Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Last Dallas officer on duty when JFK shot retires

by MICHAEL E. YOUNG / The Dallas Morning News

Long and lean, Sgt. Graham H. Pierce won his nickname early in his career with the Dallas Police Department, sprinting and catching a suspect in his first foot chase.

To almost everyone in the department over the next 45 years, Sgt. Pierce would be known as "Greyhound."

But when "Greyhound" Pierce retired on Monday, he took with him another distinction: He was the last member of the department who was working the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

As a rookie fresh from the academy in 1963, Sgt. Pierce was assigned to the night shift, so he was home sleeping when the president was killed on Nov. 22.

By the time he reported to work at 11 p.m., Lyndon Baines Johnson was president and Dallas City Hall was a madhouse of reporters searching for scraps of news and photographers desperate to find that special shot.

He spent the next eight hours on patrol in South Dallas, where a somber crowd milled through the streets, shocked that such a thing could happen in their town.

On Monday, he stood in a big room at the southeast division substation before his wife, children and grandchildren, fellow officers and department brass and looked back over his career.

"Forty-five years has been a long time," said Sgt. Pierce, 67. "But it went by awful fast. I still remember being a rookie on the street, just out of the academy.

"I just can't remember anything in between," he joked.

No one in the room believed him for a second. Speaker after speaker honored him for his dedication, his leadership, his willingness to do whatever needed doing.

Sgt. Pierce actually left his job about a month ago to use up vacation time, said his supervisor, Lt. Brian Cornish.

"But one day we were really short on supervisors, and he showed up," Lt. Cornish said.

Deputy Chief Patricia Paulhill, commander of the southeast patrol division, recalled the first time she met Sgt. Pierce.

"It was my first day at southeast and I walked in, a brand new sergeant, and I said, 'I'm Sgt. Patricia Paulhill. Can you tell me where my office is?'

"There was a nice looking gentleman sitting there, and he never looked up," she said. All she heard was a muffled laugh.

She asked again and he pointed her toward the end of the hall, where she found a few cells on one side, and a room packed with file cases on the other.

"He politely told me I had the second drawer on the right hand side," she said.

Assistant Chief Floyd Simpson, who presented Sgt. Pierce with a plaque from the city of Dallas, remembered working with him in southeast, too.

"In my mind, you're an icon," Chief Simpson said. "You're my hero."

Sgt. Pierce spoke last, a quiet man unaccustomed to such attention.

"I knew I'd have to do this," he said as he started his speech. "I've been thinking about it for a week. I'm still thinking about it – I don't know what I'm going to say."

So he spoke from the heart, to the friends he's made over 45 years, as he looked toward a new phase of life.

"The bad part is going to be missing all of you," he said. "And the sad part is there is probably someone here I'll never see again.

"But you'll always be in my memory."

Source: The Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Paul L. Bentley: Detective who arrested Oswald dies


Patrolman C.T. Walker (left) and Detective Paul L. Bentley (right, with cigar) flank Lee Harvey Oswald as they emerge from the Texas Theater on November 22, 1963. Photograph by Jim MacCammon.

A former Dallas police detective with a very special place in history has died (July 21).

Paul L. Bentley was one of the officers who arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, the man suspected of killing President John F. Kennedy and patrolman J.D. Tippit on November 22, 1963.

The police who swarmed into the Texas Theater only knew to look for a possible suspect in the shooting of a fellow officer minutes earlier. Detective Paul Bentley was one of them.

“At the time of the arrest I had no knowledge whatsoever that this might possibly be our suspect in regards to the assassination of the president,” Bentley told News 8 interviewers in 1963.

Bentley rushed to Oak Cliff to help investigate the murder of patrol officer J.D. Tippit, who was killed after he stopped a man fitting the description of the suspect in the president's assassination.

When police radios crackled that the suspect might be at the theater, Bentley rushed in, searched the balcony and then returned to the main floor to see Officer Nick McDonald struggling with an armed Oswald.

“When I first saw it, he had the revolver in his hand, pointing it toward McDonald," Bentley recalled in an interview with the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. That's when I just tried to get as close to him as possible, grabbing for the weapon.”

They subdued and handcuffed Oswald, rushing him from the theater to a police car.

Bentley told the museum in a 1994 oral history interview that during the ride downtown, a dispatcher told him Oswald, who they had in custody, was the prime suspect in the shooting of Kennedy.

“I turned to him and I said, 'Did you shoot President Kennedy?'" Bentley said. "He said, 'You find out for yourself.'”

After Bentley retired, he continued to share his unique role in history with school children and programs at the museum, said Gary Mack, the curator at the Sixth Floor Museum.

