Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 9:55 am

WHO KILLED BOBBY?: THE UNSOLVED MURDER OF ROBERT F. KENNEDY
by Shane O'Sullivan
© 2008 by Shane O'Sullivan
Cover photo of Robert F. Kennedy by Evan Freed; background image from Sirhan's notebook courtesy California State Archives

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To Kanako and my parents
In memory of Larry Teeter and Philip Melanson


From his observations of Sirhan and the writing in his notebooks, Dr. Crahan noted the following characteristics: "Emotional immaturity. Better than average intelligence. Idealistic. Impressionable. Easily led. Zealous. Inflammatory. Dogmatic. Stubborn. Self-sacrificial. Visionary. Worshipping. Fierce hatred and animosity. Detailed planning habits. Studious. Frugal. Hunger for Knowledge. Money hungry. Power proud. Opinionated. Arrogant. Self-assured. Patriotic. Egocentric."

***

The first witness called before the grand jury on June 7 was Dr. Noguchi. He pronounced the cause of death as a "gunshot wound of the right mastoid, penetrating the brain."

Noguchi noted a gunpowder tattoo one inch long around the fatal entry wound on the edge of Kennedy's right ear. He didn't want to preempt firearm tests, but "the position of the tattooing and the powder on the edge of the right ear indicate that ... the muzzle distance was very, very close."

***

Dr. Noguchi remained skeptical, later noting in his autobiography, "Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable but this time sheer unanimity was too phenomenal to dismiss. Not a single witness in that crowded kitchen had seen him fire behind Kennedy's ear at point-blank range. There are lessons to be learned from this case: Do not take for granted that the one who is in custody is the one who committed the crime. Until more is positively known of what happened that night, the existence of a second gunman remains a possibility. Thus I have never said that Sirhan Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy."

***

Sirhan was the name of an ancient tribe that roamed the Syrian Desert and means "wolf" in Arabic.

***

2 June 67, 12.30 p.m.

A Declaration of War Against America

When in the course of human events it has become necessary for me to equalize and seek revenge for all the inhuman treatments committed against me by the American people.

The manifestation of this Declaration will be executed by its purporter(s) as soon as he is able to command a sum of money ($2000) and to acquire some firearms -- the specifications of which have not been established yet.

The victims of the party in favor of this declaration will be or are now -- the President, vice, etc. -- down the ladder.

The time will be chosen by the author at the convenience of the accused.

The method of assault is immaterial -- however the type of weapon used should influence it somehow.

The author believes that many in fact multitudes of people are in harmony with his thoughts and feelings.

The conflict and violence in the world subsequent to the enforcement of this decree, shall not be considered lightly by the author of this memoranda, rather he hopes that they be the initiatory military steps to WWIII -- the author expresses his wishes very bluntly that he wants to be recorded by historians as the man who triggered off the last war.

Life is ambivalence

Life is a struggle

Life is wicked

If life is in any way otherwise, I have honestly never seen it. I always seem to be on the loosing end. Always the one exploited to the fullest.

***


The "$2000" reference was odd because it matched the disability award Sirhan got for his injuries the following April. After lawyers' fees, Sirhan pocketed $1,705. Sirhan was disappointed he got so little, so how could he have predicted the size of his award nine months before? Were these statements really written on June 2, 1967, or postdated to look that way?

It should be noted the dates on both pages and "the America must fall" reference are written in slightly different writing and different pen than the main body of text on each page, suggesting they may have been added later.

***

Kennedy didn't advocate sending fifty jet bombers to Israel until a speech on May 26 at Temple Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon. How could Sirhan write of his increasingly "unshakable obsession" to kill Kennedy on May 18 when he wasn't even aware of Kennedy's support for Israel until two days later and the bombers weren't mentioned until six days after that?

***

At 12:50 that afternoon, Sirhan paid a dollar and signed in at the Corona Police Pistol Range and practiced for a couple of hours. Prosecution handwriting expert Lawrence Sloan later confirmed that the signature in the log book was in Sirhan's handwriting, and according to the rosters, no one else was shooting on the range at that time.

But was it really Sirhan? The only people who saw him at the range that day were the range master, William Marks, and his deputy, Harry Starr, both regular Corona policemen.

Marks identified Sirhan from a police mug shot but described him as twenty to thirty years old, six foot to six foot two, and 215 to 225 pounds, with brown hair. This was at least eight inches too tall, double Sirhan's weight, and the wrong hair color. Marks said "Sirhan" was accompanied by a man of about the same age, five-five to five-seven and 130 to 145 pounds, with brown hair, a pencil moustache, and horn-rim glasses. The second man spoke with an unknown foreign accent and questioned Marks about aliens using the range, but did not shoot. "Sirhan" fired a .22-caliber gun, which he carried in a zippered carrying case (something the real Sirhan did not own).

Officer Harry Starr provided the same description....

Deputy DA John Howard asked Starr if he could identify the defendant as the same man.

"Do you want a stipulation?" asked defense counsel Grant Cooper, somewhat bizarrely.

"No, I don't think so," said Howard. "Thinking back to that Saturday, June 1st ... did you see the defendant?"

"I can't truthfully say that that is the man," said Starr. "I picked out a picture that resembled the man but to be truthful about it, I cannot say that he is the man."

"I will offer a stipulation, having first talked to counsel," said Cooper.

"We will accept the stipulation," said a grateful Howard.

Cooper, shamefully unaware of the range master's statements, stipulated that Sirhan was on the range.

***

Sirhan left the range at three and stopped off at the Lock, Stock 'n Barrel gun shop in San Gabriel on his way home. Retired fireman Larry Arnot was the clerk who served him....

[A]ccording to Arnot, Sirhan entered the store with two other men. The group looked very serious and didn't talk among themselves.

"I want two boxes of Mini-Mags," said Sirhan.

"Standard or hollow points?" asked Arnot.

"Hollow points," came the reply.

"Going rabbit hunting?"

"That's the plan," said Sirhan.

***
"I could never go along with the theory that there was a second gun in the pantry," said Kaiser.... Kaiser ultimately dismissed Serrano as a "red herring."

***
"McCowan was in, saw Hernandez. Michael professed cooperation and indicated he'd obtain needed background information from family. He wants photos or maps showing kitchen and location of witnesses."...

Secretly working for the prosecution to elicit information from the Sirhan family was a dangerous game, even allowing for the LAPD's hardball tactics in releasing routine information to the defense camp. It's also curious that McCowan's contact would have been Hernandez, of all people, the polygraph operator.

***
Sirhan was reluctant to talk about the influence of the occult on his life and was insistent that McCowan and Kaiser stay away from the Rosicrucians.

***
[A] week into the case, Cooper was already colluding with the prosecution and floating plea bargains.

***

It's also never been clear where Sirhan was on Monday, June 3, the day before the shooting. Sirhan got up early that morning and drove his mother to work. At around ten thirty, he put gas in his car at Richfield Service Station, where he used to work, waved to his former boss, Jack Davies, and drove off. According to one FBI report, sometime during the day a man from the telephone company was doing service work at a house across the street from the Sirhan home when he saw Sirhan being dropped off in a green or metallic-colored Mercedes. The car was driven by a male, and a female was riding in the front seat. Mary Sirhan was at work in the morning but said Sirhan was home the rest of the day; Sirhan himself has contradicted this statement, and has always been vague about his movements that day. According to Robert Kaiser, he changed his story three times. "First, he said he was home all day. Then he admitted to me he'd gone to Corona. Later still, he told me it wasn't Corona at all, but 'someplace in that direction.' And still later, he told defense investigator Michael McCowan with some satisfaction that he'd put 350 miles on his car June 3 and no one knew where he'd gone ... [he said] 'the FBI doesn't know everything.'''

***

On June 4, Sirhan woke up just before eight, and Munir saw him on his way to work, buying a newspaper on a street corner in Pasadena. Sirhan had been going to the races, betting, nearly every day for two weeks, and today he planned to go again to Hollywood Park. But he'd been losing money and he didn't like the horses that were running that day, so he decided to go shooting instead.

***

Sirhan had nothing to do until the Tuesday night Rosicrucian meeting at eight.

***

"As long as the coffee was being served, I told her how I would like to drink some coffee, too."

"What was the next thing you did?"

"The next thing I remember, sir, I was being choked."

***

"I seem to have just been railroaded into this thing."

