Paul Schrade [Union Representative/Kennedy worker]: [After the JFK assassination Bob Kennedy] was really in bad shape… I spent some time with him in Washington at meetings and he would just sit with his hands clenched, sort of bent over in his chair, and just not talk very much. It took about a year before he actually got out of that serious gloom, that suffering over the loss of his brother.
Pete Hamill [Writer]: I didn’t meet Kennedy until Saint Patrick’s Day, 1966. I had been covering the war in Vietnam for the New York Post, and Kennedy had sent me a letter admiring my columns and inviting me to call him. We agreed to meet at a Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast at Charley O’s, a restaurant near Rockefeller Center. The place was full of the usual green ties and green cardboard derbies and people getting ready to march. I saw Kennedy across the room, talking to various people. He was better-looking than he was in most photographs, the hair fashionably long, sometimes falling across his brow to be brushed back with a quick flick. He seemed taller than he actually was (five-foot-nine) and moved athletically, like a good middleweight. He was quick to smile a rueful smile, usually in a self-deprecating manner. But in his eyes, as I came closer to introduce myself, I could see an almost permanent sadness. By all accounts, he’d been wrecked by his brother’s death.
Michael Zagaris [Law Student/Kennedy worker]: I’d worked on the Hill for Bobby Kennedy when I was in school in Washington, DC, and then I worked on his Presidential campaign when I started going to Law School in Santa Clara, California.
John Lewis [Chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee]: I was in Indianapolis campaigning with [Robert Kennedy] him when he heard that Dr. King had been shot. [April 4th, 1968] If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know what would have happened. [Robert Kennedy] had the ability, he had the capacity, perhaps more than any other white politician in America, to sort of vent the feelings and at the same the hopes and the dreams and aspirations of African-Americans.
Senator Robert Kennedy [April 4th 1968, Indianapolis, Indiana]: I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.
In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black–considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible–you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization–black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another…
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
John Lewis: As a matter of fact, [after] Dr. King was shot, I sort of had what I call an executive session with myself. It was very sad. It was a very dark and lonely few days. But I said something like, well, we still have Bobby Kennedy.
Michael Zagaris: The morning of the 1968 California Primary, I voted, and then I got on a plane in San Francisco and flew to Los Angeles, cause I wanted to be there; the race was so tight, and nobody really knew, but I had a feeling we were going to WIN!
Paul Schrade: …the contest was really between [Eugene] McCarthy and Kennedy. It was very tight. I was doing my job as a union rep at that point, reopening up negotiations with Douglas Aircraft, along with President Reuther of my union. So we also flew up north and came back. I actually voted of course early in the morning.
Michael Zagaris: A friend picked me up at LAX and we went to the Ambassador Hotel because that was Kennedy Headquarters…
Paul Schrade: We went north for a meeting and came back and I was going home because I thought, “Victory celebrations are not my thing,” but word was out on the radio about 8, 9 o’clock that it didn’t look too good for Kennedy.
[So] I decided to go down to the hotel…
Vincent DiPiero [Law Student/Kennedy Worker]: I had no intention of really even being at the event, and my dad, who was the maître d’ for the [Ambassador] hotel, he said that Robert [Kennedy] had asked where was I and I said, “Well, you know,” I said “Tell him I’m studying for my finals.” So, I kept doing that, and doing that, and finally, after three times, he said, “Robert’s really pissed off…” He says, “You better come down…”
Nina Rhodes-Hughes [Actress/Fundraiser/Kennedy Worker]: [Senator Kennedy] invited me to come to the Ambassador Hotel, for the victory celebration, so I did, I went to there, and I was all excited…
Michael Zagaris: At first, it was hard to get into the hotel, but then I proved that I was actually working for Kennedy, and when we walked in, it was JAMMED! You could feel the energy and excitement!
Sandra Serrano [Kennedy Worker]: It was very claustrophobic in the ballroom; you could barely move… Everybody was waiting for [Senator Kennedy] to make the appearance. I was real tired, and I had seen him a number of times already, so I went outside through the back part, way up the terrace. And I was just sitting there thinking about all the people that were around….
Michael Zagaris: The hotel had low ceilings and it was so fucking hot! I had on a suit, and I was not soaking wet, but I was wet. I was really sweating.
Sandra Serrano: I went downstairs. I went into the room where the Viva Kennedy band was in, and Senator Kennedy was on television. It was before midnight and you know, they are saying, “He’s here. He’s here,” and all this…
And I said, “Well, I’m not going to fight the crowd.”
And then I just went up the stairway outside… I just stepped out on to the fire escape that had a little balcony attached…. There was a stairway going up, leading probably up to a terrace, and I was standing there when I seen these three people come up…
I didn’t know who they were or anything…
There was a girl in a white dress… I know exactly what the dress was because I just babysat for someone who had an exact dress like that… black polka dots on the dress.
A young man about, I’d say about 23, who had on a white shirt, a gold sweater and he was of Mexican-American descent, and another man who had on rather messed up clothes.
[He] looked like he needed a haircut or something. And to me he looked like what…. somebody who, you know, just never looks right.
They went up together… the girl said, “Excuse me….” Very polite [and I] just got out of the way and they went up….
Pete Hamill: While we waited in [room] 516 for the polls to close and the returns to come in, I talked for a while with the movie director John Frankenheimer. The advertising agency Papert, Koenig, Lois, Inc., had hired him in March to work with the Kennedy campaign on shooting promotional material, including some commercials. He and Kennedy had become friends, and the candidate had spent the night before in Frankenheimer’s home in Malibu.
