Longtime Dallas Police Detective Jim Leavelle, made internationally famous in 1963 when photos showing the murder of accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald made their way around the globe, died Thursday at the age of 99.
Leavelle, who had a long, distinguished career with the Dallas Police Department, was wearing a tan suit and Stetson hat while escorting Oswald from Dallas City Hall to the Dallas County Jail when nightclub owner Jack Ruby walked up, stuck a gun in Oswald's side and pulled the trigger on Nov. 24, 1963, two days after President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot in Dealey Plaza.
"Though the photo may be the most iconic moment in his career, and keep him in the history books for future generations, the Dallas Police Department and the officers who served with him know that he is worthy of a legacy for being one of the smartest, accomplished and dedicated detectives in the history of the DPD," the Dallas Police Association said in a statement Thursday.
Several sources close to Leavelle family confirmed the lawman died on the morning of Aug. 29 while on a trip to Colorado. Tanya Evers, Leavelle's daughter, told the Associated Press her father fell earlier this week and broke his hip and underwent surgery at a Denver hospital. He responded well to the surgery, she said, but later suffered a heart attack.
Leavelle's remains arrived Sunday in a flag-draped coffin at Dallas Love Field.
In a statement released to NBC 5 Friday, Leavelle's family said they were mourning his passing, but celebrating a life that seemed to find history.
In a image shown around the world, Leavelle was one of several lawmen escorting a handcuffed Oswald when he was shot. As Oswaled grimaced in pain, Leavelle appears shocked while many around him appear to not yet understand what's taken place.
In an interview in 2013 with NBC 5's Meredith Land, Leavelle remembered the moment like it was yesterday.
"He [Ruby] wanted to do something that would make him a hero or make him very popular," Leavelle said in 2013. "I told him, I said, 'Lee, if anybody shoots at you I hope they're as good of a shot as you are.' Meaning, they'd hit him and not me. He kind of laughed and said, 'Nobody is going to shoot at me.'"
The shooting "couldn't nearly leave my mind because I'm reminded of it every day through somebody," Leavelle said in 2013.
"I was right here, about 15 feet away," Leavelle's close friend, Hugh Aynesworth, said Friday, pointing to the iconic photo of Leavelle and Oswald.
Aynesworth, a reporter with The Dallas Morning News at the time, met Leavelle for the first time the morning Oswald was shot. The two would go on to share a friendship that lasted until his death.
"He led a life like you'd like a hero to lead," Aynesworth said. "He was a good guy, he was considerate of people and he was well liked by almost all those that knew him."
Leavelle told Land that he received 300 requests from around the world every year.
"I know people want to make a hero or something out of me, but all I was doing was a police officer doing his job," Leavelle said.
Leavelle's now iconic tan suit and Stetson hat are on display at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. In a 2013 interview with NBC 5's Meredith Land asked if he still wore a hat.
"Well if I go out I do. I wear it because I wore a hat when I went out all my life," Leavelle said in 2013.
Leavelle was honored by the Dallas Police Department in 2013 for his work. The department's Detective of the Year Award now carries Leavelle's name.