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Jack Tatum
In a 1986 interview HSCA investigator Jack Moriarty made this statement relative to the Tippit murder: "The HSCA investigators had interviewed over 300 local residents and shop owners around the Oak Cliff area, scene of the Tippit shooting, to try to find new witnesses." So how did they miss Doris Holan resident across the street from the murder scene at 409 E Tenth Street? Maybe not, but if found they wanted no part of what she had to say.

Moriarty's challenge was to overlay a weak link in the historical fiction known as the Warren Report with something more substantial. The biggest problem faced in 1964 remained the same in 1977 -- how to get LHO to the mise-en-scene in time to commit the murder. Accomplish that and other inconsistencies & contradictions fade into thin air. The WC scriptwriters realized it was imperative to establish that LHO proceeded in an easterly direction on 10th Street. Their scheme involved a neat triangulation of three eyewitnesses to the shooting: Benavides, Scoggins & Markham. It failed in large measure because neither the first nor the second saw enough to clinch the case, owing in large measure to their absence from the scene at the critical time. Although persuaded to go along with much of the official script, both choked when it came to providing decisive eyewitness testimony.

This left Markham to shoulder the entire load, a task of which she was incapable. The upshot is Moriarty entered the lists more as rewrite man than investigator, using Benavides' statement relative to a red Ford as a hook from which he dangled red herring Tatum, who complied in exemplary fashion, spotting an east bound pedestrian right off the bat from Denver Street. This man could follow a script!

All the pieces fit with one exception, occasioned by the need to promote him to eyewitness status. This required a fourth shot, since Tatum's head was turned the wrong way when the first three rang out. A delay was necessary to give him a chance to stop and turn around in his seat. 14+ years after the event he told Moriarty, "I then saw the officer lying on the street and saw this young white man standing near the front of the squad car. Next this man with a gun in his hand ran toward the back of the squad car, but instead of running away he stepped into the street and shot the police officer as he was lying in the street."

There are several problems with this. One is why would the assassin run around the back of the car to administer the last shot point blank? Both perpetrator & victim were situated at the front. Was it a sneak attack? Another is star WC eyewitness Markham was a simultaneous observer, watching the same events unfold. She did not see what Tatum claimed he saw. Did Moriarty's team make any effort to sort out the contradictions between them? It's not in the record.

But it's no mean feat to reconcile Markham's WC testimony with Tatum's HSCA statements. In fact it can't be done. Here's what she told Dulles -- "After he shot the policeman he turned around, came back around toward Patton Street. He wasn't he didn't seem to be in a no hurry. I thought he hadn't done anything, and he was fooling with his gun in his hands, and he seen me, and he stops." And she neither saw nor heard another shot.

Compare it with Tatum's 1986 elaboration in which he stated, "He (Oswald) wasn't panicking, that was for sure. The one characteristic about Oswald that I saw and will never forget was that his mouth seemed to curl up as if he was smiling. And I saw that when he was looking into the squad car before the shots. I noticed that same characteristic when I saw him (Oswald, later) on TV." A personal spin on LHO's evil visage, but the model script reader is beginning to muff his lines, possibly venturing into creative writing on his own.

Perhaps the realization hit during the nine years following his HSCA recital that the Markham element didn't fit into his version of the plot. They both should have seen the same thing, and he took it upon himself to patch up the gross defects in continuity by modifying bits & pieces culled from the welter of things she said over the years, "correcting" them for time & place.

For example, there is the matter of Markham placing her hands over her face and closing her eyes after the killer "came back around toward Patton Street ... he was fooling with his gun in his hands." Now Tatum, evidently possessing duck-like vision, kept both in simultaneous stereoscopic focus from the vantage of the street-side car window: "I saw him turn around and look at me. At the same time I saw a lady on the corner, down on her knees facing Patton. She was covering her head; she thought she was going to be shot, I guess."

Mr. BALL. Before you put your hands over your eyes, before you put your hand over your eyes, did you see the man walk towards the corner?
Mrs. MARKHAM. Yes.

Tatum's rewrite of Markham's plain & lucid statements alters the explicit sequence of events and ignores the fact that a fourth shot would have made the same loud noise as the first three, unless the point of "fooling with his gun" was to attach a silencer. No one said she put her fingers in her ears.

Movie goers will recognize the familiar dream sequence, so common examples are numerous past counting. One will suffice -- easy enough to picture Tatum & his scriptwriter, inspired by a rerun of "The Woman in the Window," devising plot enhancements revolving around the Galaxie by filling in an obvious lacuna with a supplemental hallucinated vision of an insensate woman in the rear window.

As the urge to create can lead to excess, so Tatum in continuation went over the top. Evidently struggling retrospectively with the anguished presence of Markham at the intersection where he stopped the car, he gallantly stepped out and assumed the role of comfort-giver to Mrs. M, staying by her side. In a further extension he even went so far as to drive her to the police station, where he refrained from divulging his status of observer of unique events relative to the Tippit murder.

Moriarty's prefatory report has this exchange:
Q. Why did you not report this information to the authorities?
A. There were more than enough people there and I could not see what I could contribute.

This farcical statement by itself destroys Tatum's credibility. Peel away the subsequent layers of self-aggrandizing nonsense and nothing remains except a muddled tale of murder told by someone who wasn't there.
I don't think anyone has ever pointed out those discrepancies.
No getting rid of this phony, not even by researchers who should know better, primarily because of the persistence of the coup de grace hallucinated by the HSCA. Here it is:

Oswald, according to Tatum, after initially shooting Tippit from his position on the sidewalk, walked around the patrol car to where Tippit lay in the street and stood over him while he shot him at point blank range in the head. This action, which is often encountered in gangland murders and is commonly described as a coup de grace, is more indicative of an execution than an act of defense intended to allow escape or prevent apprehension. Absent further evidence--which the committee did not develop-- the meaning of this evidence must remain uncertain. 14

14 The committee did verify from the Tippit autopsy report that there was one wound in the body that slanted upward from front to back. Though previously unexplained, it would be consistent with the observation of Jack Ray Tatum. & 90

If the committee had bothered to read the entire report it would have learned that the upward direction of bullet #1 (head shot) through the body was not unique. Bullet #2 entered at a slightly upward angle and bullet #3 also entered at an upward angle (Gunshot Wound Chart item 5). All were "previously unexplained."

The chart's preceding item 4 disclosed that powder burns were absent relative to bullet #1. See attachment.

This amplified the report's first page statement ("External Examination") also relative to bullet #1 that "No powder tattooing is noted at the margins."
Autopsy Number: M63-352

The committee's finding was based on a 2/1/78 interview of Tatum by investigators Moriarty & Basteri. Here's a link to Armstrong's Jack Tatum subject file at Baylor for those who enjoy works of fiction.

It may come as a surprise that Tatum on 2/1/78 neither stated nor implied that "Oswald... stood over him while he shot him at point blank range in the head." Tatum did not say he saw Oswald stand over Tippit, and the point blank idea came from Moriarty. I'll leave it to others to decide if the distance qualified as point blank, but the absence of powder burns & tattooing is something to think about. Perhaps the material is fragmentary, more likely the HSCA committee got swept away by a coup de grace fantasy.

Attached Files
.jpg   gunshot-wound-chart.jpg (Size: 282.06 KB / Downloads: 1)

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