TESTIMONY OF CALVIN BUD OWENS
The testimony of Calvin Bud Owens was taken at 11:50 a.m., on April 9, 1964, in the office of the U.S. attorney, 301 Post Office Building, Bryan and Ervay Streets, Dallas, Tex., by Mr. John Hart Ely, member of the staff of the President's Commission.
Mr. ELY. Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. OWENS. I do.
Mr. ELY. Sergeant, I am here as a representative of the President's Commission, which is investigating all of the circumstances surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy, and we have reason to believe that you might be able to give us some information which would help us.
Mr. OWENS. All right.
Mr. ELY. Could you state your full name, please?
Mr. OWENS. Calvin Bud Owens.
Mr. ELY. And where do you live, sir?
Mr. OWENS. 1830 Melbourne [spelling] M-e-l-b-o-u-r-n-e.
Mr. ELY. In Dallas?
Mr. OWENS. That's right.
Mr. ELY. What is your occupation?
Mr. OWENS. I am a police officer.
Mr. ELY. And what rank do you hold in the police department?
Mr. OWENS. Sergeant.
Mr. ELY. How long have you been with the police department?
Mr. OWENS. Twenty-three and a half years.
Mr. ELY. Could you give us a general idea of what you did before you went with the department?
Mr. OWENS. How far back?
Mr. ELY. Starting with your schooling, let's say.
Mr. OWENS. Most of my schooling was in Dallas. I was born in Madill [spelling] M-a-d-i-l-l, Okla. I started school in Wilburton, Okla., and from there to Shawnee, Okla., and from there to Ennis, Tex., and then to Dallas, and then I went through Winnetka. I'll say I graduated from City Park Grammar School and Forest Avenue High School. After I got out of school in the depression, I went to work at the Baker Hotel as a bellhop. I left there and went up to Oklahoma for approximately a year, came back and went to work at Sears, Roebuck and worked there 2 1/2 years, and then went to work for the public works department in construction, as a chainman in a survey crew until, let's see, that was in 1938. I worked their until the spring of 1940. I worked 2 months in the fire department, left, and went back to engineers. In October 1940, I went to work in the police department. December 1, 1942, I went in the Navy and got out January 6, 1946, and I returned to the police department.
Mr. ELY. And you have been there ever since?
Mr. OWENS. Yes.
Mr. ELY. Were you on duty on November 22, 1963?
Mr. OWENS. I was.
Mr. ELY, And what was the nature of your assignment on that date?
Mr. OWENS. Acting lieutenant, Oak Cliff substation.
Mr. ELY. Because you were acting lieutenant in the Oak Cliff substation, would that mean that Officer Tippit would be under your supervision?
Mr. OWENS. That's true.
Mr. ELY. When and how did you first hear that there had been an incident involving the President of the United States?
Mr. OWENS. I had eaten lunch and I was on the way back to the substation-- channel 1 was not working properly---some mike--or some radio transmitter had left the mike open and I couldn't hear, and I switched over to channel 2 and heard what sounded like Chief Curry say, "It looks like the President has been hit," so, not knowing what he had been hit with, I go in the substation and hear on the radio where they are sending squads downtown to Elm and Houston, and I called the dispatcher's office and wanted to know if they wanted me downtown. They were very busy and never did answer me, so from that, I assumed that there was a big incident involved and maybe the President had been shot, so I leave 4020 West Illinois where the substation is located and proceed to Elm and Houston, code 3.
Mr. ELY. And what does code 3 mean?
Mr. OWENS. It means emergency with red lights and siren on.
Mr. ELY. Thank you.
Mr. OWENS. I arrived at Elm and Houston, which is the location of the Texas School Book Depository. Before I arrived, the squad was dispatched to pick up a man--an officer on Stemmons, who had a colored man, who had information regarding the shooting. Since I was close, I stopped and picked up a colored man, a lady and two children, and take them to Elm and Houston, and notified Inspector Sawyer of what I had. He informed me to send them to the sheriff's office where they had set up this interrogation room. I turned them over to a patrolman there with the instructions to take them over to the sheriff's office. I stayed with Inspector Sawyer until I was informed that there was a shooting in Oak Cliff involving a police officer.
Mr. ELY. Do you recall the name of this colored man?
Mr. OWENS. No. I told Inspector Sawyer that I was assigned to Oak Cliff and an officer was involved in the shooting, and I was taking off, so I proceeded--I got in my car, and Captain Westbrook and Bill Alexander, an assistant district attorney, also was in the car with me and we started out to--I think the call came out at 400 East 10th or 400 East Jefferson. There was confusion there where the situation was. It was corrected and we went to the scene of the shooting.
Now, right there--here's where I'm not quite sure--I don't know whether I was given the gun and all--but I believe I was given the gun and this was Tippit's gun and shells.
Mr. ELY. Do you recall who gave them to you?
Mr. OWENS. No; some officer, but I don't know who it was.
