An Overlooked Texas Theater Witness (page 3)

By Bill Drenas

I reasoned that since C. F. could not recall any of the officers’ names at the theater other than Paul Bentley, the best way that C. F. could be identified by someone else would be because he hit Lee Oswald in the head with the butt end of the shotgun. I started to look through my large file on the Texas Theater and located an interesting document. George J. Applin was in the Texas Theater at the time of the arrest. When FBI agents interviewed him on December 14, 1963 (Warren Commission Numbered Document 206, pp. 68-69) he described what he saw during the arrest (see reproduction of this document below). In the 3rd paragraph, on the 2nd page the FBI reported that George said that an officer who was carrying a shotgun hit Oswald on the side of the head with the butt end of the shotgun. This is exactly what C. F. had told us during his interview.

As I continued reading my file on George Applin I noticed that during his testimony for the Warren Commission (Warren Commission Volume 7, pp. 85-91) he described this event. This testimony was taken on April 2, 1964, a little over 4 months after the arrest and by this time the incident of Lee Oswald being hit by the shotgun had changed slightly. During the FBI interview about 3 weeks after the arrest he had said that the officer hit Oswald in the head with the butt end of the shotgun and 4 months later he said that the officer hit him in the back.

Another interesting statement concerning Lee Oswald’s black eye was made by Lee himself. During the brief press conference that was held at about midnight on November 23, 1963, in the basement assembly room of Dallas police headquarters Lee was asked some questions by the press. At the end of the press conference, as Lee was being removed from the room, a reporter asked him, “Mr. Oswald, how did you hurt your eye?” Lee replied, “A policeman hit me.” (Warren Commission Exhibit No. 2166, p. 2.)

Photograph courtesy of C. F. Bentley, Jr.
I located a book with the best quality photographs of the Texas Theater during the arrest and sent it to C. F. as I had promised. About a week later C. F. called to thank me for the book and also to say that he could not locate himself in any of the photographs of the Texas Theater. We said that we would keep in touch and then said goodbye. I did not hear from him again for several months. I did not want to make a nuisance of myself. I knew that his mother was elderly and in poor health and also that C. F. had previously had a stroke. I decided not to contact him at that time. Several months later when I returned home at the end of the day there was a message on my answering machine from C. F., asking that I return his call. When I called him back he explained that since the last time we had spoken his mother had passed away, he had another stroke and also had heart bypass surgery. We visited on the telephone for a while and then I promised him that I would definitely keep in touch with him. That was almost 10 years ago and we have kept in touch ever since. Shortly after we reconnected I received a photograph from C. F. that shows him in his Dallas police uniform with the police dog “Ripple” taken in 1961. This photograph shows a very impressive law-enforcement officer, handsome, 6 feet 3 inches tall and all muscle. (This photograph is reproduced here.)

Occasionally his uncle, Paul Bentley, would receive telephone calls from Kennedy assassination researchers who had some interesting ideas about what actually happened at the Texas Theater. Uncle Paul would sometimes tell these researchers to call C. F. to explain some of their theories. C. F. would always call me afterwards to tell me about some of the strange ideas that these researchers had about the Texas Theater arrest. One researcher told C. F. that he knew for a fact that Paul Bentley actually dove off the balcony in order to arrest Lee Oswald. Another researcher told C. F. that he was positive that this arrest at the Texas Theater somehow involved Army Intelligence because Paul was in the Army during World War II.

C. F. is a highly experienced former law-enforcement officer and he could tell that during the conversations with these researchers that they were trying to lead him to say certain things that were not true and that he refused to say. Because of this and also because of poor health C. F. will not give interviews to any Kennedy assassination researchers. The story he told me the first day that I met him in 1999 is still the exact same story that we talk about in 2009. We have also spoken about several other topics having to do with the Dallas police and the city of Dallas during the 1960s. C. F. has always been very generous with me regarding his experiences and his information has always proven to be accurate.

Other former Dallas police officers such as Roy Vaughn and Murray Jackson, to name a few, speak very highly of C. F.

In conclusion, Paul Bentley passed away in July of 2008. He is greatly missed by everyone who knew him because he was a true gentleman and always very gracious and giving about his knowledge and experiences regarding the Kennedy assassination.