On this Tuesday, Frankenheimer had driven Kennedy to the Ambassador, where they arrived around 7:30 p.m. Like me, Frankenheimer was a native New Yorker, and I noticed that he referred to Kennedy as Bob, as I did. Where we came from, people named “Bobby” were either 9 years old or professional ballplayers. We talked a bit about the town that spawned us, and then about Frankenheimer’s great paranoid masterwork from 1962, The Manchurian Candidate, which starred Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey. It had been withdrawn from public viewing after the killing of Jack Kennedy in 1963 (it would finally be rereleased in 1988). The story, based on a novel by Richard Condon, was about programming a man to assassinate a presidential candidate.
“Do you think it could happen in what is laughingly called ‘real life’?” I asked him.
Frankenheimer smiled in a nervous way, and glanced at the door of the suite.
Paul Schrade: I decided to go down to the hotel and a friend of mine came and said, “Bob [Kennedy] heard you were here in the hotel, come on upstairs.” So we spent the evening just waiting for the count taking phone calls. It was just a wonderful time because the spirits began lifting as it became closer and closer to his victory in California.
Pete Hamill: A few people mixed drinks at the bar, clunking ice, nibbling from plates of rolled-up room-service ham and wedges of Cheddar and Swiss cheese. There was no music. This was not, after all, a party. That would be later, after the results were in, at a place called The Factory. This was politics.
Paul Schrade: As a busboy, [Juan] Romero went to the guest’s rooms [to deliver room service] and one time, Bob Kennedy had ordered food for about four people up on the fifth floor and the word got around the busboys. Juan argued with them, “I want to do this; I’ve known about Robert Kennedy for some time and I really want to do this,” and so he was then able to go up with the meal.
Juan Romero [Bus Boy]: They opened the door and the Senator was taking the phone. He put down the phone and says, “Come on in boys.” You could tell when he was looking at you, that he’s not looking through you, he’s taking you into account. And I remember walking out of there like I was 10 feet tall.
Paul Schrade: What happened up there is that Bob [Kennedy] was standing over with the group, he saw Juan, came over and picked up the tray, put it down on a table, came back and shook hands with him. And– Juan told the story later and said, “He had a very strong handshake and he looked at me and I felt like a human being.”
Rafer Johnson [Athlete/Kennedy Security]: We left the Senator’s suite and went down to the elevators at the end of the hall, and was to get on one elevator and the Senator changed; he got out and went to a second elevator which took us downstairs.
Vincent DiPiero: When [Robert Kennedy] came down in the elevator from the room-service, he looked at me and he goes “I see you made it,” and I said “Yeah,” and he says, “That didn’t sound affirmative,” and I said, “No, well I didn’t want to really go.” We were going to The Factory, which was a private club, for a party after. He says, “I’ll see you in a little bit…”
Michael Zagaris: I had no real plan. I just wanted to be there and see what happened.
So I attached myself to a group of five people on the mezzanine, and then I saw some friends, and I briefly saw Senator Kennedy, so I just fell in behind everybody, like I was part of the entourage. I’m just going with the flow of the crowd, and there’s a big stage in the ballroom and I squeezed myself in between five or six people, and then somebody pulled my coat and asked, “Where you going?” I was just like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about…”
I was in the back, on the far-left hand side. If I had taken another step, I would have fallen off the stage.
Jesse Unruh [Democratic Party Leader]: There were so many microphones at the podium and so many people occupying that, that it would be impossible to tell what it was like.
You had fifteen or twenty people pushed up there around you.
Michael Zagaris: Bill Etheridge, the photographer for both LIFE and TIME, told me, “Covering Bobby’s campaign was like being with the fucking Beatles!” He’d be in the backseat of the car with Rosey Grier and Rafer Johnson, and they used to have to hold onto Bobby around the waist because they were worried Bobby would get pulled into the crowds! You could see his hands were really puffy and scratched from where people had just reached out trying to grab him! But onstage, I could see only heads and I had to look between shoulders. I’m six foot one and a half, so I’m not short, but there were so many people! And all I could see was the back of Bobby’s head.
Evan Freed [Photographer]: During the Senator’s speech, a scuffle broke out where I was standing among several news photographers, and I was hit in the face with a large newsreel camera. My camera was also broken in the scuffle, and I decided to go to a quiet area to attempt repairs. I immediately went into the Embassy Room pantry area, arriving there about 5 minutes prior to the end of the Senator’s speech.
Nothing in the pantry area seemed unusual, however, I do recall the following: Two men who looked very similar in appearance and clothing were moving about the pantry area. One man was wearing lighter clothing than the other, and he was holding a drink glass in his hand. The 2nd man was standing near the south wall of the pantry, directly across from a large metal serving table. The men never stood together, however, they appeared to be looking at each other from time-to-time. I did not pay particular attention to the 2nd man, although I do recall thinking that he was the other man’s brother. I assumed that they were in the pantry to avoid the large crowd in the Embassy Room.
At one point, the man with the drink asked me how long the Senator’s speech would last, and I told him I did not know. He also asked hotel kitchen employees in the pantry where he could get some ice for his drink, and they directed him to an ice machine next to the door leading into the Embassy Room. The man with the drink was Sirhan Sirhan.
George Plimpton [Writer]: I was in the back of the stage to the left of the Senator, near the entrance to the stage through which we had come.
Michael Zagaris: Bobby gave a quick speech, like two minutes; it seemed shorter than the set the Beatles played at Forrest Hills, but I remember him saying, “Now it’s on to Chicago and let’s win there!”