***

"Sirhan, you know what hypnosis is?"

"Isn't it the domination of the weaker will by the stronger?"

"No, it isn't that at all," said Diamond. "It's simply a way of demonstrating one's own ability to concentrate ... and the hypnotist is not dominating over the will of the other. No one can be hypnotized against his own will, and the hypnotist really just gives suggestions and encouragement to a person so that he can use his own willpower to strengthen his own abilities."

***

"I could have slapped him in the face; I could have broken his nose. I could have thrown my cup of coffee at him .... Why? Why not? Why the hell didn't I do that?" ... If I'd wanted to kill a man, why would I have shot him right there where they could have choked the shit out of me? Would I, sir, be so stupid as to leave that notebook there, waiting for those cops to pick up? ... I may have done more damage to the Arab cause," said Sirhan ruefully. ''I'm not a killer; I'm not a killer," he repeated.... "I said this, sir, a thousand times; I'm not proud of this .... You could shoot me right here for what I did, sir.... My own conscience doesn't agree with me. ... It's against my upbringing, my very nature, sir," said Sirhan, sounding anguished. "My childhood, family, church, prayers ... the Bible and all this, sir. 'Thou shalt not kill.' Life is the thing, you know. Where would you be if you didn't live, sir? And here I go and splatter this guy's brains. It's just not me."

***

"Were you hypnotized when you wrote the notebook?"

"Yes yes yes."

"Who hypnotized you when you wrote the notebook? Write his name down."

"Mirror mirror my mirror," wrote Sirhan, "my my mirror."....

"Who taught you how to do this?" asked Diamond.

"AMORC," wrote Sirhan. "AMORC AMORC."

***

"Now, get this straight, Sirhan. I do not believe that anybody hypnotized you and told you to kill Kennedy. I think you did it to yourself. You get the distinction?"

***

Coming late into the case, Cooper had a very poor grasp of the physical evidence. He was going to stipulate that Sirhan had killed Kennedy, so the less time spent discussing bullets and gunshot wounds in front of the jury, the better. The defense was chock-full of psychiatrists and psychologists but had no forensic expertise. Cooper stipulated to the bullets presented by Wolfer and asked Dr. Noguchi to spare the court "the gory details" of the autopsy. At no point in the trial were the issues of extra bullets or extra guns mentioned, and there was no meaningful examination of the ballistics....The defense didn't bother to hire a ballistics expert.

***

But, as the New Year began, Cooper's participation in the trial was in doubt. On Friday, January 3, he admitted to a federal grand jury that he had lied in court about the source of the unauthorized transcript found on his counsel table during the Friars Club trial.

Cooper said he had nothing to do with acquiring the transcripts -- he was on a fishing trip to the South Seas at the time. He cited attorney-client privilege in refusing to answer forty-six questions about how they were obtained and said he would risk contempt and jail before revealing anything that would damage his client.

An urgent three-page FBI Teletype, titled "Re Illegal Possession and Use FCG Transcripts," to J. Edgar Hoover later that day is still heavily redacted. Two pages are blacked out; then the last eight lines read, "USDJ set hearing for such argument at two PM Monday next. USA W. Matthew Byrne, Jr. today advised that if government obtained facts suitable to indict [Grant Cooper] and others while Sirhan case in progress, such indictment would be returned secretly and not released until Sirhan case concluded." The threat of an indictment weighed heavily on Cooper throughout the Sirhan trial. In fact, hearings on the stolen transcripts would resume the day after Sirhan was sentenced.

So, U.S. Attorney Matt Byrne was prosecuting Sirhan and pursuing a possible indictment of Sirhan's attorney at the same time. If an indictment was returned before the trial, it would be hushed up but still secretly hanging over Cooper while he defended Sirhan.

Three days later, Cooper played down the possibility of an indictment to Judge Herbert Walker, who would preside over the Sirhan trial. Al Wirin appeared in chambers to advise Sirhan that he should continue to be represented by Cooper, despite the conflict of interest posed by Cooper's possible indictment by an agency participating in the prosecution. Sirhan consented, and Cooper stayed.

***

By now, Sirhan had grown distant with Kaiser. "We had a pretty good relationship for the first few months and then, the trial came and he began to cool toward me," Kaiser recalled. "I'd go to see him and he'd be pretty close to the vest. He didn't want to tell me things as he was telling me before. I found out later that Russell Parsons, one of the other attorneys in the case, told Sirhan's mother, Mary Sirhan, not to trust Kaiser because he was telling the DA's office everything he knew, which is not true.

"But there was a struggle for power inside the defense team, and that was one of the results of it. Parsons was not in the loop, and I think he resented my having more information than he did ... and so, maybe Sirhan got the word, you know, that I couldn't be trusted."

***

It was then left to Grant Cooper to make a final stand for Sirhan's life. "We are not here to free a guilty man," he began. "We tell you, as we always have, that he is guilty of having killed Robert Kennedy. Under the facts of this case, Mr. Sirhan deserves to spend the rest of his life in the penitentiary," he said, immediately contradicting Parsons...."As I view the evidence," Cooper said, "it would be illogical to suggest this wasn't a willful, deliberate and premeditated murder. There's no suggestion in this case that it was upon a sudden heat of passion, which reduces it to manslaughter."...

Cooper then proceeded to trample roughshod over the other issues in the case in a desperate plea for second-degree murder, throwing out any good work the defense had done:

"For the purpose of this argument, we can admit that he bought the gun with the intention of killing either Senator Kennedy or President Johnson or [UN] Ambassador Goldberg or any one of those people that he mentioned in his notebook. We can admit that he did it because he was angry at this country for ... supplying arms to Israel.

"We can admit that on June 2nd, he went to the Ambassador Hotel, having in mind that he wanted to kill Senator Kennedy ... for the purpose -- as Mr. Fitts said -- of casing the joint.

"We can admit that he made inquiries of the different persons, sometimes on the 2nd and sometimes on the 4th, as to the route that Senator Kennedy would take; where he was going to be; whether there were going to be bodyguards or not -- all of these things go to show premeditation and deliberation. It shows some planning, some thinking.

"But we come back to the law, and whether or not that is mature and meaningful thinking. The issue in this case is diminished capacity with respect to premeditation and deliberation. It isn't what happened at the time of the firing of the shot. The deliberation took place a long time before that. I don't care if he was in a hypnotic state at the time he fired the shot, or whether he was in a trance, as Dr. Diamond said; this is beside the point."

He then bizarrely dissociated himself from Dr. Diamond: "Were you to accept the fact that he shot Senator Kennedy in a dissociated state, he would be not guilty by reason of insanity, because he didn't know what he was doing at the time."

***
As he awaited the verdict, Russell Parsons told the press that Sirhan expected to be traded by the government for concessions in the Middle East if convicted, and that Ambassador Nakhleh had discussed the matter with King Hussein of Jordan at the UN.

***
"I'm talking to Don Schulman. Don, can you give us a halfway-detailed report on what happened within all this chaos?"

"Okay. I was, ah ... standing behind Kennedy as he was taking his assigned route into the kitchen. A Caucasian gentleman stepped out and fired three times ... the security guard ... hit Kennedy all three times. Kennedy slumped to the floor. As they carried him away, the security guards fired back ... As I saw ... they shot the, ah ... man who shot Kennedy, in the leg. He, ah before they could get him he shot a -- it looked like to me -- he shot a woman and he shot two other men. They then proceeded to carry, ah, Kennedy into the kitchen and ... I don't know how his condition is now."

***

Schulman later recalled the interview for Deputy DA Thomas Kranz: "I said, ... 'The Senator was shot three times.' They said, 'No, he was shot twice.' I said, 'Well, I saw three times.' They said, 'No, he was shot twice.' I said, 'Fine, whatever, I thought I saw three times.' Then they said, 'Anything else?' I said, 'Yeah, I saw other guns pulled and possibly fired.' They said, 'Why do you say that?' I said, 'Well, because there was just like firecrackers, a whole bunch of shots.' They said, 'There was no other guns.' I said, 'I thought I saw them.' They said 'No, you didn't.' I said, 'Okay.'''

In other interviews, Schulman said, "As soon as I told them [my story], they weren't interested in me ... They filled out their reports, thanked me very much and ... the officer who interviewed me [said] they had enough witnesses and none of them saw that, so there's no use him even writing it down."

