TESTIMONY OF WALTER EUGENE POTTS
The testimony of Walter Eugene Potts was taken at 11:45 a.m., on April 3, 1964, in the office of the U.S. attorney, 301 Post Office Building, Bryan and Ervay Streets, Dallas, Tex., by Mr. Joseph A. Ball, assistant counsel of the President's Commission.
Mr. BALL. Will you hold up your right hand and be sworn, please?
Mr. POTTS. Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL. Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give
before the Commission shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. POTTS. I do.
Mr. BALL. Will you state your name, please?
Mr. POTTS. Walter Eugene Potts.
Mr. BALL. What business or occupation are you in?
Mr. POTTS. I am a detective with the police department, homicide, Dallas.
Mr. BALL. How long have you been with the police department in Dallas?
Mr. POTTS. Since October 21, 1947.
Mr. BALL. And how long have you been with the homicide department?
Mr. POTTS. June 6, 1956.
Mr. BALL. Can you tell me something about where you were born and where you were educated and what you have done since then?
Mr. POTTS. I was born at Sherman, Tex., April 28, 1922, and I came to Dallas in 1924 and was raised here in Dallas, attended public schools in Dallas, graduated from this Dallas--it's Crozier Tech now, but it was Dallas Technical High School right here on Bryan Street in 1941, and when I graduated I went to work for Southwest Airmotive at Love Field, and I worked for Taycee Badgett Aviation in 1942 and 1943, in Shreveport, La., and I took an aviation cadet mental and physical down there and came back to Dallas to be inducted into the service, and I worked for Lockheed at Love Field before I went in the service, and I went in the service in July 1945. I was discharged in January 1947. I was in the 796th Military Police Battalion in Vienna, Austria, and also the 505th there.
I came back and went to work for the Taylor Publishing Co. just before I went to work for the police department. My mother and father, they still live here out on Brookfield and my sister lives here. I am one of the very few native boys in this police department down here--that's raised right here.
Mr. BALL. And on November 22, 1963, you had the day off, didn't you?
Mr. POTTS. Yes sir; that was my day off.
Mr. BALL. And did you hear on the radio the President had been shot?
Mr. POTTS. Well, my wife and I had gone to the cleaners up there at Jim Miller and Military, and I suppose it was around 12:30 or a quarter to 1--around 1 o'clock and we pulled up in front of the cleaners there and Mr. Wright at the barbershop came out to the car and he said, "Have you heard about the President getting shot?"
You know, I thought he was joking and I thought he was kidding and I turned on my car radio and there it was.
We went on back home and I called the office immediately and talked to Detective Baker, he's a lieutenant now, and he said he was calling all the men back and I started to get dressed--get ready, and I told him I would be there as soon as I could, and I got dressed and got there within the hour, which was around 2 or before.
Mr. BALL. What did you do when you first got there?
Mr. POTTS. When I was walking across the street there, I parked my car over at the Scottish Rite parking lot there and it's the Masonic lot and when I come across the street there at Commerce and Harwood this officer on the corner there said, "Did you hear about Tippit getting killed?" I said, "No; I didn't hear about that." He said, "Yes; I understand he got killed on a disturbance call over in Oak Cliff." That's the first I had heard about Tippit and when I got to the office, I walked in and Baker told me, "We have some people here from the Texas School Book Depository--there are four or five of them back there," and he said, "Would you go back there and take some affidavits from them?" And I said, "Sure," and I went back there and took one from this Arce, and I was in the process of taking one from this Jack Dougherty when I heard some officers coming in the door there, and I heard one of them say, "We've got the man that killed Tippit."
So, they brought him on back in while we were sitting back in the squadroom and I was sitting back there with Dougherty and Arce, and they came by and put him in the side interrogation room back there. As you walk in the door, there is an interrogation room right straight ahead and then you turn right to
go back in the squadroom and you go on back in the squadroom, and this Mr. Dougherty looked at me and he said, "I know that man."
He said, "He works down there in that building--the Texas School Book Depository Building." He said, "I don't know his name, but I know him." So did Arce he said, "Yes, he works down there."
So, I went ahead and took those affidavits from them--from those people and we got them notarized.
Mr. BALL. You mean Arce and Dougherty?