Pete Hamill: “I thank all of you,” [Bob] was saying now. “Mayor Yorty just sent a message that we have been here too long already.” Loud laughter. “So my thanks to all of you and now it’s on to Chicago…”
Karl Uecker [Assistant Maître d’]: I took Mr. Kennedy from the stage… by my left hand… Holding him on his right hand.
Bill Barry: At the conclusion of the address, I began to clear a path for the Senator on the stage to left stage on the side that would bring us back towards the Colonial Room…
Michael Zagaris: I turned to my right and sort of just following the crowd, not knowing where we were gonna go. I asked somebody, “Where we going from here?”
And one person said, ‘I think we’re going back to the suites. There’s gonna be some celebrations up there.”
Then I heard somebody say, “No, there’s some buses. The Senator is going to give one more speech at a hotel.” I didn’t fucking know, I’m just listening, and I’m thinking, “Well, I’m just gonna follow the crowd and go from there…”
Nina Rhodes-Hughes: I was basically waiting for the Senator to come down after he gave his speech to bring him, as I was requested to do, to the Salinger press room which was to my right and the senator’s left as he descended.
Bill Barry: The original plan was that [the Senator] would go to another room which was in the opposite direction and I think a floor below. I am not sure of the name of that room, but there was another overflow crowd there….
Edward Minasian [Ambassador Hotel Catering Manager]: Our instructions were that when we reached that point, the next place we were to go would be the Ambassador Ballroom, which would be down the stairway… As far as I know, Mr. Uecker and I were already turned to the direction to go down the stairway.
Bill Barry: [The Senator] was called by someone at the mid-rear of the stage and he turned that way… I believe it was one of the staff of the hotel… Yes, sir [he was wearing a tuxedo].
Nina Rhodes-Hughes: Suddenly I saw this man in a tuxedo, a tall blond man, taking the senator in a completely opposite direction. And I shouted after saying, “No, no, no, you’ve gone in the wrong direction, it’s this way.” Nevertheless, I wasn’t heard. And I ran after them.
Vincent DiPiero: I was right next to Mr. Minasian when he said, “We are going to have to change it. I asked him, “Which way are you going to take him?”
He said, “Through the back of the stage.”
Bill Barry: The crowd filled in behind the Senator and many jumped off and followed him, thereby hindering me in my pursuit to catch up and keep pace with the Senator.
Edward Minasian: I know Mr. Uecker, Senator Kennedy and myself went through that door…. [and] there was a large corps of newsreel people, several people in the Senator’s party, and it seems as though it got larger, because there were a lot more people there after we started.
Nina Rhodes-Hughes: …as I ran after them towards the kitchen, I saw the Senator stop and chat with some people in the kitchen and, quickly, and then he moved on. He was then — I saw his left profile talking to someone, and then he moved on in the direction he was originally headed.
George Plimpton [Writer]: [Senator Kennedy] turned to the left with his party and began to move toward the exit where I was standing. Well, I realized that he was going to go through the exit, so I preceded him… we went into this kitchen area. I suppose I would be about twelve or fifteen feet in front of the Senator, walking along by this ice machine.
Pete Hamill: We entered a long grungy area called the pantry. I would write later that it was the sort of place where Puerto Ricans, blacks, and Mexicans usually worked to fill white stomachs. Fluorescent ceiling lights, bare sandy-colored concrete floors, pale dirty walls. A rusting ice machine. Shelves filled with dirty glasses. Through an archway to the left, we could see the main kitchen. A small group of Mexican-American cooks and busboys waited for Kennedy. To shake his hand. To murmur about luck, and thank him for coming. Against the left wall, three steel serving carts stood end to end. At the far end of the long pantry, two doors led to an improvised pressroom where Kennedy would speak to the press about the primary.
Vincent DiPiero: It was congested with people… Two people I noticed. The only reason that [Sirhan] was noticeable was because there was this good-looking girl in the crowd there.…she was following him.… she was standing behind the tray stand because she was up next to him on—behind, and she was holding on to the other end of the tray table and she – like – it looked like as if she was almost holding him.… She was good looking so I looked at her…
Sirhan Sirhan: She was pretty. I thought I wanted to hook up with her. We were trying to find coffee. There was an urn in the back area. I made coffee there.
Vincent DiPiero: I can recall she was wearing a polka dot dress…. I would never forget what she looked like because she had a very good-looking figure– and the dress was kind of– kind of lousy… I believed [Sirhan] to be a dishwasher that worked at the hotel and I would like to know why he was upon the tray rack….
Edward Minasian: We were concerned about the area being clear ahead of us so there would not be any delay for the Senator.
Karl Uecker: The Senator stopped there to shake hands.
Pete Hamill: I saw [Kennedy] turn to his left to shake hands with… three Mexican chefs or assistants or busboys…. and he turned to shake hands with one of them, a young guy named Juan Romero…
Juan Romero: When I first saw him, [Senator Kennedy] was coming, I didn’t see him until I seen him with a bunch of people… and I guess I said I thought I would shake hands two times because I didn’t know if he remembered….
Angelo DiPiero: [Senator Kennedy] was coming by and I stuck my hand out and he shook my hand and I tapped him on the back and said, “Congratulations Mr. Kennedy.”
