Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Review: With Malice - Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit by Dale K. Myers


Updated edition with 140 extra pages, featuring new photos and documents.

Dale Myers has been around a while.  Besides his book on Tippit’s death, he is well known for his nationally broadcast computer animations trying to simulate the single bullet theory and has appeared on numerous television programs.  He’s deeply associated with the “lone nut” crowd and is noted for an online dust-up with researcher Pat Speer a few years ago.  You can read about that, here on Speer’s site.  My take on it is here.

The Book
With Malice is a huge, heavy hardcover book of 864 pages. About half the book is filled with documents, photographs, diagrams, endnotes, and appendixes.  It’s expertly printed with very high quality halftone reproduction of the photos and illustrations.  The large font  makes it a pleasure to read.  The photos are a real treasure in this book as many of them are not reproduced anyplace else in print or on the Web.

The Story
The account of J.D. Tippit’s brief life show him to be a good and decent man.  Born into poverty, he serves in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper with distinction being awarded the bronze star.  Upon leaving the service, he did what many men of that time, married his sweetheart and found a job.  In this instance, the job as a police officer would be his undoing. Since the publication of the first edition, Myers got further acquainted over the years with the Tippet family who kindly provided him with a host of photos of J.D. and his family which are included in the new addition.

Myers swiftly arrives at the heart of the story, the day of the assassination.  Here is the standard account one can find little fault with and is well laid out by the author.  

There are places where Myers appears to be uncomfortable with the narrative.  Such as when Tippet pulls into the Tip Top Record store just a few minutes before his death and make a call.  Seen by both the store owner and the clerk, Tippet lets it ring “7 or 8” times, hangs up and leaves.  Myers then imparts comments from one police officer and a dispatcher both of whom don’t think Tippet would do such a thing.  Finally, Myers comes around and admits that Tippet was in the record shop making the call but the reason why, is left a mystery.  He does this a lot.  We’ll see this again with the wallet.

Tippet had been seen in the shop purchasing records before but had never rushed in to use the phone.  Something very unusual was happening in this instance but it’s not a mystery if there are other factors in play.  For example, the story has been out for years that Tippet was involved in the plot and his role that day was to kill Oswald.  Just as it became Jack Ruby’s job a few days later.  But this leads us down the path of conspiracy, a place Lone Nutters such as Myers won’t tread.

Anyway, like an old movie, J.D. Tippit arrives at 10th and Patton, has his showdown with whomever gets the drop on him, and he is one with the ages.  It’s all rather straightforward with plenty of witnesses watching a lone gunman be the long gunman one more time, before another lone gunman silences him forever a few days hence.

Overall, Myers does a good job in documenting the various aspects of the case from Tippet’s murder, ballistics evidence, and witness testimony.  He does make the case that Oswald encountered Tippet and killed him.  There is no motive for Oswald to do so such as there is not notice for him to kill the President.  There are however, places where he falters and we’ll explore those next.  These issues are mainly the wallet, the pistol, and Myers overall bias in favor of the lone gunman theory.   

The Wallet...The Stumbling Block
All supporters of the Official Story have a hard time with the wallet discovered at the scene of Tippit’s murder.  It is the main out of place artifact.  It would normally be written off as a confused event from stressed out men, functioning on a bewildering and tragic day.  But, there is the WFAA-TV film crew at the Tippet murder scene with Dallas Policemen examining a billfold.  The event is recorded on 16mm film, in black and white, just two over minutes with no audio.

Myers struggles with this issue just as Bugliosi did in Reclaiming History, regulating the incident to his End Notes on the accompanying  CD-ROM.  Bugliosi wrongly concluded it was Tippet’s wallet.  Once again, finding something troubling that creates a conflict with his narrative, Myers shoots an air ball and states at the end of his examination, that the wallet is a mystery.  He clearly wants it to go away as it could represent an attempt to frame of Oswald for the crime.  

The found wallet was largely unknown till retired FBI agent James Hosty mentioned it in his 1995 book, Assignment Oswald.  He says he was told of the wallet with Oswald’s ID in it by fellow agent Robert Barrett.  In turn, Barrett said he learned of it from Dallas police captain W. R. Westbrook at the Tippet murder location.  Westbrook is seen in the TV film footage examining a wallet in the company of several other Dallas police officers.  Barrett says he was asked by Westbrook if he knew a Lee Oswald or an Alek Hidell.  He did not.  This was due to the number if ID's in the wallet.