***

It was also clear that Don Schulman was not the only one who saw a guard with a gun in his hand in the pantry. Bill Barry saw a guard with a gun out and told him to put it back in his holster, and Karl Uecker told Ted Charach that "just after releasing Sirhan from the headlock," he also saw a guard with a gun in his hand: "I just couldn't believe my eyes.... " He confronted the guard, shouting "Are you crazy! Pulling your gun ... you could've killed me."

Television producer Richard Lubic was three feet to the right of Kennedy at the time of the shooting: "I was at Senator Kennedy's right side when Sirhan appeared. The muzzle of the gun was 2 to 3 feet away from Senator Kennedy's head. It is nonsense to say that he fired bullets into Senator Kennedy from a distance of 1 to 2 inches, since his gun was never anywhere that near to Senator Kennedy.

"I was kneeling at Senator Kennedy's right side after he fell to the floor. I saw a man in a guard's uniform standing a couple of feet to my left behind Senator Kennedy. He had a gun in his hand and was pointing it downward." Lubic told the police about this second gun, but it was omitted from his police interview summary.

***

The Kranz Report effectively closed the lid on the official investigation of the RFK investigation. Although Kranz recommended that the LAPD open its files to the public, this didn't happen for another eleven years. When the files were finally released in 1988, twenty years after the shooting, they clearly showed up the Kranz Report for the sham it was.

Kranz went on to serve as principal deputy general counsel of the army in the Reagan administration and as a special assistant to President George H.W. Bush. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed him as principal deputy general counsel of the navy. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the case remains closed.

***

Lisa Urso didn't see a second gun fired but "she clearly recalled someone she assumed to be a 'security guard' drawing a gun" right after the shooting, then putting it back in his holster. But Urso's "guard" was not wearing a uniform -- she described him as blond, wearing a gray suit, and standing "by Kennedy." When she told investigators about this guard, "they reacted with disinterest on one occasion; hostility, on another."

Urso was also puzzled by the senator's reaction after the first shots. She told Melanson that "Kennedy grabbed his head behind the right ear and jerked forward about six inches before moving in the opposite direction and falling backward. Why this [double] motion, she wonders, if Sirhan fired from the direction the Senator first moved toward."

Melanson also located Kennedy fund-raiser Nina Rhodes, and asked her to write a statement in support of a petition to the LA County grand jury to look into LAPD misconduct during the original investigation:

"As the speech came to a close," recalled Rhodes, "I left the Press Room to wait for the Senator at the bottom of the ramp .... The entourage moved rather quickly. I chased after the Senator and as I did, I heard a series of popping noises which I first thought were flash bulbs but then realized were gunshots. There were 12-14 shots in all. I was 6-7 feet from the Senator when I saw him and a number of others fall. Rosie Grier and Rafer Johnson charged after someone ahead and to the left of me. This surprised me because it was my impression that some of the shots had come from ahead of me and to my right [the Senator's position] and my attention was focused there ... in conclusion, I would like to stress ... I heard 12-14 shots, some originating in the vicinity of the Senator, not from where I saw Sirhan."

When Melanson gave Rhodes a copy of her FBI interview summary, she identified fifteen errors. Most important, she stated, "I never said I heard eight distinct shots. From the moment the tragedy began I knew that there was at least 10-14 shots and that there had to be more than one assailant. The shots were to the left and right from where I was."

Investigators ignored Nina Rhodes. The FBI altered her troubling statements, and the LAPD omitted her from their list of witnesses in the pantry at the time of the shooting.

***

Harper's examination of the rifling impressions on People's 47 and People's 54 disclosed no matching individual characteristics to establish they that had been fired from the same gun, so he proceeded to measure the "rifling angle" -- the slant angle of the impression made on each bullet, by the spiral rifling grooves and ridges ("lands") cut into the barrel during the boring process.

Harper measured a difference in rifling angles of twenty-three minutes between the bullets -- about a third of a degree. "Since the rifling angle is a basic class characteristic of a fired bullet," he wrote, "it is my contention that such a difference would rule out the possibility of those bullets having been fired in the same weapon." To Harper, this was "independent proof that two guns were being fired concurrently in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel at the time of the shooting."

***

The day before Harper was due to testify before the grand jury, he was shot at in his car by two "workmen" in a blue Buick who tailed him from his Pasadena home.

***

Despite all the controversy around Wolfer and the ballistics, Sirhan's appeal attorneys were strangely indifferent to the possibility of a second gun. Luke McKissack refused to include Harper's findings in Sirhan's appeal, and later said -- rather implausibly -- that if there was a second gun, it was someone unconnected to Sirhan "who seized on the impulse of the moment" to fire at the senator.

***

By now, the board of supervisors, the DA, and the state attorney general had joined a separate Schrade-CBS firearms petition in the hope of ending the long-running controversy. On September 11, 1976, Superior Court Judge Robert Wenke approved their bid to reinvestigate the firearms evidence, and a panel of seven examiners was appointed ...Contrary to later spin by the LAPD, the panel's conclusions unanimously rejected Wolfer's key findings. They found that not one of Wolfer's seven copper-coated test bullets had sufficient striation marks for identification with the victim bullets, with one another, or with the Sirhan gun. "The examination results contradict the original identification made at the trial of Sirhan," noted Lowell Bradford, "in that there is no basis for an identification of any of the victim bullets ... because of the failure of the test bullets to receive bore impressions."...

Garland later noted that "carelessness, incomplete notes [and] improperly marked evidence are unacceptable in a job in which a man's life or freedom are dependent on an examiner's competence." ...

"The question of a second gun is open, but the weight of findings is against it ... unless it were of identical class characteristics as the Sirhan gun and using ammunition of class characteristics identical with the Sirhan ammunition."

***

FBI agent William Bailey had ... been in the pantry four to six hours after the shooting, on FBI assignment to interview witnesses and carefully examine the crime scene. He wrote out an affidavit for Bugliosi on the spot, stating, "At one point during these observations, I [and several other agents] noted at least two small caliber bullet holes in the center post of the two doors leading from the preparation room [pantry]. There is no question in our mind that they were bullet holes and were not caused by food carts or other equipment in the preparation room."...

I've serious reservations whether or not any of Bobby's wounds were inflicted by Sirhan's gun. I, at this point, feel that there probably was a second gun there and that it was fired."

***

The most comprehensive study of the bullet holes in the pantry was conducted by author Dan Moldea. In the spring of 1990, he interviewed more than one hundred LAPD officers and sheriff's deputies, a dozen of whom recalled seeing bullet holes in the pantry. Sergeant James MacArthur, senior police detective at the crime scene, said he saw "quite a few" bullet holes. Inspector Robert Rock told Moldea that a couple of bullets were dug out of a door frame. Officer Kenneth Vogel was positive he saw two bullet fragments on the pantry floor, which he brought to the attention of an LAPD official. No such fragments are recorded in police files. Sergeant Raymond Rolon told Moldea, "One of the investigators pointed to a hole in the doorframe and said, 'We just pulled a bullet out of there.'" Deputy Sheriff Thomas Beringer recalled a man in a tuxedo "trying to take a bullet out of the door-frame with a silver knife, for a souvenir." SID Officer David Butler told Moldea he saw Wolfer take two .22-caliber bullets out of the center divider. They tore out the wood facing and laid it down on the steam table, and Wolfer disassembled it to get the bullets out. These bullets were never booked as evidence.

***

Rose Lynn Mangan ... made two extremely important discoveries. The first was that the inventory done by the firearms panel in 1975 suggested that the ID markings on the base of the Kennedy neck bullet and the Goldstein bullet had changed since 1968, breaking the chain of custody of two key bullets in the case. Of the three bullets that hit Kennedy's body, one was lost in the ceiling, and one was so fragmented that Dr. Noguchi could not even confirm what caliber it was, so the bullet removed from Kennedy's neck was the only bullet that could link Sirhan's gun to the murder. Dr. Noguchi's autopsy report describes the recovery of the Kennedy neck bullet at 8:40 a.m. on June 6: "The initials TN, and the numbers 31 are placed on the base of the bullet for future identification." But no bullet markings were noted when the bullet was booked into evidence and there is no further record of the ID marking "TN 31" in reference to this bullet. When Pat Garland made his inventory in 1975, he recorded the markings on the base of the Kennedy neck bullet as "TN DW." The" 31" marked on the base by Dr. Noguchi had disappeared.

