Dallas officers, medallion pay tribute to comrade who lost life at hands of Oswald in '63

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by By STEVE THOMPSON / The Dallas Morning News stevethompson@dallasnews.com

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:45 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 2:57 PM

It's been 45 years since President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in downtown Dallas.

JIM MAHONEY/DMN
Marie Tippit, the widow of Officer J.D. Tippit, killed by Lee Harvey Oswald after JFK's assassination, displays the medallion with a replica of her husband's No. 848 badge.

Most everybody knows the story of his assassination, the anniversary of which is Saturday. But people don't always remember that a Dallas police officer also died that day in an encounter with the president's killer.

Officer J.D. Tippit's comrades don't forget it, though some of them weren't born yet when he died in November 1963. They lined up Thursday morning at police headquarters to buy medallions commemorating the fallen patrolman's service.

His widow, Marie Tippit, was there to greet them.

"Mrs. Kennedy said that the flame would always burn for my husband as well as hers," said Mrs. Tippit, 80. "And I consider that this medallion represents all of the Dallas officers killed in the line of duty. I'm just so thankful and so honored."

Officer Tippit was patrolling Oak Cliff shortly after 1 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963, less than an hour after Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president. The officer pulled up alongside Oswald, apparently exchanged words with him and got out of the squad car.

Oswald fired four shots at the officer, the last striking him in the temple.

The medallion shows Officer Tippit's squad car, No. 10, alongside an American flag. A replica of his badge, No. 848, is etched on the back. The price is $20.

Also on sale were posters featuring a collection of Dallas police guns and badges glinting against a blue background.

With Mrs. Tippit to sign them was another figure from Dallas history: retired Dallas police homicide Detective Jim Leavelle.

Detective Leavelle was the first to interview Oswald after the president's death. And the detective was handcuffed to Oswald when the assassin was shot by Jack Ruby.

A famous Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph shows Mr. Leavelle in a light-colored suit and Stetson hat walking next to Oswald as Mr. Ruby steps forward from a crowd to fire his pistol.

Mr. Leavelle, 88, said it all happened too fast.

"I saw Ruby standing in front of the reporters as I came out of the building into the parking garage, and he had the pistol by his leg in his hand at that time," Mr. Leavelle said. "I could see that out of the corner of my eye, and I knew immediately what was happening."

But Mr. Ruby fired the gun and made history before the detective could react.

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