Assassination of Robert Kennedy
|Picture Taken On:
Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968
Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles
|Behind the Camera:
Bill Eppridge on the left and Boris Yaro on the right
Robert F Kennedy after he is shot. Hotel busboy Juan Ramero was shaking his hand when he was shot and was the first to help him.
Last Updated on 2013-4-28
by Dean Lucas
Robert F. Kennedy
In 1968 five years had gone by since Robert F. Kennedy's brother then President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Since that time Robert F. Kennedy (also called Bobby) had been elected United States Senator seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. The campaign had being going well and following the California primary, Kennedy was in second place with 393 delegates compared to vice president Hubert Humphrey's 561. After giving a speech at the Ambassador Hotel's Embassy Room ballroom, in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles, he was walking through the kitchen when the assassin struck.
Sirhan Sirhan managed to hit Bobby three times with the bullets fired from his gun. One entered his brain behind his right ear while the two others went in through the right armpit exiting from his chest and back of the neck. Soon after the picture was taken he was rushed to the Central Receiving Hospital in Los Angles about a mile away. Before he was lifted onto a stroller he was still conscious and was able to speak a few words. After being stabilized he was transfered to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan for surgery. The operation went through the night starting at 3:12 a.m. and lasting to 7:02 a.m. Despite the surgery Kennedy died several hours later at 1:44 a.m. PDT on June 6, nearly 26 hours after the shooting.
The assassin was one Sirhan Sirhan a strongly anti-Israeli Palestine Christian immigrant. He had moved to America when he was 12 and had lived in New York and California. Sirhan had developed an obsession with killing Bobby Kennedy and after his arrest his diary and writing showed that he had severe mental issues. He was convicted on April 17, 1969 and the judge sentenced him to death. However he was removed off death row after a landmark case in the California Supreme Court, California v. Anderson, invalidated all pending death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972. He is still incarcerated at the California State Prison in Corcoran and has been denied parole for the thirteenth time in 2006.
Ramero was 17 in 1968 but he idolized Kennedy and was thrilled that Bobby was staying at the hotel he worked for. When he was a child in Mexico, Bobby was worshipped by his family because he was a Catholic and a family man, and his brother John Kennedy had spoken of Hispanics as hardworking and family-oriented at a time when Hispanics were seen as nothing more than menial workers to be ignored. The night before he had promised to do extra work to get a chance to take a room-service call from the Kennedy suite. The call came and he had a chance to meet him in person. But it wasn't enough and when Kennedy passed through the kitchen Ramero pushed through the crowds to get another hand shake.
While he was shaking Bobby's hand he felt heat and saw Kennedy go down. Knelling by his side he was captured in the photos above. When Ramero felt the back of Bobby's head his hand came back covered in blood. Juan took his rosary beads and pushed them into Kennedy's hands and as he knelt over him Ramero thought he heard Bobby. At the trial Ramero told the court that he saw the assassin:
He an interview with TIME he remembers, "the doctors said it would have been impossible for him to speak, but with God as my witness, I swear Mr. Kennedy said either, 'Is everybody O.K.?' or 'Everything's going to be O.K.'"
After the pictures were released he became a celebrity with mail pouring in from all over the world. But feeling uneasy with all the attention and after Juan's stepfather told him no honorable man profits from another man's tragedy he left. He travelled from town to town until 1974 when he settled down with his wife Elda and the two started a family in San Jose. As of 1998 Juan still lives with Elda and their three daughters, one son and four grandchildren. He is still scared from that evening and doesn't talk about the pictures with his family and rarely does interviews but hopes that he can honor Bobby Kennedy by living in his spirit, working hard, honoring his God, and taking care of his family while living a life of tolerance and compassion.
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In his book A Time it Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties Eppridge remembers that he was assigned by LIFE to cover bobby's 1968 campaign.
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