“Like a lot of people, he was just proud of what he had done and he had contributed to that story,” Mack said.

Bentley was 87 years old. Services and burial are scheduled for Thursday.

Source: WFAA.com

* * * * *

[Editor's note: I first met Paul Bentley in 1996 while during research for my book, "With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit." He was more than gracious during our meeting at his home and even came out and appeared on a panel to help promote the book when it was published in 1998. A true southern gentlemen, who'll be missed.]

Capturing Lee Harvey Oswald just part of Paul L. Bentley's story

by JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

Paul L. Bentley was frequently asked to speak about his 21-year career with the Dallas Police Department.

Initially, many were curious about polygraph examinations, the new technology he brought to the Police Department in 1951. The wonders of the lie detector made him a favorite speaker for church educational and civic groups.

That was until Nov. 22, 1963, when Mr. Bentley pulled a ligament in his ankle diving across rows of seats at the Texas Theatre to subdue Lee Harvey Oswald.

For the rest of his life, the Dallas detective's lie-detector work would be a sidebar to his role in Oswald's capture.

People from around the world visited his Dallas home to hear his story. Many wanted to see his Masonic ring, which grazed Oswald's face during the scuffle.

Mr. Bentley, 87, died Monday of an apparent heart attack at his Dallas home.

Graveside services will be at 10 a.m. today at Grove Hill Memorial Park.

A memorial will be at 1 p.m. today at Park Cities Baptist Church, where he had been an active member for more than 30 years

Mr. Bentley felt he was simply doing his duty, with both the capture of Oswald and the presentation of his story, said his grandson, David Ottinger of Dallas.

"He was very humble," Mr. Ottinger said. "He did that because of the immense interest."
Born in Dallas, Mr. Bentley was a graduate of Crozier Tech High School.

He served five years in the Army Air Forces, including 18 months as a master sergeant in the Pacific Theater.

In 1947, Mr. Bentley joined the Dallas Police Department, starting in radio patrol, moving on to traffic, before joining the racket squad, where he worked cases involving vice, narcotics and fugitives.

In 1951, he was the first of two Dallas detectives trained to be polygraph examiners, making Dallas the first Texas law enforcement agency outside of the Department of Public Safety in Austin to have the technology.

The day of President John F. Kennedy's visit to Dallas, Mr. Bentley was assigned to monitor the procession from the corner of Main and Harwood streets, less than a block from the police station.

After the procession passed, Mr. Bentley returned to his office, when there was an announcement that the motorcade had been fired on.

Within minutes, he learned that Officer J.D. Tippit had been shot in Oak Cliff. A captain asked Mr. Bentley if he wanted to go to the Oak Cliff scene.

After assisting at the shooting site, Mr. Bentley and other officers went to the Texas Theatre, following up on a report of a suspicious person.

Mr. Bentley entered the front of the theater and followed a lead to the mezzanine and balcony, checking restrooms along the way.

He told the projectionist to turn on the house lights.

He returned to the ground floor as Officer M.N. "Nick" McDonald approached Oswald, the suspect rose and pointed a gun at McDonald. Mr. Bentley made his move from behind
"That's when I tried to get as close to him as possible, trying to grab the weapon," Mr. Bentley told The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in a 1994 oral history. "I came over the backs of seats, and I hung my right ankle in between the seat and in scuffling with him to get him under control."

Mr. Bentley speculated that he scratched Oswald's forehead as he grabbed for the suspect's weapon.

Mr. Bentley helped transport Oswald downtown, riding in the back seat of a police car with the suspect in the middle, Mr. Bentley to his left and another officer, C.T. Walker, to his right
Mr. Bentley said he was back at his desk before he realized he had injured his ankle. He could not see his shoe for his swollen ankle, he said in his oral history.

Mr. Bentley retired from the Police Department in March 1968.

He became director of security for First National Bank in Dallas, before working with several Dallas security firms, beginning in 1979. He retired in 1986.

Mr. Bentley was a deeply religious man, his grandson said.

He was an active member of Forney Baptist Church in Dallas, before joining Park Cities Baptist Church in 1975.

He was also active member and past president of the North Dallas Golden K Kiwanis Club.

In addition to his grandson, Mr. Bentley is survived by his wife, Mozelle Bentley of Dallas, a son, James Bentley of Dallas, and a sister, Mildred Waldroop of El Monte, Calif.

Source: The Dallas Morning News

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Prober: FBI held back mob info on Kennedy assassination

by NANCIE L. KATZ / New York Daily News

There's a new wrinkle in the investigation into JFK's assassination.

A suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court suggests the FBI failed to turn over key information from New York Mafia boss Gregory Scarpa about Carlos Marcello - the New Orleans Mafia boss suspected in the 1963 killing in Dallas.

The Scarpa files will shed "significant light" on the FBI's alleged "violation of the John F. Kennedy Assassination Collection Act of 1992 by failing to turn over the informant materials," said the suit by forensic analyst Angela Clemente.

"Ms. Clemente's personal investigation leads her to believe Scarpa did in fact serve as an FBI informant on Marcello," wrote prominent Freedom of Information Act lawyer James Lesar to the FBI in a letter.

Clemente's probe into alleged FBI corruption in New York sparked the failed murder prosecution last year by the Brooklyn district attorney against G-man Lindley DeVecchio.

The Justice Department "will be reviewing the matter and responding appropriately in court," said a spokesman.

The FBI did not immediately return calls.

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2008/07/21/2008-07-21_prober_fbi_held_back_mob_info_on_kennedy.html

Lawsuit on F.B.I. Informant Seeks a Mobster’s Link to Kennedy’s Assassination

by ALAN FEUER / New York Times

A New Jersey paralegal with a longstanding interest in government corruption filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and the F.B.I. on Monday, seeking the release of the full case file on a murderous Brooklyn Mafia informant — papers she believes may shed light on the possible involvement of a dead New Orleans crime boss in the killing of President John F. Kennedy.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Washington by the paralegal, Angela Clemente, asks the Federal Bureau of Investigation to make public any documents it may still hold related to the mobster, Gregory Scarpa Sr., who for nearly 30 years led a stunning double life as a hit man for the Colombo crime family and, in the words of the F.B.I, a “top echelon” informant for the bureau.

In her suit, Ms. Clemente asked the bureau to release all papers connected to Mr. Scarpa (who died of AIDS in 1994 after receiving a blood transfusion), especially those related to Carlos Marcello, a New Orleans don suspected by some of having played a role in the Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.

Ms. Clemente filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Mr. Scarpa’s file in April, and the F.B.I. acknowledged her request in a letter on June 9, saying that bureau officials would search their records for relevant papers. Ms. Clemente’s lawyer, James Lesar, said that the F.B.I. had not yet told her if it would release the file or not, but that under federal law, a lawsuit can be filed compelling the release of records 20 working days after such a letter is received.

John Miller, a spokesman for the F.B.I., did not return phone calls on Monday seeking comment on Ms. Clemente’s suit. Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said officials would review the suit and respond if needed in court.

In pursuing the Scarpa file and its potential to flesh out Mr. Marcello’s possible role in the Kennedy killing, Ms. Clemente is following a trail blazed in part by G. Robert Blakey, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame who also served as the chief counsel and staff director to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which from 1977 to 1979 investigated the killings of President Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While the Warren Commission said there was no link between Mr. Marcello and the president’s death, Mr. Blakey’s report to the House was considerably more circumspect, saying the F.B.I.’s “handling of the allegations and information about Marcello was characterized by a less than vigorous effort to investigate its reliability.”

Ms. Clemente is in possession of several heavily redacted papers from the Scarpa file, which suggest, however vaguely, she said, that Mr. Scarpa, who spied on numerous gangsters for the F.B.I., may also have spied on Mr. Marcello.

Professor Blakey, reached by phone at his office at Notre Dame on Monday, said he had seen the papers, adding that no matter what the unredacted versions might eventually reveal, he was convinced that he should have seen them 30 years ago, while conducting his Congressional investigation.

“The issue here is not what’s in them,” Professor Blakey said, “so much as that they seem to have held them back from me. I thought I had the bureau file on Marcello — now it turns out I didn’t, did I? So I’m not a small, I’m a major, supporter of what Angela is trying to do.”

Ms. Clemente, 43, often refers to herself as a “forensic intelligence analyst.” She has been researching Mr. Scarpa for nearly a decade as part of a broader project on the improper use of government informants. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office has said her work on Mr. Scarpa was instrumental in helping the office file quadruple murder charges against Mr. Scarpa’s former F.B.I. handler, Roy Lindley DeVecchio.

The charges against Mr. DeVecchio were dropped midtrial in October when Tom Robbins, a reporter for The Village Voice, suddenly showed prosecutors taped interviews he made years ago with the main prosecution witness, Mr. Scarpa’s mistress, suggesting that she had changed her account and damaged her credibility.

