that information in another interview, 45 years later:
6TH FLOOR MUSEUM AT DEALEY PLAZA -- LIVING HISTORY WITH PAUL BENTLEY
Minute 18:00 – “I got in the back seat on the left side of him. Detective Lyons was on the right side of him. As we proceeded to City Hall, the police dispatcher came on the radio and wanted to know who our suspect was. And I immediately had the wallet in my hand, and I took out different identifications. He had several different aliases. And, after I told them it was Lee Harvey Oswald, they said, ‘Bring him directly to Captain Fritz, in Homicide; he has a prime suspect in the assassination of President Kennedy and the wounding of Governor Connally’…”
Here are the basics: (1) Bentley removed the wallet from LHO’s back pocket; (2) inside a police car driving LHO to police headquarters. (We’ll return to his testimony later, but for now we’ll focus on his retrieval of LHO’s wallet).
Bentley’s story is confirmed by the WC testimony of Sergeant Gerald Hill, who was also sitting in that police car driving LHO to police headquarters. Here is part of that testimony:
Mr. BELIN. Was he asked where he lived?
Mr. HILL. That was the second question that was asked the suspect, and he didn’t answer it, either. About the time I got through with the radio transmission, I asked Paul Bentley, “Why don’t you see if he has any identification?” Paul was sitting sort of sideways in the seat, and with his right hand he reached down and felt of the suspect’s left hip pocket and said, “Yes, he has a billfold,” and took it out. I never did have the billfold in my possession. But the name Lee Oswald was called out by Bentley from the back seat, and said this identification, I believe, was on the library card. And he also made the statement that there was some more identification in this other name…
So, that part matches, at least. We get a similar result from two other Homicide Bureau officers, namely, Richard Stovall and Guy Rose. Here is some of Stovall’s testimony:
Mr. BALL. You went to work at 2 o’clock?
Mr. STOVALL. Well, I was scheduled to go to work at 4 that day, I believe, but as soon as I heard that, I got cleaned up and got ready for work and went on in.
Mr. BALL. Were you given an assignment as soon as you got down there?
Mr. STOVALL. No, sir…I got there and one of my partners, G.F. Rose, got there about the same time...[Later] the officers brought Lee Harvey Oswald into the Homicide Bureau and put him into an interrogation room we have there at the Bureau...We went back there and talked to him briefly.
Mr. BALL. Do you remember what was said to him and what he said to you?
Mr. STOVALL. I don’t recall exactly – I went in and asked him for his identification, and asked him who he was and he said his name was Lee Oswald, as well as I remember. Rose and I were both in there at the time. He had his billfold, and in it he had the identification of “A. Hidell,” which was on a selective service card, as well as I remember...And he also had identification of Lee Harvey Oswald...
This language is ambiguous, depending upon how Stovall used the pronoun, “he,” in the phrase, “He had his billfold,” It could mean that LHO had his own billfold, or that Guy Rose had LHO's billfold. Did Bentley and Hill give LHO his wallet back? Perhaps they gave it to Guy Rose. so that "he" had LHO’s billfold. The ambiguity is cleared by Guy Rose.
Mr. ROSE. I reported to the Homicide Office…Room 317 at the City Hall.
Mr. BALL. Where did you go then?
Mr. ROSE. There were some people in the office from the Book Depository and we talked to a few of them and then in just a few minutes they brought in Lee Oswald and I talked to him for a few minutes.
Mr. BALL. What did you say to him or did he say to you?
Mr. ROSE. Well, the first thing I asked him was what his name was and he told me it was Hidell…
Mr. BALL. He didn’t tell you it was Oswald?
Mr. ROSE. No; he didn’t, not right then – he did later. In a minute – I found two cards – I found a card that said “A. Hidell.” And I found another card that said “Lee Oswald’ on it, and I asked him which of the two was his correct name. He wouldn’t tell me at the time, he just said, “You find out…”
Mr. BALL. Did you search him?
Mr. ROSE. He had already been searched and someone had his billfold. I don’t know whether it was the patrolman who brought him in that had it or not.
Mr. BALL. And the contents of the billfold supposedly were before you?
Mr. ROSE. Yes.
So, now we know; Paul Bentley and Gerald Hill kept LHO’s wallet, and later they handed it to Guy Rose. Rose and Stovall confirmed Bentley and Hill. All settled, right? Wrong.
The problem remains – approximately 15 minutes before LHO was arrested, Captain William Westbrook was filmed at the Tippit murder scene by WFAA-TV, holding LHO’s wallet. Nor did the TV film escape criticism. Retired FBI analyst, Farris Rookstool, spent years analyzing this 1963 film, and he concluded that the wallet seen in the footage is an exact match with the Oswald wallet now at NARA in Maryland.
Farris Rookstool demonstrated that the circular snaps, metal strips, and a zipper over the cash compartment are identical – and for Rockstool, this was proof that LHO had killed J.D. Tippit at about 1:15 PM.
