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Who Is Lee Harvey Oswald?

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  • Written By: Christian Petersen
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2014
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Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated the American president, John F. Kennedy, at approximately 12:30 p.m. on November 22, 1963, while the president rode in an open-air vehicle through the streets of Dallas, Texas. Several investigative bodies determined that Oswald acted alone. The circumstances surrounding President Kennedy's death, however, and the involvement of Lee Harvey Oswald have become the subject of various conspiracy theories. Shortly following the assassination of President Kennedy, Oswald was, himself, murdered by Dallas resident, Jack Ruby.

Oswald was born in New Orleans in 1939 and led a somewhat troubled childhood. He joined the United States Marines before earning a high school diploma, but his service record was also troubled, and he was court martialed twice before obtaining a hardship discharge under false pretenses and defecting to the Soviet Union in 1959. He later returned to the United States with his Russian wife in 1962, moving between Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana before finally settling in Dallas in 1963, where he eventually gained employment at the Texas Book Depository, from which he shot President Kennedy.

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Four government agencies thoroughly investigated the assassination, including the FBI, the Dallas police department, and a special congressional commission, the Warren commission. All of these agencies, as well as numerous academics and other experts agree that Oswald, acting alone, shot and killed President Kennedy from a sixth floor window of the Texas Book Depository. Many people still refuse to accept this conclusion, however, claiming any number of other involved parties, from the CIA to the mob to the KGB. Some even claim that Oswald had been replaced by an impostor while in the Soviet Union. His body was eventually exhumed and this theory proven to be false, as his corpse was positively identified by dental records.

Several indisputable facts about the day President Kennedy was killed and the days following remain, however. Lee Harvey Oswald was seen to leave the book depository, where he worked, immediately following the assassination. Investigation has determined that he boarded a bus, got off shortly after, and took a taxi home. He then left the boarding house where he lived and was spotted and confronted by a Dallas police officer, J.D. Tippit. Oswald shot Tippit with a revolver four times, and ballistic evidence confirmed that the bullets came from a gun found in his possession when he was arrested a short time later at the nearby Texas Theater.

After his arrest, Oswald was taken to the Dallas Police headquarters where he spent the next two days under near constant interrogation. He denied any involvement in the shooting of Tippit or the President, but evidence continued to mount. A forged selective service card with Oswald's picture and a fake name were found on his person, and the guns used to kill Tippit and Kennedy were determined to have been purchased under and shipped to an address belonging to this alias. Other evidence collected over the next two days and afterward led authorities to become certain of Oswald's guilt.

Before he could be brought to trial or even arraigned for the murders of Patrolman Tippit and President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald was himself shot and killed as he was being transported from the Dallas police headquarters. Jack Ruby, a Dallas night club owner, was in a crowd who had gathered to watch Oswald as he was being escorted from the police headquarters building to be transferred to the county jail. Ruby shot Oswald in the abdomen at point blank range on live national television. Oswald died a short time later at Parkland Memorial Hospital, the same hospital where President Kennedy had been pronounced dead.

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