Faced with the sudden demise of years of investigative work, Ms. Clemente went back, she said, to the redacted papers she already had. She said she was intrigued, after additional study, to discover references to Mr. Scarpa’s apparent involvement in F.B.I. projects in New Orleans in the late 1950s and early 1960s — well before his publicly acknowledged role in helping the Kennedy administration learn the whereabouts of three slain civil rights workers by traveling to Mississippi to threaten a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

She said the F.B.I. had fought her “tooth and nail” in her efforts to obtain the full Scarpa file for Mr. DeVecchio’s trial. The F.B.I. did not return phone calls seeking comment on that allegation as well.

“And that,” she said, “is what really piqued my curiosity.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/22/nyregion/22docs.html?_r=1&ref=nyregion&oref=slogin

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Assassination of William Greer


In today’s Tyrone Times of Northern Ireland, writer Mark Rainey asks “Did Stewartstown native kill JFK?”

Rainey’s rhetorical question refers to William Robert Greer, a farmer's son from Stewartstown in County Tyrone, who immigrated to America in 1929, and who has (thanks to the Internet) become the subject of the most ridiculous conspiracy theory on either side of the Atlantic.

Greer, who joined the U.S. Secret Service in 1945 having served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, became a personal bodyguard to both Presidents Truman and Eisenhower before becoming the ill-fated driver of President Kennedy’s limousine in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Rainey’s article offers nothing of real substance about Greer or his drive through Dallas other than to perpetuate the Internet myth that Greer might have blown Kennedy’s head off when “others” failed to do the job. Yea, sure.

According to Rainey, an army of amateur sleuths have picked up the torch originally carried by William Cooper, who proposed in his 1991 tome Behold a Pale Horse that Greer looked back at Kennedy twice immediately after the shooting began - the first glance supposedly establishing the likelihood of the President surviving the attack, and the second allegedly to initiate 'plan B' where Greer himself was to brazenly finish the job while all eyes were on Kennedy.

Lifting most of his “facts” from the Internet’s Wikipedia Encyclopedia (apparently, Wiki has become the tool of choice for wannabe journalists everywhere), Rainey reports that the wealth of “evidence” offered by conspiracy theorists to substantiate the charges against Greer include: Zapruder film frames that seem to show Greer pointing a gun at Kennedy at the moment of the head shot, Greer's Protestant upbringing (which allegedly supports theories of anti-Catholic sentiments influencing Kennedy’s assassins), a report that Jacqueline Kennedy was bitterly critical of Greer's slow reaction at the time of the shooting, and TV footage which supposedly shows Greer ordering the ambulance crew at Andrews Air Force Base from their vehicle and then driving the President's body to the autopsy (which, conspiracy theorists contend, is further evidence of Greer and his fellow conspirators’ need to keep others from seeing Kennedy’s body).

Rainey writes, “Greer's actions, and his alleged part in a right-wing conspiracy within the CIA against Kennedy, have been analyzed time and again in books such as, The Death of a President, Crime of the Century, and Deadly Alliance, but no definitive conclusions have been reached.” [emphasis added]


This is the kind of nonsense that is designed to perpetuate myths, sell newspapers, and drive readers to Internet websites - not to illuminate our understanding of history or to solve crimes.

Nowhere in this article does Mr. Rainey even hint that William Cooper’s initial allegation was bunk to begin with. As reported in my July 2007 entry “Definitive Proof? The Secret Service Killed JFK,” William “Wild Bill” Cooper, the UFO conspiracist, tax resister, and self-styled "militiaman" based his 1991 claimed that JFK was assassinated by limousine driver William Greer, on a special "washed out" version of the Zapruder film — an allegation easily refuted by simply looking at the original Z-film which clearly shows that Greer doesn't have a gun in either hand. Clear copies of the Zapruder film are abundantly available on Internet streaming video sites. All one has to do to debunk Cooper’s fantasy is click a button. How hard can it be?

Cooper, the originator of the charges against Greer, was shot and killed during a shoot out with Apache County, Arizona, sheriff’s deputies in November, 2001, when they attempted to serve Cooper with an arrest warrant at his residence.

The report of Jacequeline Kennedy’s bitterness toward Greer comes from the 1969 best-seller My Life With Jacqueline Kennedy, by Mary Gallagher, secretary to Mrs. Kennedy. Gallagher wrote, “She mentioned one Secret Service man who had not acted during the crucial moment, and said bitterly to me, ‘He might just as well have been Miss Shaw!’,” a reference to the Kennedy children’s nanny. It was later confirmed that the unnamed agent was Greer.