Furthermore, another officer at the Tippit murder scene, namely, FBI agent Bob Barrett, said that Paul Bentley’s story was “hogwash”. Bill Simpich added that FBI agent James Hosty in 1996 confirmed the account given by Bob Barrett. So, we have (1) the WFAA film; (2) Farris Rookstool; (3) Bob Barrett; and (4) James Hosty. All these elements contradict the timeline that Captain William Westbrook testified under oath to the WC.
There is yet another witness, namely, Kenneth Croy. He was a witness for the Warren Commission, but his biography might evade Dallas Police lists (like mine) because of this interesting snippet of his WC testimony:
Mr. GRIFFIN. What is your occupation?
Mr. CROY. I have several.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Let’s have them in order.
Mr. CROY. I am in the real estate business. I have a Mobil service station. I am in the steel erection business. And I am a professional cowboy…
Kenneth Croy was a reluctant witness. In that initial list, he didn’t volunteer that he’d been serving in the Dallas Police Reserves for four years, or that he had attained the rank of Sergeant. After much struggle, WC attorney Griffin finally extracted from Kenneth Croy that he was the very first Dallas Police Officer to arrive at the Tippit murder scene. That was pretty important.
The WC testimony of Kenneth Croy seems strangely obscure. Dale Myers (With Malice, 2013) helps to clear it up with a useful timeline which inspires my timeline below:
Around 1:15 PM, a private detective named Ken Holmes had been listening on his short wave radio set to DPD radio broadcasts, and learned about the Tippit killing near his location. Holmes sped to the Tippit murder scene.
In the meantime, used car salesman Ted Callaway had heard the shots at Tippit, and he ran from his used car lot a block away, picked up Tippit’s pistol and hailed the nearby cab of Bill Scoggins to begin a solo, heroic manhunt for the runaway killer.
At that moment, private detective Ken Holmes arrived at the Tippit scene, and a hysterical woman ran up to his car, pointed to Bill Scoggins' taxi driving away, and shouted that she’d just seen Tippit’s killer escaping inside that taxi.
So, Ken Holmes sped after Scoggins and Callaway, to bring them to justice.
At that point, an ambulance arrived to pick up Tippit’s body.
Then, Kenneth Croy arrived. He watched as citizens helped the ambulance attendants raise Tippit’s body. The ambulance drove away.
By this time, that hysterical lady had attached herself to Kenneth Croy, and he did his best to understand her rambling sentences.
Many other police cars began arriving.
Ken Holmes returned with Tippit’s pistol, with hero Ted Callaway, and with cab driver Bill Scoggins. Holmes took Tippit’s pistol over to uniformed officer Kenneth Croy and tried to explain what had happened. Evidently, everybody was talking at once to Croy, because his testimony suggests that Croy did not understand everything that people were telling him.
Kenneth Croy admitted to the WC that he was the first Dallas policeman at the Tippit murder site, and that a hysterical lady was his first witness, and that a private detective brought him Tippit’s pistol, along with a citizen and a cab driver, and that he remained at the Tippit site for at least 30 minutes as it became swarming with policemen.
What is missing from Kenneth Croy’s WC testimony was another admission -- which he later put in writing for retired FBI agent Farris Rockstool. Croy admitted that that he was: “First on the scene; and recovered Oswald's wallet there, too.” Now, recovering LHO’s wallet at the Tippit scene is big news – so why did Croy omit this from his WC testimony? We need to figure that out.
Bill Simpich helps us out. Researcher Jones Harris claimed that Kenneth Croy told him personally, that as soon as he arrived at the Tippit murder scene, an “unknown man” handed him the wallet that the killer had left before running away. Kenneth Croy then handed that wallet to Sergeant Bud Owens. Owens obviously gave it to Captain Westbrook, because WFAA TV filmed Captain Westbrook holding it.
Also, FBI agent Rob Barrett added substantiation from the Tippit murder scene as follows. Captain Westbrook filed through LHO’s wallet, and he asked Barrett, ‘You ever heard of a Lee Harvey Oswald?’ Barrett said, ‘No.’ Westbrook asked, ‘How about an Alek Hidell?’ Barrett said, ‘No.’ Barrett then asked his interviewer, “Why would he be asking me questions about Oswald and Hidell if it wasn’t in that wallet?”
Barrett attacked Bentley’s claim that he found Oswald’s wallet for the first time in a WFAA news story last November. “They said they took the wallet out of his pocket in the car? That’s so much hogwash. That wallet was in Westbrook’s hand!”
In 1996, FBI agent James Hosty independently confirmed Rob Barrett’s story, and so he contradicted the official WC position that Paul Bentley found LHO’s wallet in LHO’s back pocket in a police car on the way from the Texas Theater to City Hall.
So – my main problem with Captain William Westbrook is that we have WFAA TV film of him handling LHO’s wallet at the scene of the Tippit murder, and yet he did not report this in any Dallas Police report or to the Warren Commission. That's a big deal to me.