And I walked with him as far as I could… I started to walk by the ice machines which were at the end of the table where these people were standing, and [Sirhan]…had a blue jacket on, powder blue… He was standing, but crouched…
Juan Romero: There was a person that couldn’t wait to shake his hand…
Jesse Unruh: I kept being distracted. I remember someone, and I assume it was Paul Schrade telling me, “Come on, Bobby wants you,” and several people kept stopping me and shaking hands with me and congratulating me. The last persons I remember as to what happened was that Senator and Mrs. Beilenson, and he was actually turning away and either about to shake hands or at least talking to them when I heard the first series of shots.
Michael Zagaris: We were almost at the door to the kitchen and it sounded like somebody let out a string of firecrackers. I mean it was like, crack, crack, crack, crack, but it wasn’t firecrackers, it was gunshots.
Nina Rhodes-Hughes: As I ran towards [the Senator], I started to hear shots. And I turned right to Sirhan Sirhan, who was standing on a metal steam table and Rafer Johnson and Rosie Grier ran to subdue him, but there were still shots coming from my right in back of the Senator. I was about six to seven feet in back of him. And it sounded like between 10 and 14 — well, 12 and 14 shots.
Vincent DiPiero: I saw the flash of the gun. [Senator Kennedy] threw his head and hands started to go up as if to grab his head. He made a sudden jerking motion and he let go of Karl [Ueker’s] hand….
Karl Uecker: Mr. Kennedy was falling out of my hand, and his upright arm, he was turning and then I realized there was somebody following me with a gun.
Bill Barry: The Senator was falling…
Vincent DiPiero: …as [Robert Kennedy] came back with his hands up to his head, he fell backwards and I put my arms out and I caught him, and as the third shot rang out and Paul [Schrade] got hit in the head, he fell on top of me on my left side and now, I’m going down on my left side with Paul and I have Robert in my hands and we’re now almost on the floor.
Paul Schrade: I was facing toward the Senator… I heard a crackling-like electricity and I saw some flashes and then all I remember I was shaking quite violently as though we were all being electrocuted… I began shaking and falling. That is the last I really knew until I regained consciousness on the floor.
Vincent DiPiero: Ira Goldstein was walking away from the shooting and he got shot and then he fell on top of me on my right side so I had Paul Schrade on my left, Robert Kennedy in the middle of me, and I had Ira Goldstein on my right. So I was in the middle of all that on the floor.
Rafer Johnson: I saw the Senator was down and I continued, but I didn’t see much I could do and I went toward the gun… At the moment I saw the gun and I went for the gun.
Angelo DiPiero: The blood from Senator Kennedy’s head, well, his head had reared back, and I believe it was at that time that I first got that blood sprinkled on my face.
Paul Schrade: I know that [Robert Kennedy] was facing Sirhan because I was right behind him a few feet. I got hit in the center of the forehead, which means that the gun fired by Sirhan– it was a bullet from the Sirhan gun that hit me, because I was facing Sirhan, as was Robert Kennedy. He was shot in the back, with four shots– three of which wounded him, one went through the shoulder pad of his coat, back to front, and we know now that the shooter, the second gunman– we have proof of that second shooter– was behind us, off to our right. Sirhan was off to the left, and in front of us.
Nina Rhodes-Hughes: …there were so many gunshots, there had to be at least twelve, so [Sirhan] wasn’t the only man.
Angelo DiPiero: I was hysterical. I was on my knees and I crawled over to the Senator.
First thing he said was, “Is everybody else alright?”
I said, you know, “Don’t say anything, just don’t speak.”
All he was concerned with was everyone else, I’ll never forget that. To see a man who knew he was probably going to die, worrying about everybody else.
Juan Romero: I seen [Mr. Kennedy] down, and I seen he tried to move and I just said the first thing that came to my mind, “Come on, Senator, you can make it,” and he tried to talk back and what I understood he said is: “Everything is all right, everything is okay.”
Paul Schrade: When [Bob Kennedy] came to with Juan Romero, he said, “Is everybody okay? Is Paul alright?”
Karl Uecker: I started grabbing for the gun….
Edward Minasian: Both Mr. Uecker and I grabbed hold of the [shooter].
Karl Uecker: …. I got my arm around [Sirhan’s] neck and had his head in a headlock and bent him over the steam table trying to push the gun away from the Senator.
Edward Minasian: I jumped across this area between myself and Mr. Uecker… and grabbed a hold of him…. around the waist and at the top of the leg. We had him pinned up against the service table.
Angelo DiPiero: Karl [Uecker] now has got the gun. He’s banging the gun. I’m watching the bullets come out of the gun– every time he hits it, he fires.
Nina Rhodes-Hughes: I saw one young man sliding down a wall, and I knew that it was another assassination as it was happening… I saw people dropping and then I saw Robert Kennedy there, and I knew– I fainted dead away, I don’t remember anything after that, except that I woke up with no shoes on, and no belt on my dress, and drenched with water.
William Weisel [ABC News]: …when I heard the cracking noise, it felt to me as something falling out of my pocket, inside my pocket and falling onto this side. I often carry a stop watch. I thought it was the stop watch falling out of the pocket hitting me, and I put my hand to the side to catch whatever it was, and there was nothing there, so I put my hand back to my side and then I was looking to my left which would be looking into the pantry and I saw a person falling….
When I observed the person falling there was a general commotion and I realized that something had happened in the room and, recalling my sensation, I opened my coat…
The whole area was red, my side…
Nina Rhodes-Hughes: I saw Rafer Johnson and Rosie Greer run towards [the gunman] …
George Plimpton: I swung myself onto the steam table and [the shooter] was jammed up against it, and his right hand was out with the gun in it…
Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier [Football Player/Security]: George Plimpton was struggling trying to get the gun out of his hand. And George couldn’t do it, he was not strong….
Jack Gallivan: Someone finally said, “Here’s Rosey Grier. Let him do it.”
Rafer Johnson: I don’t know how many others held this young man down– held onto some part of him– I had the gun hand and others had other parts of his body around this table.
Michael Zagaris: Rosey Grier had some guy; I thought he was just trying to push him away, but somebody yelled, “Get his arm, break his arm!”
George Plimpton: [The] attempt was to keep the gun pointing towards the wall at the back of the pantry, so that if it went off again it would go off in the plaster, and there was also an attempt on Grier’s part to put his finger in the trigger section so that the trigger could not be pulled.
Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier: I pulled the trigger back so it wouldn’t fire….
Bill Barry: It was a struggle to disarm him.
Pete Hamill: A ferocious brawling moment: Grier, Plimpton, Rafer, [Bud] Schulberg, me. Others. All of us trying to get the gun.
Angelo DiPiero: People started trying to beat [Sirhan] up or grab him or try to hit him. Everyone was trying to get him away from Karl [Uecker] and they were just pulling and really trying to kill him. Everybody was streaming and cursing. It was just complete pandemonium.
Jesse Unruh: I think I kept just saying, “Don’t kill him, don’t kill him, we have got to keep him alive.”
Michael Zagaris: I distinctly remember Ethel Kennedy screaming and yelling. I knew her voice because we’d gone to Hickory Hill a couple times when I was working for Bobby in Washington. We’d play touch football, and people would bring in platters of sandwiches and soft drinks, and Bobby would stand on the stairs and he’d throw issues around. So I was familiar with Ethel’s voice from going to Hickory Hill….
Nina Rhodes-Hughes …I gathered myself and went screaming the other way towards the press room where I started screaming, “He’s dead!”
George Plimpton: I did not have enough courage to look back in that direction.
Michael Zagaris: It was CRAZY in that room! And I saw two legs, and those were Bobby Kennedy’s….
Pete Hamill: There was Kennedy on the floor, at the foot of the ice machine, his eyes open, a kind of sweet accepting smile on his face, as if he knew it would all end this way.
Juan Romero: I put my hand between the cold concrete and his head just to make him comfortable. I could feel a steady stream of blood coming through my fingers…
Michael Zagaris: I had taken four or five steps into the pantry and almost slipped and fell, because I had dress shoes on. I thought someone had spilled oil; it was like dark purple – it was blood.
Juan Romero: I think my finger was touching his ear and I felt blood dripping on my finger… [His mouth] was kind of dried and then I heard somebody say, “Throw that gum away, Mr. Kennedy,” and I think he was chewing gum and I was going to put my finger in there, but I changed my mind. I tried; I couldn’t do it.
Edward Minasian: [Paul Schrade] was lying on the ground, on the floor approximately two feet from where the Senator was lying…
Angelo DiPiero: Mr. Schrade was laying on the floor. He was shot in the head. Another gentleman was shot in the stomach and I don’t know his name. And a lady who was later told to me was Mrs. Evans, was, I believe, shot in the head.
Elizabeth Evans: I heard a sound like a firecracker … and I lost my shoe at that moment. As I was bending over my head was hit with something.
Angelo DiPiero: It looked as though she was bleeding from the head and there was Ira Goldstein, who I saw was shot in the rear, and I believe it went up in his leg.
Ira Goldstein: Somebody mentioned there were sandwiches for the press in the pantry and I was very hungry. [The Senator was coming in the opposite direction and] I looked at him and I said, “Hello, senator, congratulations.”
I moved a little to the right to get out of the way of the rest of the people in the back… at this point I heard some loud popping noises… There were about two of them at first.
Then I quickly moved to my left… and at the point I stepped over someone who had fallen to the ground… At this point I kept moving and I felt something on my pants legs; felt like a little gust of wind. Then I continued walking and I felt a bullet enter my left leg… I crashed into the wall.
Irwin Stroll: …about the fifth shot I thought someone had kicked me, and I thought it really was someone who kicked me, because there were so many people… and then I noticed– I had blue pants, but one of my legs was red, so I knew I had been shot.
Edward Minasian: There was a lot of bleeding around the back of [the Senator’s] head, and his eyes were closed, as I ran past to the telephone…. I was the one who called the police and ambulance.
Journal of Neurosurgery [volume 130: Issue 5; 19 Jun 2018]: The senator’s campaign manager, Stephen Edward Smith, announced that a doctor was needed urgently. Five physicians, who had been in the ballroom, responded. These included Stanley Abo, a radiologist; Richard O. Dean, an internist and relative of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.; Ross M. Miller Jr., a trauma surgeon; and George Lambert, a physician with American Airlines. The fifth physician, Marvin Esher, noted that the senator had shallow breathing with a heart rate of 50–60 beats per minute. Kennedy’s left eye was closed; his right eye was open and deviated to the right. He was still able to move all four extremities. Dr. Abo noted that Kennedy was losing consciousness and examined the senator’s head wound.
A small blood clot had formed at the site of the bullet hole in the right posterior auricular region. Abo assumed that blood was accumulating in Kennedy’s head and inserted his finger into the hole to disrupt the clot. With that action, the clot dislodged, blood flowed freely from the bullet hole, and Kennedy’s consciousness briefly improved.
Edward Minasian: [When] I came back… I passed the Senator this time, I looked down at him and his eyes were open…. there were a great many people… with newsreels and television cameras looking down at him on the ground…
Michael Zagaris: There was screaming, there was yelling; there was a TV cameraman that was standing on a steam table and he was trying to shoot down, but being pushed around, and he threw his camera down and yelled, “Go on, get it, you ghouls! You ghouls!”
