The man in the cowboy hat seen handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald in the iconic photo of Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby was honored Tuesday for his decades of service to the Dallas police force and community.
Detective Jim Leavelle, who is 92 and long-retired, was given the Police Commendation Award during a ceremony at the department's headquarters. Police Chief David Brown also announced that the department's Detective of the Year Award will now carry Leavelle's name.
"My years with the police department, I enjoyed every one of them," Leavelle told those who came to honor him.
Leavelle joined the police force in April 1950 and retired from active service in April 1975. He was among the lead detectives assigned to investigate the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
When accepting the honor, Leavelle said he was thinking of other deserving officers, including Officer J.D. Tippit, who was shot and killed by Oswald.
In brief comments after the presentation, Leavelle said that when he saw an armed Jack Ruby approach in the basement of Dallas police headquarters, he tried unsuccessfully to jerk Oswald behind him to shield him from harm.
"Him being real close all I did was turn his body so instead of the bullet hitting him dead center it hit about 3 or 4 inches to the left of the navel," Leavelle said.
The iconic photo that captured the attack won a Pulitzer Prize.
"You don't stop and think," Leavelle said. "You have to react."
While Leavelle conceded that retelling the story can "occasionally" get "a little monotonous," he said he thinks it's been an important story to tell over the years from his first-person perspective. He said he started telling the story when schoolchildren would ask.
"I don't mind doing it because I know that the people asking it are interested," said Leavelle, who also survived the attack on Pearl Harbor.