One troubling issue is where did this wallet come from?  It was seen by no one at the murder scene, either police officers, reporters, or the ambulance crew.  The source is apparently an anonymous bystander that handed it over to reserve sergeant Kenneth Croy.  Eventually it made its way to captain Westbrook.  Myers states that Croy is the only police officer on the scene that can corroborate Barrett.  He further states that in a 2009 interview, Croy told him that there were seven ID’s but not one had Oswald’s name on them.  However, long-time researcher Jones Harris, who interviewed Croy in 1990, told me that Croy never made such a statement to him, and Croy said he never examined the contents of the wallet.  Never the less, this odd comment by Kenneth Croy appears to be a flimsy attempt to discredit Robert Barrett’s account of what happened.  Which in itself is hard to do since Barrett has proven himself over time to be an honest individual whose story never changed.  

It is worrisome however, that captain Westbrook, other police officers at the scene, and agent Barrett left out the wallet in all of their collective reports.  In his interview with Barrett, Jones Harris told me he had queried why he did not mentioned the wallet episode in his report.  Barrett replied, “What was the point Mr. Harris, after all, the man [Oswald] is dead.”  Harris did not press the point, understanding the constraints that Barrett was under at the time and was still under as a government agent. Harris had felt for a long time that things went wrong with the game plan at 10th and Patton.

Myers alleged to have interviewed Robert Barrett in 1996.  If so, why didn’t he ask Barrett why he didn’t document the wallet in his official report?  Or, why he stood by the report as accurate when testifying to the Church Committee in 1975?  We don’t know because Myers never tells the reader why.  Also, Myers hints that Westbrook didn’t tell Barrett about the Oswald/Hidell ID’s till latter that day in headquarters. But that is not what Barrett told researcher Jones Harris about this incident (nor his fellow agent Hosty).  Barrett told Harris that it occurred right there at the murder scene that day.  Later, Harris related this in a conversation with Myers, who after a long pause, expressed shock that Harris had interviewed Barrett.  According to Harris, he felt certain at the time that Myers had not interviewed Barrett.  Harris always felt it was important to talk directly to the people involved rather than depend on government documents, because documents can be manipulated.  

Myers includes a detailed macro shot of the wallet (from the National Archives) taken from Oswald upon his arrest and a frame from the WFAA-TV footage.  Myers attempts to tell the reader how different both wallets are.  That’s a quite a stretch since the frame from the footage is badly blurred.  He goes on to say the TV footage wallet doesn’t show enough wear, has square corners as opposed to rounded, and other differences that are really hard to see because of the blur.  It is apparent however, that the coin zipper is visible in both images.  

Eventually, Myers’ Jedi mind tricks fail to be convincing.  He will admit that Tippit’s wallet is black and found with his things at the Methodist hospital as is documented in police reports–the TV footage wallet is a light color (brown, as seen in Myers' photo and documented) as is Oswald’s arrest wallet.  He will admit a wallet is being examined at 10th and Patton by numerous Dallas police officers.  Ultimately, Myers abandons any hope of resolving the issue.  The wallet completely and utterly disappears from the point of documentation and the mind of man.

The only good thing about this episode is there will always be the film footage to show that wallet being examined in the hands of police officers at 10th and Patton.  

The  Smith and Wesson .38 Special
Myers’ accounting of Oswald buying the .38 pistol is probably the weakest part of the book because so much is left out or totally wrong.  Being a true believer in the official story such as Bugliosi, McAdams, Posner, and others, Dale Myers has to omit the suspicious or the more controversial facts and events in the case. Myers is no exception to this common pattern.

Myers steadfastly remarks there is no doubt that Oswald bought the .38 Smith and Wesson pistol that was used to kill officer Tippet with.  According to Myers, he ordered it under his A. J. Hidell alias and paid for it COD where it arrived at his post office box.  Therein lies the mess Myers creates for himself, a mess which he could have avoided given the time he had.  In fact, this section on the pistol reads like a quickly dashed off summary of what happened.  