Mr. POTTS. Arce and Dougherty. There were some more officers back there taking affidavits from some of the others--some of those other people I don't know--you know, time and all the confusion around there, you don't exactly know what time, but my partner, Bill Senkel, and F. M. Turner--we work a three-man squad, and Bill came around and he talked to Captain Fritz, and he said "Come on, let's go. We are going out to 1026 North Beckley."
He came around and told me, he said--he asked me if I had finished taking the affidavits, and I told him, "Yes," and he said, "Captain Fritz wants you and I to go out to Oswald's or Hidell's or Oswald's room."
On his person--he must have had--he did have identification with the name Alex Hidell and Oswald---Lee Harvey Oswald, but Lt. E. L. Cunningham of the forgery bureau, who used to be a member of the homicide and robbery bureau before he made lieutenant, he went with us and we went out there.
Mr. BALL. Before you went out there, did you get a search warrant?
Mr. POTTS. No; we didn't--we didn't get a search warrant at that time. We went to the location and talked to the people there.
Mr. BALL. That's Lt. E. L. Cunningham?
Mr. POTTS. Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL. And who else?
Mr. POTTS. B. L. Senkel.
Mr. BALL. And yourself?
Mr. POTTS. And myself.
Mr. BALL. And you went out to where?
Mr. POTTS. 1026 North Beckley.
Mr. BALL. What happened when you got there?
Mr. POTTS. We got there and we talked to this Mrs.--I believe her name was Johnson.
Mr. BALL Mrs. A. C. Johnson?
Mr. POTTS. Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Roberts.
Mr. BALL. Earlene Roberts?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; and they didn't know a Lee Harvey Oswald or an Alex Hidell either one and they couldn't--they just didn't have any idea who we were talking about, so the television--it is a rooming house, and there was a television----
Mr. BALL. Did you check their registration books?
Mr. POTTS. Yes, sir; we looked at the registration book--Senkel, I think, or Cunningham--well, we all looked through the registration book and there wasn't anyone by that name, and the television was on in the living room. There's an area there where the roomers sit, I guess it's the living quarters--it flashed Oswald's picture on there and one of the women, either Mrs. Roberts or Mrs. Johnson said, "That's the man that lives here. That's Mr. Lee---O.H. Lee." She said, "His room is right here right off of the living room."
Senkel or Cunningham, one of them, called the office and they said that Turner was en route with a search warrant and we waited there until 4:30 or 5 that afternoon. We got out there about 3.
Mr. BALL. You waited there in the home?
Mr. POTTS. We waited there in the living quarters.
Mr. BALL. You did not go into the small room that had been rented by Lee?
Mr. POTTS. No; we didn't--we didn't search the room at all until we got the warrant.
Mr. BALL. Who brought the warrant out?
Mr. POTTS. Judge David Johnston.
Mr. BALL. The judge issued it, but who brought it out?
Mr. POTTS. Well, F. M. Turner and H. M. Moore was with him, and Judge David Johnston was there, and also Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander.
Mr. BALL. Did David L. Johnston go too, the justice of the peace?
Mr. POTTS. Yes, the judge was there in person.
Mr. BALL. He was?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; and also Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander--they all came in the same car.
Mr. BALL. What did you do then?
Mr. POTTS. Well, after we showed Johnson the search warrant, I think it was Johnson, we went on in the room and continued to search the room, and we took everything in there that we could find.
Mr. BALL. Would you describe the room, the appearance of the room?
Mr. POTTS. Well, the room was off--as you walk into the house, the living area, the room was right there at the front door, and it was off to the left of the living room. It was a real small room. It was, oh, I don't suppose it was 6 to 8 feet wide, and maybe 10 feet long. It was a real small room. It had a half bed in there and back in the back there it had a shelf---some shelves and stuff that he had some food and stuff back there in.
Mr. BALL. How was it furnished?
Mr. POTTS. Well, it just had the bed in there, and I believe, if remember, it might have had a chair--I'm not sure. So, Moore, Senkel, Cunningham and all of us--we searched that room--we took everything in there all but--there was some food on the shelf we didn't take and we went through the trash can and there was some banana peelings and stuff, but everything in there we took everything in there we could find. We even took the pillow cases off of one of the pillows and put stuff in it. He had one of those little zipper-type bags and he had a lot of stuff in it.
Mr. BALL. What color was the bag?
Mr. POTTS. I don't recall the color of that bag.
Mr. BALL. Did you bring it with you--you picked it up too, and brought it in, too?
