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The Recollections Of Brewer And Hawkins

on Mon 24 Sep 2018, 8:10 pm
An excerpt from Gus Russo's book.



John Brewer and Ray Hawkins


About ninety steps from the movie theater where Oswald sought refuge after killing both President Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit, twentytwo-
year-old John Brewer was managing Hardy’s Shoe Store. Listening to reports about the assassination, he learned about Tippit’s murder just blocks away. After Oswald walked down Jefferson Boulevard and ducked into the theater, Brewer alerted police, who quickly came and arrested the assassin. On the day Kennedy came to Dallas, thirty-oneyear-old Ray Hawkins, a married father of two, was one of the few patrolmen not assigned to the presidential visit.



Instead he was working as a traffic accident investigator when he heard over the police radio that an officer had been shot in the Oak Cliff suburb. Each man played a key role in locating and arresting the assassin, and this is the first time the two have sat down together to recall the events of the day.
[size=41]J[/size]OHN BREWER: I had noticed this guy as he walked into the window area of our storefront, and I thought it was pretty strange that somebody would be shopping for shoes with all the commotion going on and the police cars going by. Then I said, “I know this guy from somewhere. I recognize him.” But mainly it was his actions and his trying to avoid any part of what was going on out here that caught my attention. I was listening to the radio, knowing a policeman had been shot; they’d give a description, but instantly, when he walked into the recessed area, it was like, I’ve seen him somewhere before. I couldn’t place where. What led me to pursue him wasn’t so much that I’d seen him before but the way he was acting—hiding himself from all the police cars that were converging at the Tenth and Patton area. So those two things: One, I’d seen him, and the way he acted.




It took a while, but I realized that he had been a customer weeks before. I had sold him a pair of shoes, $4.70. (Our highest-price shoes, the deluxe shoes, were $7.70.) It was at night, and stores were only open one night a week, on Thursday. This was a Thursday night and, as near as I can figure, maybe six weeks before. He was a very fastidious customer, very hard to make up his mind. I just let him be and stepped away from him. In sales, the last person who speaks wins . . . or loses—so I let him try them on, and finally he said, “I’ll take them.”


On this day, when the police cars went by, I was standing just inside the door observing him, and he was looking at me—he looked me square in the eye too. He was looking through the door, and I know there was recognition because he’d seen me. When the police cars all got by and the sound was more in the distance,he turned around, looked over his shoulder, and walked out and proceeded up the street.I just had a feeling that something was wrong with this picture—that he was suspicious—and yet he wasn’t panicky; he wasn’t running.I’ve heard he was running—he wasn’t—he was just walking at a nice
pace. But it was just a gut feeling that something was up. Why do you pretend to be shopping for shoes when all this commotion is going on?


I didn’t connect him to the assassination, which I had heard about. I was also aware that Officer Tippit had been shot and killed just a few blocks from here, and that probably—with a description from the radio station I was listening to— led to more wonderment and What the heck is going on here? While I was
walking, he had already entered the Texas Theatre—you could see him go in. I stood there for a second and thought, What am I fixin’ to get into?Why am I doing this? But I just kept walking.


To Be Continued
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Re: The Recollections Of Brewer And Hawkins

on Mon 24 Sep 2018, 8:15 pm
The story got out that Oswald was busted for not buying a ticket. Totally wrong. I asked Julie Postal, the cashier, if she had sold a ticket to a man matching his description. I only wanted
confirmation that somebody else saw what I saw. I could have cared less if he was buying a ticket, so he wasn’t busted for that. She said, no, she hadn’t sold a ticket to anybody that matched that description; she had been out on the sidewalk watching all the commotion as well. I said, “The fella I saw went into the theater; I’m going inside.” Once I got inside, I saw Butch Burrows, who was the concessionaire. I asked him the same question. “Did you see this fella”—matching the description I gave him— “come in?” He said, no, that he’d been busy stocking his concessions. I
said, “Well, he came in here, and there’s something funny about him. Let’s go look.”