The pistol, which was allegedly ordered COD from Seaport Traders was not shipped to Oswald’s P.O. Box.  It was instead sent to the Railway Express Agency for final payment and pickup.  Myers must have a good reason not to mention a word of this.  So it did not arrive at any post office as he says.  Check the order–there is no charge for postage.  Because it’s not being sent that way.  It’s being shipped via rail, Seaport Traders preferred method of shipment.  Not only that, but pickup at a post office would require the recipient to fill out a 5024 postal form for the receiving of a handgun in the mail.  This document has never been found and Myers makes no note of it.  

(Incidentally, Myers features a scan of a Railway Express Agency invoice on his web site.  But he can’t mention anything about this in his book, does not show the scanned receipt, or that the pistol was shipped via rail.)

Also, Texas law at the time required that anyone ordering a handgun would need a “certificate of good citizenship” signed by a local judge for ordering a pistol via mail order.  There is no evidence this was ever done by Oswald and would be difficult since he was ordering the pistol under his Hidell alias, which was lacking any kind of background other than forged ID cards.  He would then have to present this certificate the Railway Express Agency to pick up the gun.  

And to make matters more intriguing, the gun in Oswald’s possession when arrested in the movie theater was a different model than what he allegedly ordered.  It was the more expensive $39.95, .38 Special model which is listed on the order coupon, reproduced in the book.  Oswald ordered the .38 St. W. 2” priced at $29.95 which he allegedly made a $10.00 downpayment.  Myers makes no mention of any of these facts.  It should be pointed out that he never refers to Oswald’s pistol is a “Special” model either.  

The Bullets and Ballstics
The ballistics reporting in this book is very straight forward with plenty of close-up shots of spent hulls and the bullets the entered Tippit’s body.  Myers correctly noted that it’s not possible to connect the recovered bullets with spent cartridges.  

What I take issue with is on page 312 when Myers states the following:

“Oswald’s revolver was originally designed to fire .38 Smith&Wesson cartridges, which have a slightly larger diameter than .38 Special cartridges.”

And then again on page 335:

“The bullets pulled from Tippit’s body are consistence with having been fired from a .38 caliber revolver that had been rechambered to fire .38 Specials.”

He states that Oswald’s pistol was rechambered to fit the Specials since they are smaller in diameter than a standard .38 round.  However, if you have a .38 Special pistol, it only shoots the .38 Special rounds.  So what is the rechambering about?  He is implying that the pistol is being modified to fire the Specials.  But if it’s a .38 Special revolver then no modifications are needed.  As I reference above, Myers never refers to the Oswald gun as a .38 as a “Special” model revolver.  He wants the reader to think that Oswald is using a modified pistol to shoot the smaller diameter ammo.  Because, as stated above, Oswald didn’t order the Smith and Wesson “Special” model pistol.  Yet there he is with one in his hand when arrested in the movie theater.

[Would be interested in hearing from owners of .38 Specials to resolve any of the matters mentioned above.]

Additionally, Myers makes no attempt to discover where Oswald purchased the bullets from.  There is no record of him ever purchasing any ammo wherever he lived from Dallas to New Orleans.  The same applies to the rifle bullets.  It’s an important issue and overlooked by many researchers, especially those in the lone nut crowd.  Most gun owners I know are loaded with ammo, not to mention accessories to go along with their firearms.  None of these things were found in Oswald’s belongings.  What was his source of bullets?

Closing Comments...
Dale Myers bias in favor of the government’s flawed conclusion of a lone nut with no conspiracy involved, clouds his judgement in analyzing the case.  To be fair, overall, he does a good job in researching this tragic event and does makes a good case that Lee Oswald killed officer Tippet.  He is clearly ill at ease with the more problematic areas of the Tippet murder, with the wallet being the number one obstacle.  (The framing of Oswald works here but Myers can’t go there.  As stated on his blog: "However, looking at the evidence, I could not in good faith sign off on something so contrary to the official record without definitive proof – no matter how good it sounded."  How about how good it looks?)

Basically, Warren Commission defenders are all in a precarious position to begin with.  They are defending an incomplete investigation that suffers from being politicized from the start, and features a lack of full disclosure (admitted to by both Warren and McCloy) and behind the scenes machinations.  Little details like those listed here just can’t be mentioned–it’s too conspiratorial and muddies up a simple lone gunman story.  And that is a No Man’s Land for this bunch.

