Buddy Walthers — Sheriff's Deputy in Dealey Plaza

A Mystery Death?


The man below is Sheriff's Deputy E. R. (Buddy) Walthers, pointing to a photo of himself in Dealey Plaza shortly after shooting of John Kennedy. At the moment of the shooting, he was in front of the Sheriff's Office on Main Street near Houston, and he rushed into Dealey Plaza.
Sheriff's Deputy Buddy Walthers pointing to photo of himself in Dealey Plaza
Walthers had an important role in the events in Dealey Plaza. He met witness James Tague, and pointed out to him the fact that Tague had a minor wound on his face — presumably the result of being hit by a small fragment from a bullet shot at Kennedy. But his most controversial role was as a spectator standing near two men in suits on the south side of Elm Street. Conspiracists claim one of the men was a "government agent" who picked up and pocketed a bullet — supposedly a .45 caliber which could not have been fired from Oswald's rifle.

Groden and Livingstone, in High Treason, give the standard conspiracy version of this incident:

Deputy Sheriff Buddy Walthers found a bullet in the grass beside Elm Street shortly after the assassination, and turned it over to someone indentifying himself as an FBI agent. Walthers knew too much, and he talked too much. He was shot through the heart during a police shootout in 1969. It was admitted he "could" have been shot by a fellow officer. (p. 114, Conservatory Press edition, Baltimore, 1989)
Likewise, Jim Garrison, in On The Trail of the Assassins, claims that:
[In] another group of pictures taken at Dealey Plaza shortly after the assassination by Jim Murray of Blackstar Photo Service and William Allen of the Dallas Times-Herald . . . Deputy Sheriff Buddy Walthers is shown looking down at a bullet while a neatly dressed blond man is reaching down to pick it up. . . . The bullet was never seen again. The Warren Commission did not ask Walthers about the bullet or the blond man . . . and he did not volunteer anything about them. Walthers subsequently was murdered, so it is safe to conclude that this bullet will remain on the long list of missing or destroyed evidence. (p. 209)
Contrary to what Garrison said, he Warren Commission did ask Walthers about the "discovered bullet" story.
Mr. LIEBELER. There has also been a story, some sort of story that you were supposed to have found a spent bullet.

Mr. WALTHERS. Yes; that's what the story was in this book, and man, I've never made a statement about finding a spent bullet.

Mr. LIEBELER. And you never found any spent bullet?

Mr. WALTHERS. No; me and Allan Sweatt 2 or 3 days after the assassination did go back down there and make a pretty diligent search in there all up where that bullet might have hit, thinking that maybe the bullet hit the cement and laid down on some of them beams but we looked all up there and everywhere and I never did find one. I never did in all of my life tell anybody I found a bullet other than where it hit. (7H550)

Walthers denial didn't stop Jim Garrison from repeating the "found bullet" claim. In December, 1967 Garrison released the Murray and Allen photos showing the "agent" picking up the "bullet." The press immediately asked Walthers about the incident, and he again denied that any bullet was found. He was photographed looking at one of the pictures Garrison released (see above), and the caption on the photograph, as it appeared in a Dallas newspaper, read:
Dallas County Deputy Sheriff, Buddy Walthers, points to himself in a photo released by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. Garrison claims the picture shows a Federal Agent picking up a bullet shell [sic] near the Kennedy assassination site. Walthers stated December 13th that the object being picked up by the Agent was "nothing significant."
The phrase "nothing significant" sounds evasive, and may be a way of avoiding saying that what was actually picked up was a piece of Kennedy's skull bone — if anything was actually picked up. It's in fact not obvious from the photos that anything was.

Less that two years later, Walthers will killed in the line of duty, trying to arrest a suspect. His death is listed as "mysterious" in many conspiracy books, but the following account from the Dallas Morning News shows little to be suspicious of:

Deputy Slain in Shootout

by John Geddie and Robert Finklea

A Dallas County sheriff's deputy was shot to death and his partner wounded Friday in a motel room shootout with an escaped convict and his woman companion.