Butch went with me. We went up to the balcony, didn’t see anything,and then went back down to the theater’s lower level; didn’t see him. I went behind the curtain that leads out to the fire escape, out into the alley,and I said, “Butch, I’m going to stand here. You go up to the front, and if anybody matching this description starts to leave, stop him.” I didn’t know the guy had a .38 in his pocket.I came back out and reported to Julie Postal that the guy was still there. She hadn’t seen him. I said, “Call the police,” so Julie made the phone call. That’s when I went back in. Butch was up front, and I was in the back; I still hadn’t seen him.


The house lights in the theater came on, and that was the first time I really spotted him inside the theater. He stood up for a second like he was going to leave and then just turned around and sat right back down within one seat or so of where he had been sitting. That was the first time I saw him in the theater, but I thought, Gotcha!I still had no idea what he had done, no clue. But, son, you did something. You did something. When he pulled that gun out on Officer McDonald, I knew he had done something.


RAY HAWKINS: John Brewer and I first met at the back door of this theater. All we had was the description that John had given whenever he talked on the phone. He said that a suspicious man dressed like the suspect had come in here. We were over at the library at that time. We first had a report that someone fitting his description had gone into the library. We found out that wasn’t
true. Then they said John had called in, that there was a man in the theater who hadn’t paid to go in, so that’s about what we knew then. I knew that J. D. had been killed, so it was a very dangerous situation. I was an accident investigator at the time, and of course I was in uniform, but no bulletproof vest.When I first came through the door, I thought John was the suspect.


BREWER: I remember opening a door and being immediately grabbed—I don’t know how many were out there, but there had to be at least half a dozen to ten or so. I had to explain quickly that there was a person in here that I was suspicious of and, basically, “I’m on your side. I’m not the bad guy.” Officer McDonald asked if he should go out here, and, just before he knocked on the door, the house lights came on. That was actually the first time I saw Oswald, even though I was sure he was in the theater. There was a curtain back by the exit, and I was looking through the curtain when the house lights came on. The movie continued to play.Oswald stood up as if he was going to leave and moved maybe one seat over but basically sat back down in the same position on the same row.
Officer McDonald, myself, and another officer—I don’t know his name— walked out on the stage. I pointed to Oswald, and Oswald was just sitting there, calm as he could be.


I pointed him out from the stage, but I probably wouldn’t have been there if I’d been aware that he was armed. I had no idea—didn’t even enter my mind. He just kind of stared, glared back. I jumped off the stage, and Officer McDonald came up the left side, as you face the audience. Another officer and I walked up the right side. Officer McDonald was tapping people on the shoulder, telling them to get up, to move, but all the while he was keeping his eye on Oswald. Just as Officer McDonald walked into the aisle, tapping him to get up, Oswald got up. He threw a hard left cross and knocked Officer McDonald back into the seat. I’m standing maybe ten or twelve feet away. Almost in the same motion, he reaches under his shirt, which was not tucked in, and pulls out a pistol—I think it was a revolver—and puts it right in Officer McDonald’s face. Officer McDonald had recovered basically; he got back up, wrestled the gun away from him, and I’m sure I saw Oswald pull the
trigger. But Officer McDonald has said that the hammer hit the fleshy part between his thumb and forefinger, preventing the gun from firing.


Immediately the gun was taken away from Oswald, and then cops were coming over the backs of the chairs. They weren’t getting cheap shots in, but they were going to arrest this guy.


HAWKINS: I came up the aisle and heard Nick McDonald say, “I’ve got him.” Then at I saw that they were locked up in a fight, and I went up and got Oswald’s left hand into the handcuffs; it seemed like two or three minutes, but it wasn’t that long. It was a lot of chaos. It rained police. One of the officers even jumped down off the balcony to assist in the arrest, but we had enough police there at that time. The only thing I heard Oswald say was “I haven’t done nothing.” That’s exactly what he said. Other than that, I didn’t hear anything. There were so many police then and so much
confusion, it was kind of hard to hear who was saying what.
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Re: The Recollections Of Brewer And Hawkins

on Mon 24 Sep 2018, 8:21 pm
BREWER: As they were leading him out toward the side I was standing on, he looked me straight in the face, and I heard him say, “I’m not resisting arrest.” That was kind of hard to swallow, that he wasn’t resisting after having tried to kill a policeman. At the time, I really wasn’t thinking he might’ve been the assassin of President Kennedy because of the distance from downtown to here. I felt
that maybe he did have something to do with Officer Tippit’s murder, but it didn’t really dawn on me until I got home that evening,turned on the television, and there was Oswald, down at the police station with Captain Will Fritz. I said, “Damn.”