This is in sharp contrast to Mrs. Kennedy’s reaction to Greer on the day of the assassination. Author William Manchester reported in Death of a President, without citation, that at Parkland Hospital, “Those who had been in the motorcade were racking their brains with if only this, if only that. One of them came to her [Jackie Kennedy]. Bill Greer, his face streaked with tears, took her head between his hands and squeezed until she thought he was going to squeeze her skull flat. He cried, ‘Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, oh my God, oh my God. I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t hear, I should have swerved the car, I couldn’t help it. Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, as soon as I saw it I swerved. If only I’d seen in time! Oh!’ Then he released her head and put his arms around her and wept on her shoulder.” [Death of a President, p.290]

In fact, Mrs. Kennedy felt so sorry for Greer that she requested that he drive the naval ambulance containing the casket to the naval hospital. [O’Donnell and Powers with McCarthy, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye, p.44]

So much for the conspiracy claim that Greer shooed the real ambulance driver’s away so that he could grab possession of the president’s body as part of the big coverup.

Much like Secret Service agent Clint Hill’s deeply troubled and guilt filled “what-if” self-examination (so vividly portrayed in a 1975 interview with Mike Wallace on CBS television’s 60 Minutes), Greer’s own self doubts must have been understandably overwhelming in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

Greer eventually came to accept what happened in Dallas (and to him, as the limousine’s driver) as the hand of fate. His son told researcher Vince Palamara, “My father certainly didn't blame himself; it's not one of those things - if only I was driving one mile per hour faster. My father had absolutely no survivor's guilt...he figured that events were kind out of their control...it was pretty common knowledge that a person riding in an open car was subject to a bullet at any time...”

Greer, who retired on disability from the Secret Service in 1966 due to a stomach ulcer that grew worse following the Kennedy assassination, died in 1985.

One last question remains: Would it have mattered, as conspiracy theorists argue, if Greer hadn’t slowed the limousine during the five seconds between the second and third shots, and instead accelerated the limousine carrying the president out of harms way? Could Greer have saved Kennedy? Was he truly partly responsible for Kennedy’s death?

In his book, Reclaiming History, author Vincent Bugliosi reasonably argues that Greer’s slowing of the limousine did not substantially alter what happened in Dallas, “Since even before slowing, the limousine was only traveling around eleven miles per hour on a straight line with the barrel of the rifle and on a declining road. Kennedy, as [Monty] Lutz [a member of the HSCA Firearms Panel] said, was already essentially a stationary target, and the limousine merely slowing down further to seven or eight miles an hour probably didn’t give Oswald, in the sniper’s nest, too much more of a break than he already had.” [Reclaiming History, p.315 Endnotes]

While it is quite apparent that the answer to writer Mark Rainey’s rhetorical question, “Did Stewartstown native kill JFK?” is a resounding no, there seems to be no end to mindless speculation about Greer’s role in Kennedy’s death.

Mr. Rainey concludes, “He could have been just another of the countless anonymous exiles from these shores over the centuries, but thanks to the hand of fate and the power of the Internet, the William Greer story looks set to run and run.”

One might also conclude that the kind of tabloid-style journalism apparent in this Tyrone Times article only serves to further empower the Internet kooks bent on assassinating the character of former U.S. Secret Service agent and navy veteran William R. Greer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

CIA “Discovers” More Joannides Documents


The CIA asked for an extension earlier this month in the wake of discovering additional documents related to deceased agency operative George Joannides.

The substance of those discoveries is unknown and won’t be known, according to journalist Jefferson Morley, for several weeks.

In June, the agency had asked Judge Richard Leon for an additional extension (the first one granted back in April) by which to respond to Morley’s lawsuit surrounding documents withheld by the agency relating to secret operations involving Joannides and members of several anti-Castro Cuban exile groups, including the Miami-based DRE.

Judge Leon agreed to give the CIA until July 2nd to respond in writing.

At the latest hearing (July 2), the CIA asked for a further extension after reportedly discovering additional documents related to the Morley lawsuit.

Conspiracy advocates suspect that Joannides might have learned about Lee Harvey Oswald in the summer of 1963 (the official record shows that Oswald’s name was brought to Joannides’ attention immediately after the assassination), and that this knowledge may have been passed on to other agency operatives who might have used Oswald in the weeks prior to the assassination.

In response to the 2003 Morley lawsuit, a three-judge appellate court panel ruled in December 2007 that the CIA had to search its files for records of Joannides’ secret operations in 1963, when he served undercover in Miami running "psychological warfare" operations against the government of Fidel Castro. The court also ordered the CIA to explain why 17 reports on Joannides' secret operations in 1962-1964 are missing from the National Archives.

Mr. Morley expects to learn more about the CIA’s latest document discoveries and the long sought after explanation for withholding documents on Joannides sometime next month.