Mr. POTTS. Yes, sir; we brought everything out of the room we could find.
Mr. BALL. Were there curtains on the windows?
Mr. POTTS. Yes, sir; I think so.
Mr. BALL. Hanging on rods?
Mr. POTTS. If I remember correctly, I think there was curtains on the walls, but we looked behind the curtains and everything--and looked behind the blinds and everything.
Mr. BALL. Now, did you see anything of a leather holster?
Mr. POTTS. A .38 leather holster--I have a list there of all the stuff we brought out of there.
Mr. BALL. Could I see that, please?
Mr. POTTS. Yes, sir; you sure can. This is a list Mr. Turner and Mr. Moore and myself compiled after we brought it into the office.
Mr. BALL. You brought the stuff into the office?
Mr. POTTS. Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL We'll mark this as "Potts Exhibit A."
(Instrument referred to marked by the reporter as "Ports Exhibit A," for identification.)
Mr. POTTS. You can have that if you would like.
Mr. BALL. This will be two exhibits A-1 and A-2.
(The instruments referred to marked by the reporter as "Ports Exhibits A-1 and A-2," for identification.)
Mr. BALL. Did you ask Mrs. Johnson whether or not she had ever seen the holster before?
Mr. POTTS. I don't recall asking her that.
Mr. BALL. Did you ever ask Mrs. Earlene Roberts if she had seen the holster before?
Mr. POTTS. I don't recall talking to her about that. They weren't too familiar with what was in that room. I didn't talk to them too much about it.
Mr. BALL. You recovered a Dallas city map, too, didn't you?
Mr. POTTS. Yes, sir; that had some markings on it in pencil.
Mr. BALL. All right, go ahead.
Mr. POTTS. There was a red notebook there that had a lot of names in it and addresses in it and a lot of Russian writing--and it had a diagram of the Red Square in there, I suppose, that's what it looked like to me. I suppose that's what it was, but, of course, it was all written in Russian and about half of that book I didn't understand.
Mr. BALL. You brought all of this property to the city hall?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; we did.
Mr. BALL. And you made the inventory we have had marked here as "Exhibits A-1 and A-2"?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; Mr. Moore and Turner and I compiled it.
Mr. BALL. Now, on that same day, did you do anything more?
Mr. POTTS. Let me say--later on in the afternoon--we worked the rest of that night, up until--I don't recall what time I did leave there---it was pretty late.
Mr. BALL. I have here a document which has been marked as "Commission Exhibit No. 426." Did you find this document at the 1026 North Beckley address that day, do you remember?
Mr. POTTS. I recall seeing this; yes, I do. I don't know which one of the officers picked it up.
Mr. BALL. Do you remember where it was?
Mr. POTTS. No; I don't.
Mr. BALL. Do--you don't know where it was kept?
Mr. POTTS. No, sir.
Mr. BALL. But was it brought from the room?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; it was--here's my initial in the right hand corner, and here is Mr. Moore's.
Mr. BALL. What does that initial mean?
Mr. POTTS. That's my initial, "W. E. P."
Mr. BALL. And there is "11-22-63"--what does that mean?
Mr. POTTS. That means--we initial all of the evidence we bring out of there. At the time---this was going to court, and if this was brought out in court that would be my initials right there---I recovered this.
Mr. BALL. Did you initial it right there in the room?
Mr. POTTS. We initialed it after we brought it to the station.
Mr. BALL These are the initials of the men who were there with you?
Mr. POTTS. That's H. M. Moore and I guess it's F. M. Turner--"F. M. T."-that's my partner. Yes, sir; for the purpose of identification in court, we initialed everything we could possibly write on.
Mr. BALL. Now, did you, on the 23d of November, take part in the investigation of either the death of Oswald or the shooting of the President?
Mr. POTTS. Well, I reported to work at 10 o'clock in the morning and we worked until midnight that night it was mostly telephone conversations--they had to put extra phones in our office. We were swamped--I talked to people from England, Canada, Peru--all over was just calling in there just a continual call---call--call--and it kept most of us real busy answering telephone calls that day.
Mr. BALL. Did you take part in any showup of Oswald?
Mr. POTTS. I believe I did--was that the 23d--at 2:15 that afternoon on the 23d, I was in on one.
Mr. BALL. Who was with you?