The convict, also injured by gunfire, and the 23-year-old woman were captured three hours later after one of the largest manhunts here in recent years.

Criminal investigator E. R. (Buddy) Walthers, 40, died of a gunshot wound in the chest. Investigator Alvin Maddox, 28, was shot in the foot and hand and beaten on the head.

James Walter Cherry, 40, an escapee from Putnam County Work Camp in Georgia where he was sent for life on a robbery conviction, was shot in the chest and leg during the exchange of gunfire at Eastern Hills Motel, 3422 Samuell, in East Dallas.

He and Twyna L. Blankenship of Dallas were charged later Friday with murder with malice. They were ordered held without bond.

They were arrested without resistance when deputies blocked off an area in the 9400 block of Laneyvale in the Pleasant Grove area.

Sheriff Bill Decker and other law enforcement sources reported this chain of events:

Walthers and Maddox, tipped by a Mesquite officer that an escaped fugitive was at the motel, entered the motel room and ordered the pair to dress. Cherry pulled a .38-caliber pistol, first shooting Maddox in the hand. During the struggle, Maddox was shot twice more in the foot.

Walthers reportedly lunged at Cherry, but the convict fired from near point-blank range. The bullet struck near his heart.

Maddox regained his feet, but was struck on the head with a lamp and a bottle hurled by the woman. Maddox, after he was shot, fired two bullets into Cherry, who fled with the woman.

One of them (Maddox) hollered for help," receptionist Mary E. DeWeese said. "He said help us."

Mrs. DeWeese and other witnesses said the sound of "firecrackers" called their attention to the shooting.

Paul Lewis, the motel manager, rushed into the parking lot with a pistol and emptied it into the car. There were varying reports on whether his shots hit the car.

Lawmen who rushed to the scene found Walthers face down beside a bed in the small room. Maddox was in the doorway.

Narcotics and narcotics paraphernalia were found in the room.

Identification found at the scene caused police to issue an all-points bulletin on an Irving man. He later turned himself in to officers and explained his identification had been stolen about three months ago.

Sheriff's deputies found a notation in Maddox's notebook which indicated he had been searching for a man 6-feet-4, had been linked with a woman with the same first name Maddox had listed.

"We began checking the haunts of the girl," Sheriff Decker said.

Deputies J. L. Oxford and Alvis Brock spotted a car matching the description given by motel employees at a home on Laneyvale, where the woman companion reportedly had lived. Nine other deputies were called to the scene. Mrs. Blankenship was arrested minutes later, leaving the home in a car with another man.

At the same time, other deputies rushed to a car parked in the driveway. Cherry was inside.

"They yelled for him to come out, and he raised his hands and came out," Oxford said.

Cherry was taken to Parkland Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. Mrs. Blankenship was taken to the sheriff's office, where she was arraigned and questioned. The third man was brought in for questioning. Officers said he had not been at the motel.

The news of the arrest came when Sheriff Decker received a call from deputies and announced, "Cherry's hit. Maddox hit him. We got the girl, too."

Cherry, whose arrest record dates to 1944, "had been on every (wanted) list in the country, Decker said. He is under indictment for possession of heroin and as an ex-convict carrying a pistol in Dallas. He escaped from the Georgia prison May 29, 1968.

Cherry was well known by area officers, including Walthers and Maddox, for his many arrests in the Dallas area. He has served prison time in Texas for burglaries.

Walthers, a deputy since Dec. 17, 1955, was the father of three. He played a prominent part in the investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald after the assassination of President Kennedy.

In June, 1968, Walthers reported a bombing outside his home in Oak Cliff. That case is still under investigation. (Dallas Morning News, January 11, 1969)

Why a conspiracy would want to murder Walthers is difficult to fathom. If he really saw a .45 caliber bullet near the south curb of Elm Street, he had shown himself perfectly willing to lie about it. Apparently, we are supposed to believe that conspirators were willing to kill their loyal supporters.
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