Mr. ELY. And how long did you have the gun and shells in your custody?
Mr. OWENS. Well, I had them at the hospital and we put them in a paper envelope, a large paper envelope with some more of his possessions.
Mr. ELY. Did you make any identifying marks on them?
Mr. OWENS. No; they were his city issued--his own gun.
Mr. ELY. And do you recall whom you gave them to eventually?
Mr. OWENS. No; I believe it was Barton--I'm not sure. I couldn't say positively who I gave them to, to go put them in the property room. In fact, I don't even know whether I gave them to anybody. I might have taken them out to the Oak Cliff substation and put them in our property room--I don't know.
Mr. ELY. Now, you were back at the stage where somebody had given you the gun, and let's go on from there.
Mr. OWENS. Yes--we were informed by a man whom I do not know, that the suspect that shot Officer Tippit had run across a vacant lot toward Jefferson, and thrown down his jacket, I think he said, white, I'm not sure. Not finding anybody that had seen him come out of that area, we blocked off that square block.
Mr. ELY. Can you tell us specifically what block you blocked off?
Mr. OWENS. I believe it was the 400 block of East Jefferson--the 400 or 500 block. It was this block bound by Jefferson, 10th, Patton, and Denver--I believe that was the area. Then we started searching the buildings and houses--there are some old two-story houses there used as businesses.
Mr. ELY. What was the nature of your search of these buildings? Did you just look through the halls?
Mr. OWENS. Well, I didn't go in. I was standing on the outside and the other officers were going in. I was covering off. Then, we heard over the radio that some officer, who by the number, I took to be a three-wheeler motorcycle officer had seen someone answering the description, go into the basement of the library, which is on the corner of Marsalis and Jefferson, which was about two blocks away. Quite a few of us left that area we were at and proceeded to the library, covered it off, and they brought out the one that they thought was the suspect, but he fit the general description, but he was not the one we were looking for. He was an employee of the library that heard the President had gotten shot and he had been to lunch and he was running over there to tell them that the President got shot.
Mr. ELY. In other words, someone saw this employee run into the library, and that's the reason you came in. He had just run into the library?
Mr. OWENS. That's the man that had run across Jefferson and run into the basement of the library, so I went back to the scene of the shooting of Officer Tippit and another call had come and some of my men yelled to me that they had a suspect in the Texas Theatre, and everyone left there, but nobody was left to help guard the scene except the crime lab man, so I remained at the scene, and everybody else went to the Texas Theatre.
Mr. ELY. Do you remember who the crime lab man was who was there?
Mr. OWENS, At the time I thought it was Captain Doughty [spelling] D-o-u-g-h-t- y. They finished up taking the pictures and I left the scene and went to Methodist Hospital where Officer Tippit had been taken, and I was taken back to the room where he was taken, and in just a brief examination of the body I saw where one bullet had entered his right chest about the pocket and went through a package of cigarettes. Another one hit him about the center of the chest and hit a button, and another one, I believe, was in his right temple, I'm not sure which temple it was, but those three wounds, I did see. I don't know whether he was shot any more or not. I remained at the hospital for quite a time, and then I went back to the Oak Cliff substation where I was assigned.
Mr. ELY. And because you were assigned to the Oak Cliff substation, you at no time during these 2 days or so went into the main police headquarters; is that correct?
Mr. OWENS. What, now?
Mr. ELY. You didn't go to the main police headquarters because you were assigned to the Oak Cliff substation?
Mr. OWENS. No; that's right.
Mr. ELY. Now, I show you a map which is labeled Putnam Deposition Exhibit No. 1. Could you tell us what sort of a map this is?
Mr. OWENS. It is what we call a district map of the various districts of the city of Dallas.
Mr. ELY. The various districts to which patrolmen are assigned, is that correct?
Mr. OWENS. It is what it was set up for. Now, there isn't a squad for each numbered district. Some squads have two or more numbers. I mean, the districts cover that.
Mr. ELY. And could you tell us to which district or districts on that map Officer Tippit was assigned on November 22, 1963?
Mr. OWENS. He was assigned to district 78. Now, I don't know whether we were short any squads that day or not, and if we were, he would be assigned to cover another district also. His call number would still be 78.
Mr. ELY. Would his call number be 78 even if he were outside the district?
Mr. OWENS. Oh, yes.
Mr. ELY. I show you now one of the radio logs which is designated "Sawyer Deposition Exhibit A." Am I correct in saying that at 12:54 p.m., according to this log, Officer Tippit reported by radio that he was then at the corner of Lancaster and Eighth?
Mr. OWENS. That's right.
Mr. ELY. Now, in which district on this map would the corner of Lancaster and Eighth fall?
Mr. OWENS. In district 109.
Mr. ELY. That would be district 109. In which district on the map was Officer Tippit shot?
Mr. OWENS. In district 91.