Mr. POTTS. Mr. Senkel and I went to the jail and stood by the jail elevator and waited until the showup came down, and I was thinking there was M. G. Hall and Charlie Brown and a jailer or two that brought that showup down. They were all handcuffed together, as I recall.
Mr. BALL. Who is M. G. Hall?
Mr. POTTS. He is a detective in our bureau.
Mr. BALL. And who is Charlie Brown?
Mr. POTTS. Charlie Brown is also an officer assigned to the bureau. Now, I might be wrong about that, but it seems to me like they were the two that showed up then, but they might not have been.
Mr. BALL. Now, did you have anything to do with the selection of the men who were to be in the showup?
Mr. POTTS. No, sir; all I did was just to go down to the jail door and walk with the showup out to the stage, and I stood out on the stage while the showup was conducted.
Mr. BALL. How was it conducted? Describe it.
Mr. POTTS. Well, there is an anteroom before you get to the showup stage. Now, the witnesses were out front behind this transparent black nylon screen. There's a light set at an angle on the stage where the person on the stage can't see the people out in the audience. They brought them out handcuffed together and this John Thurman Horne went in first--no, that's wrong--Lujan went on first, because he would be No. 4. You see, they've got numbers above the--above them higher up there.
Mr. BALL. What is his full name?
Mr. POTTS. Daniel Lujan, and then Oswald was No. 3, Knapp No. 2.
Mr. BALL. What is Knapp's full name?
Mr. POTTS. David Knapp and John Thurman Horne was No. 1.
Mr. BALL. And what happened then, after they went out on the stage?
Mr. POTTS. Well, Detective Leavelle now, I don't know who the witness was that they were showing them to--the showup to.
Mr. BALL. Did you hear Leavelle?
Mr. POTTS. I heard Leavelle question each one of the men. There is a black square on the floor and he tells each one of them to take one step forward and they have a microphone above, and I don't recall exactly what he asked them--It was just to get them to talk and identify themselves. We conduct them different--sometimes we ask them their names and their address and their occupation.
Mr. BALL. Did you ask the questions?
Mr. POTTS. No, sir.
Mr. BALL. Did Leavelle ask the questions?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; he was up there.
Mr. BALL. And, did he direct his questions to the men on the stage?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; to the men on the stage.
Mr. BALL. Did you hear them?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; I heard them answer.
Mr. BALL. Did Oswald speak up or not?
Mr. POTTS. Well, he was complaining all during the showup. He had on a T-shirt and the rest of them didn't have on T- shirts, and he was complaining, "Well, everybody's got on a shirt and everything, and I've got a T-shirt on"--he was very belligerent about the showup. He wouldn't cooperate in any way. He was just making all kinds of commotion out there and he was doing more of the talking than anybody.
Mr. BALL. What kind of commotion was he making?
Mr. POTTS. Well, he was doing a lot of talking about him being in a T-shirt, and "nobody else has got on a T-shirt and I've got on a T-shirt, this is unfair," and all that--just generally talking and after the showup was over, we just accompanied them back from the stage out to the anteroom door and just walked along with them and the elevator--took them on the elevator, and that's all we had to do with the show.
Mr. BALL. That's all you had to do with it?
Mr. POTTS. Yes.
Mr. BALL. What were the appearances of the four men who came out?
Mr. POTTS. They were similar in size---I didn't pick them--I don't know who did, but they were generally the same size, and, of course, the ages are a little different here.
Mr. BALL. What ages were they, do you know?
Mr. POTTS. Well, Horne was 17--he was born November 6, 1945, I believe that's right.
Mr. BALL. John Thurman Home?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; and this David Edmond Knapp, he was 18. He was born October 22, 1945, and this Daniel Lujan, he was 26, and he was born February 15, 1937.
Mr. BALL. And do you have the addresses of these three men?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; I do--now, I got the addresses off of---out of our records bureau--off of their arrest cards. I don't know whether they gave a fictitious address or not.
Mr. BALL. Yes.
Mr. POTTS. Now, Horne is 2942 Ann Arbor.
Mr. BALL. 2942 Ann Arbor?
Mr. POTTS. Yes.
Mr. BALL. And that's Dallas?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; that's in Oak Cliff.
Mr. BALL. And what was he charged with--why was he in jail?
Mr. POTTS. Traffic tickets--he had a number of traffic tickets.
Mr. BALL. Traffic tickets?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; he had a stack of them--all on the same arrest date.