While this book is quite pricy, it’s target market is better suited for researchers of the case rather than the causal reader with a basic knowledge of the assassination.  I hate to say it but the best part of the book is the pictures, illustrations, and scanned documents. Most serious researchers should enjoy having access to that material which makes up half of the book.  

Finally, it remains disappointing that a researcher of Dale Myers' skills never resolves the wallet being seen handled at the Tippet murder scene.  

Addendum #1 
Myers has a short section on Roscoe White.  His story on White involves his son Ricky’s account of Tippet’s murder being done by by his father, Roscoe.  Being an omitter of facts, especially anything suspicious or even remotely curious, Myers leaves out the most controversial thing about Roscoe White on the day of assassination.  Namely, that he was walking around Dealey Plaza wearing a Dallas police officer's uniform.  But he wasn’t officially a police officer.  He wouldn’t attend police training till early December of 1963. He was working for them as a clerk.  As told to me by Jones Harris, only those people that had completed training would be allowed to wear the uniform of a Dallas Police officer.  

So what was Roscoe White doing in a uniform (complete with badge and gun) when he was only a clerk at this point? Some believe he was one of the shooters and the uniform made a good cover.  Anybody else have a better explanation?

Addendum #2
Tippet’s widow Marie allows WFAA News to examine her husband’s wallet.  It is black as is known, but does not feature the zippered pouch as seen in the WFAA film footage wallet. So we know for certain that the wallet seen in the footage is not Tippet's.  Read all about it here:  LINK


Addendum #3
AT CTKA.net, Hasan Yusuf has posted his review of With Malice.  It covers a lot of ground but has some curious statements.  First off he states the following:

“Although this reviewer discusses evidence further on in this review which casts doubt on Harris's credibility as far as the wallet containing identification for Oswald and Hidell is concerned, Postal's own testimony as described above suggests that she did in fact sell Oswald a ticket.”

Harris in this case is researcher Jones Harris, mentioned above in my review.  Harris has discussed with me many times his interview with Julia Postal, the ticket seller at the movie theater Oswald entered.  I don’t get what is “alleged” about it.  There is some doubt that this interview happened and Harris accurately recorded her reaction?    

Yusuf then says there is evidence that, “casts doubt on Harris's credibility as far as the wallet containing identification for Oswald and Hidell is concerned...”  No telling what that would be as Yusuf never tells it.  Maybe in part two.  

Overall though, a good review of Myers' With Malice for what is there.

Link:  http://ctka.net/2014_reviews/with_malice_1.html

Addendum #4 - 3.10.14
Once again, Dale Myers must be feeling insecure about his place in the Tippet murder investigation because he’s got a new piece on his blog regarding the wallet.  It’s basically a huge cut’n’paste from an earlier article on his blog.  Same old stuff but he makes an odd goof.  He says that researcher Jones Harris interviewed witness Kenneth H. Croy, the first police officer to come in contact with the wallet, in 2005.  

However, Harris told me the he interviewed Croy in 1990, 8 years before Myers published With Malice.  I think this was intentional as Myers does this to establish some doubt about the credibility of Croy and old memories involving his acquiring the wallet.  Myers knows better but it’s in his arsenal of tricks to insure Lee Oswald’s guilt in the Tippet slaying.

Link: http://jfkfiles.blogspot.com/2014/03/solving-tippit-murders-wallet-mystery.html

Addendum #5 - 3.31.14
Part 2 is up now for  Hasan Yusuf has posted his review of With Malice.

It seems that Yusuf doubts the veracity of Jones Harris’ statements to me in my review.  I fail to see the proper context of why his statements would be false or untrustworthy.  I double-check what he says to me, where I can, and I have found nothing false in his reporting of his interviews with witnesses in the case to me.

http://ctka.net/2014_reviews/with_malice_2.html

Sources

Dallas Police files on Tippit

Chapter 12c: Animania by Pat Speer

My take

Dale Myers Propaganda Cartoon (Courtesy of Bob Harris)



Hardcover: 864 pages
Publisher: Oak Cliff Press, Inc.; 2nd ed. edition (2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0966270983
ISBN-13: 978-0966270983
Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.4 x 2 inches

Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds