June 5 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and controversy still rages about the circumstances of his death. Kennedy was shot in the head in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles minutes after he won the California Democratic primary, putting him one step closer to receiving the nomination of his party for the top spot on the ticket in the 1968 election. Those dreams were cut short by four bullets, the fatal one behind his ear. A Palestinian immigrant, Sirhan Sirhan was immediately apprehended, yet it was anything but an open and shut case. The autopsy report presented at trial showed conclusively that Bobby Kennedy was shot point blank by four bullets from behind. The only problem was that the accused, Sirhan Sirhan, was standing in front of Kennedy. Washington Post:
Several other witnesses also said he was not close enough to place the gun against Kennedy’s back, where famed Los Angeles coroner Thomas Noguchi found powder burns on the senator’s jacket and on his hair, indicating shots fired at close contact. These witnesses provided more proof for those who insist a second gunman was involved.
Both the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office and the Los Angeles Police Department declined interviews on what they consider a closed case.
[Labor leader Paul] Schrade [a close Kennedy supporter who was also shot that night] believes that Sirhan shot him and the others who were wounded but that he did not kill Kennedy. Since 1974, Schrade has led the crusade to try to persuade authorities — the police, prosecutors, the feds, anyone — to reinvestigate the case and identify the second gunman.
“Yes, he did shoot me. Yes, he shot four other people and aimed at Kennedy,” Schrade, said in an interview at his Laurel Canyon home. “The important thing is he did not shoot Robert Kennedy. Why didn’t they go after the second gunman? They knew about him right away. They didn’t want to know who it was. They wanted a quickie.”
Sirhan Sirhan would seem to be the “patsy” just as Lee Harvey Oswald was in the JFK assassination, another murder hinging on a lone gunman theory. Before Christmas Sirhan received a visit from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
“I got to a place where I had to see Sirhan,” Kennedy said. He would not discuss the specifics of their conversation. But when it was over, Kennedy had joined those who believe there was a second gunman, and that it was not Sirhan who killed his father.
“I went there because I was curious and disturbed by what I had seen in the evidence,” said Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and the third oldest of his father’s 11 children. “I was disturbed that the wrong person might have been convicted of killing my father. My father was the chief law enforcement officer in this country. I think it would have disturbed him if somebody was put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.”
Schrade and Kennedy have every good reason to disbelieve that Sirhan is the sole perpetrator and guilty party in the murder of Robert Kennedy. This debate has raged for the past half century. While it’s laudable to fight the good fight, most likely nothing will change. Sirhan Sirhan is 74 years old and will likely die in prison. The truth is unquestionably out there, but its realization is unfortunately nothing more than a dream.