Juan Romero: …there was a rosary…. there was a person, a priest or, I don’t know who it was, who handed me the rosary…. I asked Ethel if I could give Bobby the rosary beads, and she didn’t stop me. I pressed them into his hand, but they wouldn’t stay because he couldn’t grip them, so I tried wrapping them around his thumb. When they were wheeling him away, I saw the rosary beads still hanging off his hand.
John Lewis: Those of us in that room just started crying really. It was devastating. It was so devastating. It was one of the saddest times in my life. I just wanted to leave California. I just wanted to get out of L.A.
Jimmy Breslin: After watching the scene for a few seconds, I jumped down and ran to the press room. The telephones didn’t work. I knew the hotel layout, and hurried to the telephone booths in the lobby.
Pete Hamill: I knew somehow that I’d never talk to him again.
Sandra Serrano: [On the fire escape] I thought I heard six shots; six backfires… I just looked around, looked for a car, you know, I just looked for a car, and then about half a minute later, this girl comes tearing down the stairs… saying, “We shot him. We shot him.”
And I said, “Who did you shoot?”
And she said, “Senator Kennedy. We finally did it,” like, you know, like, “Good going…” I remember distinctively that she was wearing a white dress with black polka dots….
The guy was following her… the one in the gold sweater…
She was running. He was walking rapidly…
Pete Hamill: A large enraged black man was heaving chairs into the swimming pool. Another was punching a hotel pillar with a bloody right fist. Weeping Kennedy volunteers were all around us.
Angelo DiPiero: [Martin Patrusky] saw the blood all over me and he came running over to me and he said, ‘You’re all right?” And I said, “Yeah,” and, you know, I started bawling I was so upset.
Michael Zagaris: The next morning, I had to fly back to San Francisco and drive down to the Santa Clara Law School because I had a “Contracts” final exam, and when I got to the thing, I was just kinda numb. Nothing had really sunk in.
They handed the test out, and I had seven or eight notebooks ready to go; I think I was number two in the class on “Contracts.” So they handed out the test, which was on one sheet of mimeographed paper and I sat there for about ten minutes, just staring.
Then I remembered I always carried these two Topps baseball cards, these two wax figures of players heads, where you could take the wax thing out and transfer their head to a piece of paper. I had a Juan Marisol and Roberto Clemente, so I took Marisol out and transferred him to the paper and drew a bubble that said, “Mike, this is all bullshit!”
And rather than write answering the questions, I filled in writing about how America is fucked and full of murder.
Frank Mankiewicz [RFK Campaign Spokesman/Press Statement, June 6th, 1968]: “I have a short announcement to read, which I will read at this time. Senator Robert Francis Kennedy died at 1:44 AM, June 6, 1968. With Senator Kennedy at the time of his death were his wife Ethel, his sisters Mrs. Stephen Smith, Mrs. Patricia Lawford, his brother-in-law Mr. Stephen Smith, and his sister-in-law Mrs. John F. Kennedy. He was 42 years old. Thank you.”
John Lewis: Next morning I got on a flight and flew from Los Angeles to Atlanta. And I think I cried almost all the way. I would stop a little, and cry again.
Nina Rhodes-Hughes: I think I cried for a year. I really did. I didn’t sleep. I dreamt about it every night…
Paul Schrade: Based on the prosecution’s own evidence they knew Sirhan did not shoot Robert Kennedy within a few hours after the shooting…
Nina Rhodes-Hughes: Well, the FBI came to my home when I was living in Los Angeles and interviewed me, and I told that there were between 12 and 14 shots, I told them I’d wanted to be a witness, and then they left…. I was never called; I was never questioned….
Philip Melancon… a professor at Dartmouth…. sent me a copy of the FBI report, which was devastating. It was 14 different statements that they misconstrued, misrepresented what I said. I promise you I said between 12 and 14 shots. And they put down that I said eight.
Michael Zagaris: After JFK was assassinated, I didn’t know Bobby before that, but I heard a lot of stories that he was really a dick and tough to work for. But after JFK was assassinated, there’d been a catharsis and he’d really grown as a person. And I really thought he could change this country.
Paul Schrade: Robert Kennedy would’ve lived that night if Sirhan had been the only gunman…. It was an eight-shot revolver and Kennedy got shot four times in the back. Sirhan didn’t have the bullets, he was captured out of position. The gun was two to three feet in front of Kennedy and Kennedy got hit at point-blank range in the back. It couldn’t be Sirhan. It had to be a second gunman… The prosecution knew this, knew there was a second gunman and didn’t do anything to investigate it. They just did a quickie on Sirhan and sent him to the gas chamber. They were going to murder this guy. It was a well-planned investigation in order to convict Sirhan. They falsified the evidence right from the beginning.
Deputy Thomas Beringer [Deputy Sheriff]: I remember one person [dressed in a tuxedo] trying to take a bullet out of the [door frame] with a knife, a silver knife, for a souvenir.
Michael Zagaris: After Bobby Kennedy was shot, I took my first acid trip, and as I tell people later, it wasn’t to get fucked up or escape. I’d read John Hersey’s “Don’t Look Back,” and I’d read “Doors of Perception,” and I knew listening to Revolver that the Beatles had dropped acid, and I thought “You know what? I’m going to check this out…”
And on my first acid trip, I learned more than– fuck– more than college, more than law school, more than working for the Kennedy’s. So from that point on I started LIVING at the Fillmore – I’d go there two three nights a week. And that’s how I got into rock & roll.