Mr. ELY. Now, we would like to have your opinion as to why Officer Tippit, who was assigned to district 78, would have been in district 109 at 12:54 p.m. and then later in district 91? In giving us your answer, please feel free to refer to both of these radio logs, which are Sawyer Deposition Exhibits A and B, and also draw upon your experience with the Dallas Police Department and the common procedure for reacting to an emergency.
Mr. OWENS. It says here on channel 1, this is Sawyer Deposition Exhibit B, "Attention all squads in the downtown area, code 3, to Elm and Houston with caution," and knowing that the President's parade was going to be down in that area and also at 12:44 this: "attention all squads, the suspect in the shooting, Elm and Houston, is reported to be an unknown white male, approximately 30, slender build, height, 5 feet 6 inches, weight, 165 pounds, reported to be armed with what is thought to be a .30 caliber rifle, no further description or information at this time ;" and then it recites at 12:45 signal 19 involving the President--that was at 12:45----
Mr. ELY. And signal 19 means what?
Mr. OWENS. A shooting--anything of that magnitude in the shooting of the President is one of the greatest magnitudes, and any officer would proceed as near that location as possible to try to apprehend whoever had done it.
Mr. ELY. Well, would somebody in an outlying district head for Elm and Houston itself; or would he just come in closer?
Mr. OWENS. He would move in that direction, and when they had ordered all downtown squads to proceed to Elm and Houston, knowing that he was going to have to answer calls in the downtown area while they are there, and if you know that in all probability you may get called in, and--instead of the district you are in, you are going to head down there so it won't take you near as long, and also you can still be in the area if the suspect comes your way, you will have a better chance of apprehending him.
Mr. ELY. So, you think Tippit might have been filling in for the people whom he knew had been pulled in to Elm and Houston?
Mr. OWENS. That's what I think--not only filling in, but also looking for the suspect, because he heard about the shooting and the general description of the suspect, and not knowing which way he went, but he could have gone any way, then he is going to head downtown as soon as possible so if he sees someone answering that description, he can apprehend him.
Mr. ELY. You would say it would be normal procedure for an officer in district 78, which is located out in the outlying districts, to head downtown in any emergency?
Mr. OWENS. That's true.
Mr. ELY. Could you perhaps give us an explanation of why he headed over toward 109 and 91? That doesn't seem to be the most direct route.
Mr. OWENS. According to this map--it doesn't show all the things on there--it looks like you would have to zigzag quite a bit, but you wouldn't. You could go down Corinth Street and go across the viaduct, but that would get him down on Industrial, which would still be a lot of traffic to go through. He could go down Clarendon to Marsalis and go North Ewing and then get over to Lancaster, and that would give him a straight shoot to the Houston Street viaduct, which would take him right to Elm and Houston.
Mr. ELY. So that you think a path of going from 78 to 109 to 91 would be a more or less logical route for getting into the center of town?
Mr. OWENS. Yes; I do.
Mr. ELY. On the 22d of November, did you, yourself, have an area which you were patroling?
Mr. OWENS. I was supervising all of the Oak Cliff area, and since I was acting lieutenant, and I made the assignments for that day, I was at the station at 4020 West Illinois at the time.
Mr. ELY. In which numbered area is that located?
Mr. OWENS. That would be on district 97, and no one sent me, but when I heard all of this--so many squads getting called to report there, then I went.
Mr. ELY. You headed toward the downtown area yourself?
Mr. OWENS. Yes; I went to Elm and Houston myself.
Mr. ELY. Even though you didn't have a specific order to go in there either?
Mr. OWENS. That's right--that's true.
Mr. ELY. Officer McDonald, who testified before the Commission, told us that he went to the corner of Elm and Houston, do you know which numbered area on this map he was assigned to?
Mr. OWENS. He was working district 95, which covers district 95 and 96.
Mr. ELY. Off the record.
(Discussion off the record between Counsel Ely and the witness Owens.)
Mr. OWENS. I don't know what district Officer J. L. Angel was working, but it was my understanding that he also went to Elm and Houston.
Mr. ELY. Well, he was working somewhere in the Oak Cliff area, was he?
Mr. OWENS. Yes; he was working in the Oak Cliff area under the same sergeant that Officer Tippit was working under, so he would be in the same general area which covers these districts in here.
Mr. ELY. That would be districts 82 and 85?
Mr. OWENS. No--81, 82, 85, 86, 87, or 76, 77, 78, or 79---that's that sergeant's district.
Mr. ELY. All right, thank you very much, sergeant.
Mr. OWENS. I don't know of anything else--as I say, I couldn't remember where they handed me the gun. I knew it was at the scene because my wife said she saw it on television and I had his gun, and when I asked her about it she said it wasn't the suspect's gun she knew because she has been a policeman's wife long enough to know I wouldn't be handling a gun like that if it was the suspect's.
Mr. ELY. All right, Sergeant, thank you very much.
Mr. OWENS. All right, thank you.