HAWKINS: When I came in here, I was also looking for somebody who had shot Officer Tippit. I hadn’t yet made the connection to President Kennedy. When I heard that he was the chief suspect in the assassination of the president—oh, my—I thought we were lucky to be here,just living through that. But I don’t even know what I thought when we were coming up the aisle in the theater before we found out he could be connected with the assassination. It was just really a weird night, a weird day and a weird night, really. We were lucky that nobody else was shot.I don’t know why Oswald let us walk all the way up in the theater and didn’t shoot one of us. I thought of that afterward; I didn’t think of it then.I thought we were lucky just to lose one officer.


BREWER: When Oswald pulled the pistol, it kind of brought me back into focus, and still I’m wondering, Why am I doing this? What have I just got myself into? What am I doing here? Pretty soon, it kind of all came together that it was probably a pretty good thing. It happened so fast, and yet it kind of plays back in slow motion a lot of times. But I really didn’t have time to think about what was going on, what danger there might be,or anything—it was just fast.


HAWKINS: They had a car out front that we put him in after we got him handcuffed and everything. There was quite a crowd out there too.They wanted to do their own justice. They were angry.
BREWER: I didn’t see that because I was detained here, getting information. By the time I got outside, it’d already cleared out and was just like a ghost town. Shops were closing up.
HAWKINS: When I saw his face, he looked like just another citizen.He had a little mark across his face or two after we arrested him. But he just looked like an ordinary citizen, someone you would see walking down the street, which he had been doing. Nothing outstanding in one way or another that I could see.
BREWER: I got home and turned on the TV. My wife at that time worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield downtown. They had closed down, as everybody else had. I’ve got the TV on, and my wife says, “That happened pretty close to where you—” I said, “Yeah, that happened pretty close.”


Then my mom called from Lockhart, Texas, and said, “I just saw that Oswald was arrested by your shop. I just pray you weren’t anywhere near that.”I said, “Mom, I got a story to tell you.” It still didn’t dawn me, really. But then the news came in more and more. They’re showing Oswald;they’re showing the rifle there at the police station, showing Captain Will Fritz. And then you hear Oswald saying he didn’t do anything—he was seeking representation, I believe. It really started sinking in that he actually was the main and only suspect for the Kennedy assassination, and it was pretty much a given that he had murdered Officer Tippit. I came to work the next morning, and of course there were sound trucks and all sorts of media trucks out. I thought, I’m not used to that,and it was just pretty much rapid fire, speaking with reporters, media. In fact, it got pretty annoying after a while, and it went on for quite a while,maybe a couple of months. Then I was transferred to the downtown store on Main Street, and it kind of started quieting down. We didn’t have that mass or instant media like they’ve got now. It still didn’t dawn on me just how big an operation that was, but it did dawn on me that, like Ray said, a lot of people could have got hurt.


HAWKINS: The next day at headquarters, we were still doing reports and getting it all together, and it was really busy. There were four or five of us who had come in the theater first, and we were all writing up reports and letters to the chief on what had happened. But what had happened finally sank in that day. It didn’t seem that night like any of this stuff had happened earlier, or it wasn’t anything. Then it did sink in—the next day, really—that any number of us could have been killed. I could have been shot; any of us could have been shot. On Sunday I was watching TV at home. I saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald. I knew Jack, had been to his club a few times. He wanted to be noticed and known; he really liked the police. He just wanted everybody to like him, I would say, especially the police. Several of them went to his club, kind of a police hangout, because he was friendly with police. You could go after hours and have a beer. I didn’t realize who it was at first. Then I heard them, or I saw when they pulled him back who it was, and I thought, Oh, no. I just couldn’t believe it was Jack who did it. Then a lot of people said he was connected with the Mafia here and in Chicago and all this, but I never did get that impression of him. He was just somebody who liked the police and was good to the police and wanted a little attention. He liked it. He liked us to recognize him, and if we took someone down to his club, he was always friendly. But it was a surprise.