To order The World According to Breslin, click this link:
Vincent DiPiero was a law student and the son of Angelo DiPiero, the head Maître ‘d of the Ambassador Hotel. Mr. Dipiero’s entries from June 5th, 1968, LAPD Interview, and from Grand Jury testimony and from the trial testimony in the People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. Also, from a Chris Mathews November 17th, 2017 interview on MSNBC, copyright 2017-2022 by MSNBC.
Elizabeth Evans was a Eugene McCarthy supporter but went to the Ambassador Hotel on June 5th because she liked to party. Mrs. Evans entry from “Key figures associated with RFK’s assassination,” © 2022 NBC UNIVERSAL
Evan Freed was a photographer who later became a lawyer. Mr. Freed’s entry from an affidavit executed May, 13th 1992, in Los Angeles, California. © 2022 JFK CIA by Michael Calder
Jack Gallivan was an advance man for the RFK Presidential Campaign. His entry is from the trial testimony in the People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.
Ira Goldstein was a 19-year-old reporter for Continental News when he was shot in the leg in the Ambassador Hotel pantry. Mr. Goldstein’s entry from the trial testimony in the People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.
Pete Hamill (William Peter Hamill; June 24, 1935-August 5, 2020) was an American journalist, novelist, columnist and editor. For forty years, Hamill worked at the New York Post, the New York Daily News, the Village Voice and New York Newsday. He served briefly as editor of the Post, and later as editor-in-chief of the Daily News. His articles also appeared in New York magazine, The New Yorker, Esquire, Playboy, Rolling Stone where he wrote about wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Lebanon and Northern Ireland. In 1975, Hamill won a Grammy for the liner notes to Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks.”
Pete Hamill’s entries are from the introduction to A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties, photographs and text by Bill Eppridge, published by Abrams. Copyright © 2008 by Pete Hamill.
Link to buy A Time It Was: https://www.amazon.com/Time-Was-Bobby-Kennedy-Sixties/dp/0810971224/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?crid=3BTOXTMI62G04&keywords=A+Time+It+Was%3A+Bobby+Kennedy+in+the+Sixties%2C+by+Pete+Hamill&qid=1647371810&sprefix=a+time+it+was+bobby+kennedy+in+the+sixties%2C+by+pete+hamill%2Caps%2C44&sr=8-1-fkmr1
In Legs McNeil’s opinion Pete Hamill’s best account of the RFK Assassination was written for a Village Voice cover story and later reprinted in his collection of magazine pieces; Irrational Ravings (Putnam, 1970).
Link to buy Irrational Ravings here: https://www.amazon.com/Irrational-ravings-Pete-Hamill/dp/B0006CUZNO/ref=sr_1_1?crid=20BS55LUZ8D6R&keywords=irrational+Ravings+by+Pete+Hamill&qid=1647384486&sprefix=irrational+ravings+by+pete+hamill%2Caps%2C53&sr=8-1
Nina Rhodes-Hughes was an actress and model before she became involved in politics as a fundraiser for RFK. Ms. Rhodes-Hughes entries are from two CNN interviews, the first one with host Gloria Creighton for “Contact” in 1992, and the second one with host Soledad O’Brien in 2012. Both are copyright 2022 Cable News Network. © 2022 Cable News Network. A Warner Media Company.All Rights Reserved.CNN Sans ™ & © 2016 Cable News Network.
To watch Nina Rhodes-Hughes1992 CNN interview with Gloria Creighton click on this link:
To watch Nina Rhodes-Hughes 2012 CNN interview with Soledad O’Brien click on this link:
Rafer Johnson (Rafer Lewis Johnson; August 18, 1934-December 2, 2020) was an Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, having won silver in 1956. He was the USA team’s flag bearer at the 1960 Olympics and lit the Olympic flame at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984. He left sports for a career as a film star—appearing in Elvis Presley and Tarzan movies, as well as “Roots” and James Bond films. Johnson published, The Best That I Can Be (WaterBrook; Galilee ed. edition August 17, 1999) where he shares memories of working and hanging out with Robert Kennedy. Rafer Johnson’s entries from Grand Jury testimony and from the trial testimony in the People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.
To purchase The Best That I Can Be –click here: https://www.amazon.com/Best-that-Can-Be-Autobiography/dp/0385487614
Journal of Neurosurgery [volume 130: Issue 5; 19 Jun 2018] Copyright Journal of Neurosurgery June 2018.
John Lewis In 1968 John Lewis was the chairman the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee [SNCC] and was one of the civil rights leaders who had organized the 1963 “March on Washington” where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous, “I Have A Dream Speech” to 250,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
On March 7th, 1965, John Lewis led the first Selma to Montgomery civil rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where he and other marchers were attacked by police with horses, billy clubs, and tear gas, and the day became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
From 1987 to his death in 2020, John Lewis served in the House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District and was instrumental in protecting voting rights for all Americans. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 (H.R. 4) is proposed legislation that would restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, certain portions of which were struck down by two Supreme Court decisions of Shelby County v. Holder and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. Please support candidates who champion the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act!
Of all John Lewis’s amazing achievements, besides the “John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” one of his other lasting legacies maybe March, his graphic novel trilogy of his life in the Civil Rights Movement when he began working with Dr. Martin Luther King while still in high school. March; Book One was published in 2013 and was written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, and was illustrated and lettered by Nate Powell.
March: Book One went to Number One on The New York Times Graphic Novel Best Seller List in 2013 and stayed on the charts for more than year. The second volume, March: Book Two was published in January 2015, and the final volume, March: Book Three was published in August 2016– all to popular acclaim, as well as literary and graphic novel awards.
