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'Police Hero' Finalist: The 'Man in the white hat' who believed in me

Carrie Driscoll's story is one of five chosen finalists for PoliceOne's Police Hero Contest. Driscoll named James R. Leavelle as the cop she most wanted to be like and the man responsible for pushing her to become an officer. Her personal experience with the well-known detective allowed her to overcome barriers and understand the core values that officers should have. Check out the other finalists and contest winner, here

By Carrie Driscoll

I met Dallas Police Department Homicide Detective James R. Leavelle when I was 8 years old. I’d become interested in the Kennedy assassination at that time and learned his name from a history book. I looked up his phone number and I called him. It was at this time that I learned his story of being handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald when he was shot. Of course that was just the beginning.

Over the years, he became “Grand Pa Jim” and a very vital part of my life. Whenever I was in Dallas, we’d talk about his life as a police detective. Some of the stories were funny and some were horrific. All of them were fascinating. I didn’t even consider becoming an officer until later in my life.

Detective James R. Leavelle and Carrie Driscoll. (PoliceOne Image)
Detective James R. Leavelle and Carrie Driscoll. (PoliceOne Image)

In 2001, I married a scumbag that I’ll always refer to as “Worm.” He almost beat me to death when I was six weeks pregnant with my oldest son. Grand Pa Jim was one of the first ones to jump in with unconditional love and support. He answered my legal questions when the officers around me would not. He accepted late night phone calls from a battered, scared young woman and he never thought twice.

He’d tell me stories of cases he’d worked involving battered women and why some left and some didn’t. He really got my attention when he told me that some couldn’t and that was when he was called in the capacity of a homicide detective. In many ways, he gave me the support and love that no one else would and he was just a long retired cop.

I never knew either of my blood Grandfathers. One died in Vietnam and the other always lived across the country. Jim stepped into that role and never asked for anything in return. He mentored me. He supported me. At 33, when I decided to join the Law Enforcement Academy, he wrote me a letter of recommendation when everyone else around me insisted I was crazy. He never stopped believing in me.

For most Americans, James Leavelle is generally known as “the man in the white hat” in the first live televised murder in American history. He started out as the same for me. Now, he truly is my hero as a police officer and my friend simply because he chose to be by adopting an inquisitive young girl and sticking with her through everything.

He helped me overcome everything and become all that I am. I cannot express the depth of my gratitude for all that he has been to me. He’s a living legend and this girl’s hero. 

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