To Be Continued
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Re: The Recollections Of Brewer And Hawkins

on Mon 24 Sep 2018, 8:26 pm
BREWER: I was out in the parking lot when Ruby shot Oswald, washing this brand-new Ford Galaxy XL that I’d taken delivery on the night before the assassination. I wasn’t even supposed to be on duty at the store the next day. My assistant called in, his young child was ill, so I went to fill in. I had every intention just to cruise around in that car, which had a police interceptor engine in it, so I didn’t see the Ruby shooting at all. My wife came out and said, “Come in; you’re not going to believe this.” It was just—damn, when is this going to stop? I thought before and after that it wasn’t Dallas’s fault. A lot of people took it upon themselves to make Dallas the whipping child. Dallas, to me, didn’t change. I enjoyed Dallas, I enjoyed going to the Cotton Bowl,where we would watch Tom Landry and Roger Staubach.


HAWKINS: I agree with you, John. The city itself got a bad name,but there was really no way of stopping what occurred. It seemed that after this happened, the citizens banded together; they even seemed to take more interest in the police department. I think it hurt a lot of people.I know I didn’t appreciate the things that were said about Dallas, but I was born and raised in Dallas. I felt it was a bad story that they put on the city, but there’s not a whole lot you can do about that.


BREWER: When I got out of the service in 1969, I had the option of staying in Dallas, retaining my job. I’d already grown tired of the assassination,so I moved to Austin. To this day—it’s kicked off a little bit the past couple of years—there are people who have known me for the longest time, who I work with, who have no idea I was involved, unless they came into the house and might have seen something framed. There was a letter from President Johnson, and they’ll ask, “What’s this?” But I play it really low key. Many people don’t have a clue. I have recently been recognized
by the Dallas Police Department, got its Good Citizen Award—but I was just in the right place at the right time, however dangerous it was.


HAWKINS: And you handled it right, didn’t get shot at the back door or anything.
BREWER: I appreciate that. The assassination brought the country together. It was scary times when we listened to the Cuban Missile Crisis live broadcast of the Russian ships turning around, so there was a lot of Cold War tension. The assassination kind of centralized Dallas, and afterward I don’t know if it was a coming together or just a realizing that, hey, we’ve all grown up here pretty quick.


HAWKINS: I think it did bring the country together. The United States, a lot of people, myself being one of them, didn’t really pay much attention to the election. We voted, but I don’t think we really put that much into it. I think this got everybody more interested in government, exactly what was going on, and things our government was doing. I felt like it did that much for us. It changed me. I, one of those who didn’t pay a lot of attention to politics, now tried to stay up on things that were happening in the country more than I had before.


BREWER: A couple of weeks later I had a customer on a late afternoon and saw a taxi pull up out front. This lady got out, and I recognized her from TV. It was Marguerite Oswald. She walked in just like Here I am and said, “Mr. Brewer.” I said, “Yes, Mrs. Oswald?” My customer kind of looked up. She only wanted to say that she felt Lee was innocent, and she wanted to hear from me what had happened. Not taking any sides, I said, “Mrs. Oswald, I don’t know for sure that he did kill the president, but I’m pretty sure he killed a policeman. I’m pretty sure he was involved, but, as a mother, you’re standing up for your son.” She said nothing, she just twirled around, hopped in the cab, and away she went.


I still see that scene in my mind fifty years later, every day just about.Something just real brief, but I think about it quite a bit. I don’t dwell on it, but it was a part of my life and continues to be. Not a bad part at all, but I’m not just a one-trick pony. I’ve done other things to define my life. But it’ll be part of the legacy, I guess. Not a bad one, not a bad one at all. I acted on instinct, not knowing where it was going or how big it was—a little instinct and some stupidity probably, not knowing what could happen.
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