I highly recommend reading The March Trilogy, and to purchase it click on this link: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/1MA/march (You won’t be sorry!)
Frank Fabian Mankiewicz II (May 16, 1924 – October 23, 2014) was a political adviser for the Kennedy, as well as the president of National Public Radio and public relations executive. Mr. Mankiewicz was the son the son of screenwriters Sara and Herman Mankiewicz who co-wrote “Citizen Kane.” His uncle, Joseph Mankiewicz directed “All About Eve,” as well as numerous other films, and won two Oscars for Best Director. Mr. Frank Mankiewicz’s entry from a press conference held on June 6th, 1968, in a nearby gymnasium from Good Samaritan Hospital where Robert Kennedy died.
Edward Minasian (1931-1990) was the catering manager at the Ambassador and after the RFK assassination moved first to St. Louis, then in 1972 he moved to Chicago and ran the Continental Plaza. He never spoke about the killing of Robert Kennedy and died in 1990 at the age of 59. Mr. Minasian’s entry from Grand Jury testimony and from the trial testimony in the People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.
George Plimpton (George Ames Plimpton; March 18, 1927-September 25, 2003) was an American journalist, writer, and actor, who helped found The Paris Review in 1953.
George Plimpton and Jean Stein produced a book about Robert Kennedy, The Long Journey of Robert Kennedy, (Hardcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970). It was Plimpton and Stein’s first collaboration in the Art of the Narrative Oral History that would culminate in the bestseller, Edie; An American Girl, a decade later.
Mr. Plimpton authored numerous books, mostly about sports and literary stars, the most notable of his collection is Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career, another Narrative Oral History in 1997. George Plimpton’s entries from Grand Jury testimony and trial testimony from People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.
To order The Long Journey of Robert Kennedy, click this link:
To order Edie; An American Girl, click this link: https://www.powells.com/searchresults?keyword=Edie;+An+American+Girl,+
To order Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career, click this link:
Juan Romero (1950–2018) was a busboy at the Ambassador Hotel and became famous when the photo of him kneeling next to a wounded Robert Kennedy was published around the world. His entries are from Grand Jury testimony and trial testimony from People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. And also, from a StoryCorps June 5th, 2018 podcast interview, copyright 2018-2022 by StoryCorps.
To listen to the entire Juan Romero/StoryCorps interview click here:
Paul Schrade is a former director of the United Auto Workers in California and a good friend of Robert Kennedy. Paul Schrade’s entries are from Grand Jury testimony and trial testimony from People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. They are also from the Paul Schrade New Deal Radio podcast of June 17th, 2018, copyright 2018-2022 New Deal Radio. And from the June 4th, 2018 Paul Schrade interview MSNBC, copyright 2018-2022 by MSNBC.
To watch the entire Paul Schrade/MSNBC interview click here:
https://www.msnbc.com/msnbc-originals/watch/friends-of-rfk-recount-his-assassination-50-years-later-1248245315912 (Starts at 2:00)
To listen to the entire Paul Schrade/New Deal Radio interview click here: https://soundcloud.com/radio-host-505576327/episode-8-interview-with-survivor-of-the-rfk-assassination-paul-schrade
Sandra Serrano entries from, Who Killed Bobby? The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy Who Killed Bobby? by Shane O’Sullivan (Union Square Press, 2008) Copyright 2008 by Shane O’Sullivan.
To purchase Who Killed Bobby? The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy Who Killed Bobby? by Shane O’Sullivan—click here: https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/quotrfk-must-diequot-the-cia-and-the-assassination-of-robert-f-kennedy_shane-osullivan/407146/item/5573341/?gclid=CjwKCAjw8sCRBhA6EiwA6_IF4f66yxjanFw0Dl9Mzf7qCAOFtg8rRbxc6PcJDytbQTM5pT0W5LE_axoC-YIQAvD_BwE#idiq=5573341&edition=5027758
Sandra Serrano is also featured in the 2007 investigative documentary film “RFK Must Die” by Shane O’Sullivan.
To buy the DVD of “RFK Must Die,” click here:
Sirhan Bishara Sirhan is the convicted assassin of Robert Francis Kennedy. His entries come from a Sirhan Sirhan parole hearing in 2011. Sirhan is still alive, serving life in prison at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County, California.
Irwin Stroll (1952-1995) was a 17-year-old Kennedy worker when he was shot in the leg in the Ambassador Hotel pantry. He became a renowned interior designer until his death on February 16th, 1995 of AIDS. Mr. Stroll’s entry from trial testimony; People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.
Karl Uecker was the Maître ‘d of the Ambassador Hotel. His entries are from Grand Jury testimony and trial testimony from People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. (No information available on his life or death.)
Jesse Unruh (Jesse Marvin Unruh; September 30, 1922-August 4, 1987) was a member of the California State Assembly, and was the longest serving California State Treasurer; from 1975 until his death from prostate cancer in 1987. Jesse Unruh’s entries from Grand Jury testimony and trial testimony from People of the State of State of California vs. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.
Michael Zagaris was a law student who dropped out of law school after the RFK Assassination and became a world class photographer specializing in sports and rock stars. Interview by Legs McNeil, copyright 2022 by Legs McNeil
To order Michael Zagaris’s book Total Excess, click on this link: https://www.amazon.com/Total-Excess-Photographs-Michael-Zagaris/dp/1909526401
Or Google the name “Michael Zagaris” and pick from the list of his many published photo books.