Similarly, the base of the Goldstein bullet was marked with an "X" by Dr. Finkel on extraction on June 5, 1968. By 1975, the "X" had been replaced by a "6," a new panel ID number added by Garland.

Identification markings on the base of a .22-caliber bullet are engraved with an electric needle and are so small, they would be extremely difficult to erase or write over.

Mangan's second important discovery came in the form of a second test-shot envelope. The envelope for Exhibit 55 entered as evidence at the trial contained three test bullets and was dated June 6, with the name "Sirhan B. Sirhan," the crime "187 P.C." (murder), and the serial number of the Jake Williams gun, H-18602.

***

The LAPD confirmed that Sirhan had indeed been hypnotized before. He'd gone to see stage hypnotist Richard St. Charles in late 1966 at a Pasadena night club within walking distance of his home. He volunteered to be hypnotized on stage and joined the performer's mailing list. St. Charles then wrote notes on his potential clients. "The notes that I had were that he was a very good subject." St. Charles felt Sirhan had "very definitely" been hypnotized before.

***

For centuries, "hypnotic couriers" have been used to convey messages, to lessen the chance these messages would fall into enemy hands. In 1500 B.C., the Egyptians used a hypnocourier system in which "programmed" virgins served the pharoah as royal "message-bearers from the gods." As Emery notes, these women were sent under military escort to distant dignitaries who knew the cue that would unlock the courier's lips and release the secret message locked in her unconscious." The courier had no conscious knowledge of the message, and no torture would release it without the right prompt.

***

In one of Bryan's most famous cases, he had hypnotized Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, for attorney F. Lee Bailey. DeSalvo was the sexual psychopath who murdered thirteen women between 1962 and 1964. Sirhan's notebook contains the reference "AMORC AMORC Salvo Salvo Di Di Salvo Die S Salvo," but it was clear from a conversation Sirhan had with Frank Foster in Central Jail in the hours after the shooting that he had no idea who DeSalvo was....

William Bryan was found dead in 1977 in his room at the Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, apparently from natural causes. Hollywood reporter Greg Roberts had queried Bryan about the Sirhan case just before his death, but Bryan had strongly denied any involvement.

Two Beverly Hills call girls subsequently told Jonn Christian that they had been "servicing" Bryan twice a week for four years. Bryan regaled them with talk of his famous cases -- how he had deprogrammed Albert DeSalvo and hypnotized Sirhan Sirhan. He said he had worked with the LAPD on a lot of murder cases, so they didn't think his work with Sirhan anything unusual. Bryan also told them he worked on "top secret projects" for the CIA.

A close colleague of Bryan's later told Philip Melanson that Bryan flatly announced to him that he worked for the CIA and said the authorities had summoned him to hypnotize Sirhan. "It was actually, I believe, conducted in a prison cell. That's what I got [from Bryan]."

The executor of Bryan's estate was John Miner, a deputy DA during the Sirhan trial, specializing in the "medical evidence." Miner later accompanied Enrique Hernandez to Wisconsin to interview Henry Peters, the priest who gave Sirhan Bible lessons -- perhaps thinking that Peters might have "influenced" Sirhan -- but Bryan himself was never interviewed.

Bryan is by no means the only suspect in the search for Sirhan's programmer. When the police searched Sirhan's car, they found a copy of Healing: The Divine Art, by Manly Palmer Hall, on the backseat. Hall was the highly theatrical founder of the Philosophical Research Society. He was a master hypnotist with a practice in hypnotherapy. Sirhan confirmed to Turner and Christian that he paid several visits to the headquarters of the Philosophical Research Society, an alabaster temple near Griffith Park. The police never interviewed Hall, and he was protected by strong links to Mayor Yorty, who had considered Hall his guru for the past twenty years.

Candy Jones was a famous pinup model during World War II who later claimed to be a victim of CIA mind control during the sixties. She developed the alter ego "Arlene Grant," she said, and was used as a hypnocourier by the CIA in the manner described by Estabrooks. In The Control of Candy Jones, author Donald Bain gave Jones's programmers the pseudonyms "Gilbert Jensen" and "Dr. Marshall Burger." Jensen, a disciple of Burger, was Candy's recruiter and primary programmer. He programmed himself into the role of her lover and was an associate of Dr. Bryan's. During deprogramming by her husband, John Nebel, in the early seventies, Jones recalled that under hypnosis, Burger talked about a racetrack in California and "bragged" about hypnotizing Sirhan. Jones also reenacted a visit to Dr. Burger's institute in Los Angeles on June 3, 1968. "Was he with the CIA?" she was asked. "He is the CIA," she said.

Dr. Spiegel worked closely with Candy Jones and John Nebel and wrote the foreword to Bain's book, believing Jones's claims to be authentic.

When "Dr. Burger" died, his true identity was revealed as Dr. William Kroger. By his own account, Dr. Kroger worked as a consultant to the FBI during the seventies, using hypnosis to assist memory recall through age regression, time compression, and automatic writing. Kroger also worked closely with Dr. Martin Reiser, who had run the behavioral science investigation program for the LAPD since 1968. Kroger later worked at the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA, run by Dr. Louis Jolyon West, an MKULTRA veteran. There, he wrote Hypnosis and Behavior Modification, with a preface by Martin Orne and H. J. Eysenck, two other MKULTRA veterans.

***

By late 1967, LBJ was besieged by the antiwar movement. From his bunker at the White House, he looked out at the student dissent and disgust with government and could not believe it was the work of true Americans. Foreign influence must be at play, corrupting American youth, and he encouraged the CIA to root it out with the launch of Operation Chaos, a domestic surveillance operation on the protest movement and the Black Panthers....

One of the main cities targeted was Los Angeles, and links were established with the intelligence division of the LAPD, which was also responsible for the security of VIPs visiting Los Angeles.

In sync with this effort, the CIA provided training to police departments in guerrilla techniques and tools of urban warfare. Former CIA officer Victor Marchetti told researcher Betsy Langman that while he was with the agency in 1967, the Chicago and Los Angeles police departments received several days of "training" from the Clandestine Services Division. When Marchetti asked why a dozen or so LAPD officers were at CIA headquarters, he was told it was a "special," "sensitive" activity that had been directly approved by the CIA director.

***

By 1968, the Hughes organization, through Maheu, was working hand in glove with the CIA. John Meier was Hughes's third in command and an arch-nemesis of Maheu's. In an interview with researcher Lisa Pease, Meier claimed that Maheu had connections to Thane Eugene Cesar and the upper ranks of the LAPD. According to Pease, "Meier saw enough dealings [within the Hughes organization] before and after the assassination to cause him to approach J. Edgar Hoover with what he knew ... Hoover expressed his frustration, saying words to the effect of "Yes, we know this was a Maheu operation. People think I'm so powerful, but when it comes to the CIA, there's nothing I can do."

***

When they retired, two legendary figures of American intelligence also held photographs of Robert Kennedy's autopsy in their personal safes -- FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton. As author Anthony Summers noted, of all the famous deaths in Hoover's long career, the gruesome color pictures of the RFK autopsy are the only death pictures preserved in his official and confidential files, segregated from the main FBI filing system.

Angleton's colleagues were astonished by their bizarre find in his personal safe when he retired. They had no idea why Angleton had the pictures or "why it was appropriate for CIA staff files to contain them. They were accordingly destroyed."

***

Toward the end of November, as Ayers trained Cuban exile commandos on a tiny island in the Florida Keys, he recognized a plane passing overhead "as the single-engine Cessna based at the CIA headquarters in Miami .... A white object was released directly over the old house. It was a roll of toilet tissue, streaming as it fell. It landed only a few feet away.... The center tube of the tissue roll had been closed with masking tape .... Hastily, I opened up the tube and pulled out the paper inside. It was Campbell's printing:

NOVEMBER 22 1963: PRESIDENT KENNEDY HAS BEEN SHOT BY AN ASSASSIN. SUSPEND ALL ACTIVITY. KEEP MEN ON ISLAND. COME ASHORE WITHOUT DELAY. GORDON

***

My own attempts to contact the Joannides family had met a wall of silence, but Morley planned to visit one of Joannides's daughters that weekend. For years, Morley has been involved in a laudable and protracted struggle to get the CIA to comply with the JFK Records Act and release Joannides's operational records from JMWAVE. He has been supported by a who's who of respected authors on the Kennedy assassination, a bipartisan group mixing Oliver Stone and Gerald Posner, the most famous proponent of Oswald as lone gunman. Although Joannides's wife is dead, Morley has courted the Joannides children during this period, believing that their cooperation would ultimately help lead to the records' release. When he visited one of the daughters that weekend and showed her the main photograph in the ballroom, the response was a terse "No comment." Weeks later, a second daughter, now a superior court judge in Alaska, would give the same response. You had to wonder: If it wasn't their father in the photograph, why were they being so defensive?

***

The last leg of Talbot and Morley's journey took them to see Joannides's former station chief in Saigon, Tom Polgar. Word came back that before Talbot and Morley mentioned his name, Polgar identified Joannides in the photograph. Polgar also identified the blond man in horn-rimmed glasses in the other ballroom photographs as James Critchfield, the CIA's chief in the Middle East at the time.

***

In 2003, Hunt thought he had months to live. He was bedridden with lupus, pneumonia, and cancer of the jaw and prostate, and gangrene had forced the amputation of his left leg. As he faced death, he spoke to his son about the planners of the JFK assassination. He scribbled a crude diagram connecting LBJ at the top to senior agency figures Cord Meyer and Bill Harvey (who first brought Morales to JMWAVE). The arrows continued down to the names "David Morales" and "David Phillips." A line was drawn from Morales to the framed words "French Gunman Grassy Knoll."

***

In 1949, Bradley became the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stepping down in August 1953 to become chairman of Bulova Research and Development Laboratories, a subsidiary of the Bulova Watch Company devoted to the development of precision defense items. Bulova had just built a state-of-the-art ten-million-dollar factory in Jackson Heights, Queens, focused on secret defense research. Bradley would advise Bulova scientists on military needs, and while Bulova continued to make jeweled watches, clocks, and radios, defense work accounted for 40 percent of sales. When Arde Bulova died in 1958, Bradley was named chairman of the Bulova Watch Company, and in fiscal 1959 the company delivered "more than twenty million dollars in defense items to the armed forces on sales of fifty-eight million dollars." Over the next eight years, Bradley helped the company double annual sales, lobbying the Senate Armed Services Committee to maintain tariffs on watch imports so that the United States would not become "the only major power without a watch manufacturing industry." He argued that the watch industry was essential to national security and made significant contributions to national defense and space technology.

In the summer of 1967, Bradley went to Vietnam on assignment for Look magazine to report on the war. After a two-week tour of the battlefront, Bradley was convinced that Vietnam was "a war at the right place, at the right time and with the right enemy -- the Communists."

After a winter at the races in Southern California, he bought a new custom-designed home on a hilltop in Beverly Hills and was one of the "Wise Men" advising Johnson on his war strategy through the spring of 1968. Bradley's diaries at West Point show that he traveled to the Bulova offices in New York on May 31, 1968 and returned to California on the evening of June 6.

***

Michael Roman's son was quite surprised to receive my call but extremely open and cooperative. I was making a film on Robert Kennedy, I said, and had been told his father may have worked for U.S. intelligence. At first, he thought I had the wrong person. Michael D. Roman of Bulova? Oh, yes, that was his father all right, but working for the CIA? "That's a new one on me."

His father had told him he was at the Ambassador Hotel the night Kennedy was shot and that the CIA interviewed him afterward.

***

Through careful and meticulous analysis of the five second sequence of shots, Van Praag made two sets of startling discoveries: "I have located approximately thirteen shot sounds," he said. "Now, I cannot absolutely guarantee that thirteen is the correct number. However, it's greater than eight; I can certainly say that."

***

Noguchi concluded that the sequence was as follows: "The shoulder pad shot as he was raising his arm, the two shots to his right armpit ... and, lastly, the shot to the mastoid .... In other words, the nonfatal wounds first and then the fatal wound." Noguchi thus described the fifth shot as the one that killed Kennedy. If Uecker was correct in saying that he grabbed Sirhan's hand after the second shot, how could the fatal shot have been fired by Sirhan?

-- "Who Killed Bobby?" by Shane O'Sullivan


Table of Contents:

• Inside Jacket Cover
• Introduction
• One: The Assassination
• Two: The Aftermath
• Three: Autopsy and Ballistics
• Four: Sirhan B. Sirhan
• Five: The Girl in the Polka-Dot Dress
• Six: The Polygraph Test
• Seven: Security on the Night
• Eight: Sirhan's Defense Team
• Nine: Sirhan's Memory
• Ten: Inside Sirhan's Mind
• Eleven: The Trial
• Twelve: The case for the Defense
• Thirteen: The Second Gun
• Fourteen: The Reinvestigation
• Fifteen: The Manchurian Candidate
• Sixteen: Intelligence Connections
• Seventeen: The CIA at the Hotel
• Eighteen: Chasing Shadows
• Nineteen: What Really Happened?
• Notes
• Bibliography
• Acknowledgments
• Index
• About the Author

Image
"My Mirror, my mirror," by Tara Carreon
[Manly P. Hall] Yorty for President.
[Sam Yorty] "A Declaration of War Against America ..."


Lycanthropy is folklore associated with the name of Lycaon, mythical king of Arcadia, who was changed into a wolf by Zeus who was offended because the king made him an offering of human flesh. In many myths persons are changed into animals as punishment for evil deeds, but in most cases these merely signify that the animal nature dominates vicious persons and they become human beasts. Accounts of lycanthropy do not imply that the physical body of the wizard or witch changed into a wolf, but rather that the soul or 'double' of the sorcerer assumed the appearance of the wolf.

-- Healing: The Divine Art, by Manly P. Hall


Sirhan was the name of an ancient tribe that roamed the Syrian Desert and means "wolf" in Arabic.

-- Who Killed Bobby Kennedy?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, by Shane O'Sullivan
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Re: Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kenn

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 9:58 am

Inside Cover

Forty years ago -- was Bobby Kennedy assassinated by a lone gunman? Or was he the victim of a wider plot?

On June 5, 1968, a jubilant Robert F. Kennedy and his supporters celebrated a first place finish in the California primary, hopeful the crucial win would propel him to the Democratic nomination for the presidency, and on to the White House. Following a rousing victory speech that practically lifted the roof off the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, there was a last-minute route change as he left the stage. Instead of heading downstairs for another speech, the candidate was directed into the kitchen pantry en route to a press conference.

Moments later, in the pantry, shots rang out. The senator lay on the floor, mortally wounded. Five bystanders were also struck. Kennedy's security detail, which included Olympic decathlete Rafer Johnson and NFL lineman Rosey Grier, pounced on a gunman, and in a fierce struggle finally wrested the weapon from his hand. This assailant was Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a twenty-four-year-old Palestinian immigrant who'd come to California at age twelve. Sirhan was arrested and, at first, no one doubted he was the lone assassin -- but was he really?

This is just one of many key questions posed by Shane O'Sullivan, an independent researcher turned investigative journalist, in his exhaustive re-examination of the assassination. He shows that the LAPD investigation of the crime was slipshod at best, as investigators declined to follow up evidence that suggested a conspiracy. O'Sullivan concludes that many disturbing questions about the killing remain unanswered.

Taken together, the evidence assembled, both old and new, illuminates one of America's most bizarre and enduring murder mysteries. Sirhan's gun held eight bullets but revealed here are new audio tests on the only known recording of the gunfire suggesting that at least ten shots were fired. Amid findings like this, O'Sullivan urges a thorough re-investigation of an assassination that extinguished the bright hope and idealism of the 1960s.

Back Cover

Among the key questions asked by Shane O'Sullivan in
WHO KILLED BOBBY?

Could Sirhan have fired the fatal shot?

After the autopsy Los Angeles County Coroner Thomas Noguchi concluded that the deadly shots had been fired from a inch behind Kennedy's right ear. Yet not a single witness placed Sirhan this close; most placed his gun several feet away and in front of the senator.

Who was the girl in the polka-dot dress?

Vincent Di Pierro saw Sirhan with a girl in a polka-dot dress in the pantry. And Sandra Serrano described a similar woman fleeing down a fire escape, exclaiming, "We shot him! We shot him!" O'Sullivan presents new interviews with these key witnesses and details how the LAPD browbeat them into changing their stories, while investigators insisted to the press that "no such person ever existed."