Mr. BALL He did?
Mr. POTTS. Yes---red lights and so on.
Mr. BALL. And what about David Knapp, what was he in for?
Mr. POTTS. He was in for investigation of theft and he lived at 2922 Alabama. That's in Oak Cliff.
Mr. BALL. And he was in for investigation?
Mr. POTTS. Investigation of burglary and theft.
Mr. BALL. Was he convicted?
Mr. POTTS. Well, I don't know anything about that.
Mr. BALL. You don't know where he is now?
Mr. POTTS. No, sir; I have never seen those men since.
Mr. BALL. You don't know whether he was convicted or not?
Mr. POTTS. No, sir; I don't.
Mr. BALL. What about Lujan?
Mr. POTTS. Daniel Lujan--[spelling] L-u-j-a-n, I guess that's the way you pronounce it. He was born February 15, 1937, and gave the address of 1804 Lear [spelling] L-e-a-r Street, and he was in for investigation of violation of State narcotic laws.
Mr. BALL. And was he convicted, or do you know?
Mr. POTTS. I don't know.
Mr. BALL Do you know if any one of these men has ever been convicted of a felony?
Mr. POTTS. No, sir; I don't.
Mr. BALL. You know nothing about that?
Mr. POTTS. I know nothing about them at all. In fact, that's the first time I have ever seen them and I suppose the last time.
Mr. BALL. Now, did you take any further part in the investigation?
Mr. POTTS. That Presidential assassination--I think that's about all I done on that.
Mr. BALL. I think that one day you went out and talked to Mr. Fischer?
Mr. POTTS. Yes; I talked to a boy named Fischer--on the 25th of November. Of course, you know I was off duty on the Ruby thing.
Mr. BALL. Yes; I know that.
Mr. POTTS. I was at home then and I was sitting there and my wife said, "They are going to televise this transfer of Oswald." I said, "I've seen enough of that and I don't want to look at it." And she said, "We need milk and bread for lunch," and so I got up and got in the car and went to Safeway and was standing in line to check out there and a woman--well, it looked like a woman--came out and said, "Oswald has just been shot." Well, I thought that was a big joke, too, and went back out there and turned on the car radio and there that was. I came on back on duty that day.
Mr. BALL. When you went out to see Mr. Fischer----
Mr. POTTS. Now, Mr. Turner had this information about this Fischer man. He and Mr. Senkel--they were in the motorcade that day. In fact, they were in the lead car.
Mr. BALL. Senkel was?
Mr. POTTS. Senkel, Turner, and Chief Lumpkin were in the lead car in the motorcade, and I think Turner had gotten this information about this Fischer fellow. I had never heard about him until Turner asked me, he said, "Let's go
out and talk to this Mr. Fischer." He said, "He is supposed to have been standing down there watching the parade go by and he saw this man in this window," and he wanted to know--we took a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald out there to see if he could identify him as being the man he saw in the window, and we went out there on the 25th of November with Lee Harvey Oswald's picture to 4007 Flamingo Street in Mesquite. That's where this Ronald Fischer lives, and he works for the county auditor's office down there. He was working that day and most of the county employees stood out on the street to watch the parade, and we took his picture out there and he said, "I can't say for sure that's the man that I saw in that window up there, but it looks like him." He said he saw him up there just a few minutes before he heard the shots fired.
Mr. BALL. Now, you made written reports of these investigations you are testifying about?
Mr. POTTS. Yes.
Mr. BALL. And you have refreshed your memory from them--from your own handwritten notes?
Mr. POTTS. That's right--I have.
Mr. BALL. I would like to have marked your report on your officer's duty on Friday, November 22, and also on the 23d and 25th of November, being two sheets, numbered 230 and 231, as the next exhibit, and page 3 of your report, being No. 232, being a report of your participation in the showup on November 23, 1963, at 2:15--as the next exhibit,
(Instrument referred to marked by the reporter as "Potts Exhibits B and C," respectively, for identification.)
Mr. BALL. I think that's all and I do want to thank you very much.
Mr. POTTS. You are certainly welcome.
Mr. BALL. This will be written up and you can come down and read it and sign it or you can waive your signature and we will send it on to the Commission. You can tell me what you want to do.
Mr. POTTS. Oh, I will sign it.
Mr. BALL. All right, then you will be notified when it is ready for you to sign.