Was Sirhan an unwitting assassin operating under the direction of unseen manipulators?

Sirhan repeatedly scrawled "RFK Must Die" in his notebook and recreated the same kind of automatic writing when later hypnotized by his defense team. O'Sullivan cites psychiatric evidence that Sirhan was an extremely susceptible hypnotic subject, whose behavior on the night of the shooting fit the profile of a programmed assassin. Was Sirhan programmed to be a decoy for the real killer of Bobby Kennedy?
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Re: Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kenn

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 9:58 am

Introduction

Four years ago, I knew nothing about Robert Kennedy. My wife, Kanako, was researching a Kennedy conspiracy program for Japanese television, and I was looking for ideas for a new screenplay. I listened to an interview with author William Klaber in which he summarized the controversies surrounding Bobby's death and described how convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan has never been able to remember the shooting.

The strange tale of second guns, a programmed assassin, and a mysterious female accomplice in a polka-dot dress offered a fascinating seam of late-sixties political paranoia, capturing a defining moment in contemporary American history that marked the death of sixties idealism.

I was struck by the playful, eloquent charisma of Bobby Kennedy, taking to the streets to lead a generation disgusted with the political establishment, and to heal a nation broken after the traumas of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., rioting in the cities, and heavy losses in Vietnam. On June 5, 1968, an assassin's bullet killed hope and ushered in the Nixon years.

I didn't believe that Sirhan acted alone, so I went in search of an ending for my story and soon found new evidence suggesting that three CIA senior operatives may have been at the Ambassador Hotel the night Bobby died. The facts of the case seemed more compelling than any attempt to dramatize them, so I began work on an investigative documentary, turning rookie detective.

Of course, a mild paranoia attends investigating this type of material. Former CIA operatives I interviewed suggested that my phone would be monitored and that I think about my family's safety.

A few weeks after my initial discovery of apparent CIA operatives at the hotel, I had an odd visit from two undercover detectives from the Greater London Metropolitan Police. They buzzed the entry door asking to read the electricity meter. When I opened my front door, they produced credentials and asked if they could use a spare room for a surveillance operation on a flat across the street. They'd visit two or three times a week until the operation was completed.

Did this have anything to do with my recent discovery? I wondered. Was their visit a pretext to drop a listening device in the carpet? I decided it wasn't a good idea to host a police stakeout while investigating CIA involvement in a political assassination.

In November 2006, BBC Newsnight commissioned a twelve-minute segment on this new evidence of possible CIA involvement, and a feature story detailing my investigation appeared in the Guardian newspaper the same day. I secured funding to complete my feature documentary on the case, RFK Must Die: The Assassination of Bobby Kennedy; and the resulting DVD contains many of the interviews cited in this book, as well as the video evidence of the alleged CIA operatives at the hotel discussed in Chapters 17 and 18.

After completing the film, I began writing up my investigation for this book and reexamining the evidence in the case from the ground up, exploring more than 70,000 pages of police and FBI files and the transcript of the Sirhan trial.

For me, this case is about much more than conspiracy. It explores the workings of memory and the manipulation of the human mind: Sirhan's memory block and the psychiatrists' attempts to overcome it, as vividly captured in Robert Blair Kaiser's pioneering early work, "R.F.K. Must Die!", which is being reissued in this anniversary year.

While the bizarre writing in Sirhan's notebooks played a key part in securing his conviction, today this writing is a strong indication that others were involved. We now know that the CIA had spent twenty years researching the concept of programmed assassins, and leading psychiatrists see the symptoms of such programming in Sirhan's notebooks and in his mental state on the night of the shooting.

This is also a story about the courage of young witnesses like Sandra Serrano to do "what Robert Kennedy would have wanted me to do [and] say what I saw" in the face of police bullying and attempts to change her story. While the voluminous police and FBI investigation files provide a wealth of detail, it's also clear that on issues concerning possible conspiracy, many key decisions were based not on the evidence, but on an institutional bias to cover up, shut down, or destroy problematic material.

At the same time, for any investigator, there are definite limits to how completely you can re-create a crime scene, given the vagaries of witness recall and photo identification. Multiple accounts of the same incident often defy attempts to condense witness statements into a single narrative. I present my best interpretation here.

One of the most interesting aspects of the investigation has been talking to the families of those alleged to have been involved in the assassination. I found the sons and daughters of these men refreshingly open to my questions. They were often working on their own historical research projects in search of their fathers, and the information they shared has been invaluable in seeking the truth about the Kennedy assassinations.

Why is the case still important after forty years? Because it goes to the very heart of failings in the American criminal justice system. How can an assassination that radically altered the course of contemporary American history be followed by such a hapless and willfully negligent police investigation and such a farcical trial? Why was it left to "citizen researchers" such as Ted Charach to go where the LAPD feared to tread? Was the catalog of police blunders the product of incompetence or something more sinister?

Author David Talbot notes that Bobby Kennedy became "America's first JFK assassination-conspiracy theorist" after his brother's death. In turn, the friends of Robert Kennedy have become some of the most vocal RFK assassination-conspiracy theorists. UAW official Paul Schrade, shot in the head while standing behind Kennedy in the pantry, has for nearly forty years led the campaign to get this case reopened. Attorney Frank Burns, off Kennedy's right shoulder, still insists that Sirhan could not have fired the fatal shot described in the autopsy report.

Sirhan is still in prison, convicted as the lone assassin and repeatedly denied parole. In a normal murder case, he would have been released in 1985, but this is not a normal case. Is Sirhan's conviction just? Were others involved? I hope by the end of this book, you'll have answered those questions and have made up your own mind on the guilt and criminal intent of Sirhan.

You will get a far more balanced view of the case here than the jurors did during the original trial, in large part due to the groundbreaking work of the authors before me in uncovering new evidence. I salute Robert Blair Kaiser, Bill Turner, Jonn Christian, Philip Melanson, Dan Moldea, and William Klaber, and hope my work here builds on their legacy.

What seemed, at first, an open-and-shut case, is, in truth, beguilingly complex. This book does not solve the case, but it does, I hope, provide a comprehensive and disturbing reminder of why it must be urgently reopened. As civil rights-era murders are being reinvestigated and new convictions obtained, on the fortieth anniversary of Robert Kennedy's death, surely this case deserves the same attention?

This has been a huge undertaking. In cross-referencing more than 70,000 pages of documents, I have made my best judgment, in good faith, on the evidence and witness statements. There was no room for a number of colorful characters who ultimately don't convince as possible accomplices. These include the late Jerry Owen, a preacher who told police he'd arranged to sell Sirhan a horse at the back of the Ambassador on the night of the shooting, providing a novel means of escape.

I have focused instead on issues that I feel still have relevance if the case were to be reopened today. I hope this book will play a part in making that happen. As the remaining witnesses begin to pass away, it's now or never.

If you feel moved by the injustices outlined here, please get involved at the project Web site, www.rfkmustdie.com. suggesting corrections or leads for a future edition. Until the public and media understanding of this case changes, nothing will be done in Sacramento to move things forward.

I'll close with the words of Robert Kennedy, quoting his favorite poet Aeschylus, on hearing of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968: "Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world."
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Re: Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kenn

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:01 am

ONE: The Assassination

In a dark, candlelit room in Pasadena, California, a small, swarthy hand slowly, methodically inscribed words in a notebook in a spidery scrawl:

May 18 9.45 AM -- 68

My determination to eliminate R.F.K. is becoming more the more of an unshakable obsession ... R.F.K. must die -- RFK must be killed Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated R.F.K. must be assassinated ... R.F.K. must be assassinated assassinated ... Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June 68 Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated I have never heard please pay to the order of of of of of


The hand stopped, and enormously peaceful eyes contemplated themselves in the mirror for a moment -- the boyishly handsome face of twenty-four-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan.

***

June 4, 1968, Election Day in California

Robert Kennedy faced Eugene McCarthy in the all-important Democratic primary to determine who would challenge Vice President Hubert Humphrey for the Democratic nomination at the Chicago convention and go on to face Richard Nixon in the race for the White House.

One week earlier, McCarthy had defeated Kennedy in Oregon, the first time a Kennedy had ever lost an election, so a strong performance here was critical, or the dream of a second Kennedy presidency was over.

California was "the ultimate test" of Kennedy's grassroots support. He stressed that the country wanted change and that if Humphrey were nominated, "there will be no candidate opposed to continuous escalation of the war in Vietnam and committed to remedying the conditions which have transformed our cities into armed camps. If I died in Oregon, I hope Los Angeles is Resurrection City."

On election eve, Kennedy collapsed from exhaustion in the middle of his final campaign speech in San Diego, so today he slept late at film director John Frankenheimer's beach home in Santa Monica. Taken with Kennedy's idealism, Frankenheimer had jumped on board the campaign, filming speeches and campaign spots, his handheld cameras capturing the exuberant crowds and renewed hope that greeted the senator from New York.

The country was in turmoil. Eight weeks before, Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated, sparking waves of rioting in American cities. The Vietnam War had polarized the country, and the burgeoning antiwar movement and Black Panther Party had become lightning rods for student revolt, racial unrest, and disenchantment with society. Now California would decide which of the antiwar candidates would carry this popular dissent forward and bring change.

Two Sundays before the primary, Pierre Salinger had organized a "fun lunch" for Kennedy at Frankenheimer's home on a rare day off. Shirley MacLaine was there with her brother, Warren Beatty. So, too, were crooner Andy Williams, composer Burt Bacharach, actress Angie Dickinson, astronaut John Glenn, and French writer Romain Gary with his wife, actress Jean Seberg, who'd earlier hosted fund-raisers for the Black Panthers.

Bobby had been surfing and sat shirtless and cross-legged on the floor, holding a glass of orange juice. "You know, don't you, that somebody's going to try to kill you?" Gary asked.

Kennedy looked up slowly. "That's the chance I have to take. You've just got to give yourself to the people and trust them. From then on, either luck is with you or it isn't. I'm pretty sure there'll be an attempt on my life sooner or later. Not so much for political reasons .... Plain nuttiness, that's all."

***

On June 4, at his modest family bungalow in Pasadena, Sirhan Sirhan woke just before eight and drove off to buy a newspaper in his two-door pink-and-white 1956 DeSoto. He was a wiry five foot two, 115 pounds, with bushy, black curly hair, and wore a light blue shirt, blue velour pullover, tight-fitting light blue denims, and gray suede loafers. He was home by nine thirty, and checked the racing pages. He didn't like the day's horses, so he decided to go target shooting. Around eleven thirty, he arrived at the San Gabriel Valley Gun Range, grabbed his Iver Johnson .22 from the backseat, and headed for the pistol range.

***

Robert Kennedy rose shortly before eleven and called his traveling aide-decamp, Fred Dutton, to set up a meeting at the house in the afternoon. He had lunch with his wife, Ethel, pregnant, again, with their eleventh child, and went to the beach with six of their kids and the family dog, Freckles. It was chilly and overcast, but he plunged into the surf. When he saw twelve-year-old David pulled down by an undertow, he dove in and pulled him up, picking up a red bruise on his forehead for his troubles.

Back at the house, brother Ted and aides Dick Goodwin and Fred Dutton arrived with good news -- early CBS precinct samples gave him 49 percent of the California primary vote. A win looked to be in the cards.

***

Sirhan stayed on the firing range until it closed at five. Around six thirty, he bumped into a friend, Gaymoard Mistri, at a Bob's Big Boy restaurant in Pasadena. Fifteen minutes later, they walked across the street to Pasadena City College and joined some Arab friends in the cafeteria. Sirhan asked Mistri to go shoot pool, but Mistri had other plans. By seven fifteen, Sirhan was back at his car.

***

At the house in Malibu, John Frankenheimer pulled out in his Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and drove the senator to the Ambassador Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. They arrived at eight fifteen and went directly to the Kennedy suite on the fifth floor, their base for the last six weeks of the campaign. As family and aides settled in to watch the returns on TV, the word was already good from the day's other primary in South Dakota. Although Vice President Humphrey stayed out of the primaries, his supporters mounted a favorite-son write-in campaign in the state where he was born. Yet now Kennedy was winning big there, setting up a chance for two major victories in one evening, in the most rural and most urban states in the Union.

The polls closed at eight o'clock in California, and the first returns gave McCarthy an early lead. "Why's he got forty-nine and I've got thirty-eight?" a startled Kennedy asked. Fred Dutton reassured him; these votes were all from outside Los Angeles County, an expected Kennedy stronghold. The LA vote count wouldn't start until ten. It was going to be a long night.

Kennedy aides relaxed, confident of a comfortable victory, and the senator called close aide Kenny O'Donnell back East to discuss a major strategy meeting in Los Angeles the next morning.

"It looks like you'll be nominated," O'Donnell told him.

"I think I may," said Kennedy.

"He had arrived," O'Donnell said later. "He had won the biggest state in the Union -- not as Jack Kennedy's brother, not as Bobby Kennedy, but as Robert Kennedy."

***

Downstairs, the crowd was already building in the Embassy Ballroom for the senator's victory speech. Kennedy girls in straw hats, white blouses, blue skirts, and red sashes chanted, "Sock it to 'em, Bobby," as farmworkers' union leader Cesar Chavez arrived with a mariachi band, to exuberant shouts of "Viva Kennedy!"

Three parties were in full swing at the hotel. Kennedy supporters gathered in the two main ballrooms as Democrat Alan Cranston and Republican Max Rafferty celebrated respective party nominations for their upcoming Senate race.

According to the LAPD, Sirhan was first sighted at the Rafferty party just before nine, wandering into an electrician's booth adjacent to the Venetian Room. By nine thirty, fire marshals had decided the Embassy Ballroom was full to capacity, and no more guests were admitted without press or staff credentials. Kennedy supporters soon started sneaking in the back way, through the kitchen pantry.

Sometime between nine thirty and eleven, operator Mary Grohs was sitting at a Western Union Teletype machine in the Colonial Room -- the "working press room" for the night -- tabulating returns from all over the state. She turned to see a young man staring, transfixed, over her shoulder at the Teletype, "with the strangest eyes she'd ever seen."

"May I help you?" she asked.

No response from Sirhan. He just kept staring, hypnotized by the machine.

***

Up on the fifth floor, Robert Kennedy relaxed with his entourage as the votes came in. He'd won big in South Dakota, with more votes than McCarthy and Humphrey combined. But in California, the new IBM computers weren't scanning the punch cards correctly, so he had to wait -- for the votes that promised California's 174 delegates, and perhaps the Democratic nomination, and the presidency of the United States.

At this point, Kennedy was confident enough of victory to give a round of TV interviews. He was gracious about his opponent, keen to counter his "ruthless" image as interviewers talked up the fight ahead for the nomination. As they waited to go live on NBC, reporter Sander Vanocur, a family friend, asked if he could relax the senator a little.

"The other night, Edith is trying to explain to Chrissy, our eight-year-old, about mythology -- the man who was a horse from here down and a man from there down. It's a different kind of human being. She said, 'You know what they called him, Chris?' She said, 'Yeah. Clumsy.'''

Kennedy smiled, his mind clearly elsewhere as Vanocur and the rest of the room cracked up.

***

Just after eleven o'clock, as the networks were about to lose their audience for the night, they made their projections. CBS predicted a Kennedy victory by as much as twelve percentage points (the final result was much tighter -- 46 to 42). Down in the Embassy Ballroom, a jubilant crowd of fifteen hundred campaign workers awaited Kennedy's arrival. Red, white, and blue balloons were popping, and Kennedy girls formed an honor guard. An overflow crowd filled the Ambassador Ballroom directly below. After his first speech, the senator would go downstairs and speak again.

Up in the Kennedy suite, aides took to the phones to canvass delegates around the country. As sitting vice president, Hubert Humphrey still held a big lead in promised delegates, but the support coming back from California suggested that enough of these could be turned to win the nomination. In the bathroom, next to the sink, speechwriter Adam Walinsky had his secretary type out a victory statement on an electric typewriter plugged into the shaving socket.

***

Around eleven thirty, young Mexican American campaign worker Sandra Serrano went to sit outside on a fire escape to escape the heat of the lower ballroom. While she was out there, a man resembling Sirhan climbed the stairs past her with a pretty girl in a polka-dot dress and a Mexican American man in a gold sweater. "Excuse us," the girl said, and Sandra made way as the three went up the stairs to the Embassy Ballroom.

A short time later, around a quarter to twelve, Sirhan wandered into a narrow serving pantry at the back of the ballroom reserved for Kennedy staff and the press. Kennedy press aide Judy Royer had already chased him out once that evening, but now the security guard on duty was busy chatting with Milton Berle, and Sirhan slipped through.

He approached a group of kitchen workers chatting by some stainless-steel steam tables and tapped banquet waiter Martin Patrusky on the shoulder.

"Is Kennedy coming back through here later?"

"How the hell do I know? I'm not the head waiter," replied Patrusky in a heavy Bronx accent. Sirhan tried his luck with kitchen porter Jesus Perez.

"Mr. Kennedy going to pass through here?" he asked.

"I don't know. I hope so," replied Perez.

Sirhan asked three or four times, but Perez repeated he didn't know. Perez watched Sirhan twist and fold some papers in his hand, then wander over to a tray stacker by the ice machines.

***

As LAPD morning watch officers came on shift at midnight at Rampart Station, Lieutenant Commander Robert Sillings told them the department was not providing security for Senator Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel that night. Twenty-year Rampart veteran Sergeant Paul Sharaga looked a little surprised.

Sillings caught up with Sharaga as he prepared to go out on his regular beat as senior patrol sergeant.

"Paul, I want you to stay here and take over on watch tonight. Sergeant Rolon and I are going out in the field."

Unusual, thought Sharaga. Before he settled in, Sillings let him make a cigarette run to a liquor store a block from the Ambassador.

***

Close to midnight, there were fifteen hundred people in each of the ballrooms, chanting for Bobby and growing increasingly restless under the stifling heat of the television lights. It was time for the senator to come down and address the crowd.

Kennedy was summoned from his fifth-floor suite and led toward an elevator at the end of the hall, to descend to the lobby and wade onstage through his jubilant supporters. But it was late, he was tired, and he didn't want to fight the crowds. He asked whether there was another route, and Uno Timanson, the hotel's VP of banquet and sales, led him to a service elevator, so he could take the back way down through the kitchen.

A live ABC video feed picked up his loose entourage as they stepped out of the elevator and paused in a hallway, waiting for their cue as Kennedy's brother-in-law Steve Smith wrapped up his introductions. Ethel adjusted the white handkerchief in Kennedy's breast pocket, flanked by former Los Angeles Rams football tackle Rosey Grier and Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson, friends of the family helping out with crowd control on the campaign.

Former FBI agent Bill Barry, Kennedy's unarmed bodyguard, made a final route check, then gave the senator his cue, and the party moved forward through the kitchen. Timanson and Barry led the way, clearing a path with Kennedy advance man Jack Gallivan and hotel assistant maitre d' Eddie Minasian.

The senator signed a poster for memorabilia collector Michael Wayne, shook hands with kitchen workers, and held up his left hand to block the lights of the television cameras. As he passed through a narrow serving pantry, he shook the outstretched hand of a tall young busboy, Juan Romero. Ten feet behind the line of waiters, Sirhan waited, balanced on a tray stacker.

The senator turned right through swinging double doors into a hallway at the back of the Embassy Ballroom. To the cheers of the waiting crowd, who had been chanting his name for hours in sweltering heat, Kennedy emerged from a door to the right of the stage, then moved through the crowd and up three creaky wooden steps to the speaker's platform. It was 12:02 a.m. Pacific daylight time.

The temporary stage groaned with Kennedy staff and photographers, all high on the crowd's hysteria and sweating profusely. Kennedy waited for chants of "We want Bobby! We want Kennedy!" to subside, with Ethel to his right and hotel assistant maitre d' Karl Uecker and California Speaker Jesse Unruh behind him.

Kennedy jokingly thanked his brother-in-law Steve Smith for a "ruthless but effective" campaign; his dog, Freckles, "who's been maligned ... and I'm not doing this in the order of importance, but I also want to thank my wife, Ethel." Laughter all round. "Who's been ... "

"Fantastic," someone said.

"Fantastic," agreed the senator.

He saluted Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta for the support of the Mexican American community, loyal to Kennedy for his support during the grape pickers' strike in Delano. He also thanked his friends in the black community, whose action programs in Watts echoed his own regeneration programs in Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York. He saluted Rafer Johnson and gentle giant Rosey Grier, "who said he'd take care of anybody who didn't vote for me"; and Paul Schrade of the United Auto Workers "for the effort he's made on behalf of the working man here in the state of California."

***

In the northwest corner of the pantry, just inside the swinging doors, kitchen staff crowded around a TV monitor to listen to the speech. There were about twenty people in the narrow passageway, half hotel staff and half press and "outsiders." Sirhan balanced precariously on the outside edge of a tray stacker, over by the ice machines. He held on to the side of the stacker with his left hand and stood there waiting, raised four inches off the ground, looking west toward the swinging doors that led to the Embassy Ballroom.

***

Back on stage, the senator pledged to end the divisions within the United States. "What I think is quite clear is that we can work together ... we are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running over the period of the next few months." Huge cheers.

Kennedy hoped the Chicago delegates would sit up and take note of the national mood reflected in these primaries. "The country wants to move in a different direction. We want to deal with our own problems in our own country and we want peace in Vietnam."

***

At 12:14 a.m., a smiling Robert Kennedy concluded his victory speech with a sideswipe at a local nemesis. "Mayor Yorty has just sent me a message that we've been here too long already." He gave a waspish grin, and the crowd screamed its approval. Yorty was a Democrat but had supported Nixon against JFK in 1960 and had no love for the Kennedys.

"So, ah ... my thanks to all of you, and now it's on to Chicago, and let's win there!"

He gave a thumbs-up as chants of "We want Bobby!" started up again and he turned to leave the stage.

For a few fateful moments, Kennedy seemed uncertain where he was going next. Shouts came at him from three directions, but the waving arm of hotel assistant maitre d' Karl Uecker caught his eye. Uecker took the senator's right hand, parted a gold curtain behind the rostrum, and led him off the rear of the platform into a small backstage anteroom. As Bill Barry helped the pregnant Ethel Kennedy down from the podium, she told him, "I'm all right. Stay with the senator."

Barry and the rest of the Kennedy entourage rushed to catch up, and emerged into a backstage hallway as Karl Uecker led Kennedy toward the double swinging doors of the pantry, en route to a press conference in the Colonial Room.

"Slow down! You're getting ahead of everyone," shouted Frank Burns, a lawyer and aide to Jesse Unruh. Ace security guard Thane Eugene Cesar took hold of Kennedy around the right elbow with his left hand and Uecker and Cesar led the senator into the pantry and began to push their way through the crowd.

The senator smiled and shook hands with waiters Martin Patrusky to his left, Vincent Di Pierro to his right, and student Robin Casden as she tried to get out of his way. He took another step or two, then stopped by the edge of the first steam table and broke free of Uecker and Cesar momentarily to turn to his left and shake hands with kitchen porter Jesus Perez and busboy Juan Romero.

"Mucha gusto!" said Perez, framed in an alcove leading into the main kitchen. Romero was still in eleventh grade. He'd agreed to work overtime for another waiter, so he could bring meals up to Kennedy's suite. Now he was shaking hands with the soon-to-be presidente.

Uno Timanson, afraid the crowd would surge in from the ballroom at any moment, beckoned Uecker from the door to the Colonial Room. "Let's go, Senator," urged Uecker, starting to pull Kennedy away by the right hand.

San Diego high school student Lisa Urso stood by the tray stacker, watching the senator shake hands. She felt a shove from behind as a slight young man stepped in front of her, reached across his body with his right hand, took a slight step forward, reached around Uecker's left shoulder, and smiled as if he was offering the senator his hand.

Instead, he pointed a small, snub-nosed .22 revolver at the senator's head. His eyes were narrowed in concentration, and he seemed to have "a sick smile on his face."

"Kennedy, you son of a bitch!"

Two shots rang out in rapid succession, like firecrackers or "a starter pistol at a track meet." Urso didn't see a gun -- just "flames coming from the tip of his hand."

Some thought they heard a kitchen tray crash to the floor ... the pop of paper cups when someone stands on them ... a crackling sound, like an electrical discharge. But no, these were definitely gunshots.

Uecker lost his grip on Kennedy's hand, and the senator gave a slight jump; his hands went up to the side of his face as if to push something away, and he staggered backward and fell to the floor as the shots continued. The first two were followed by a slight pause, then a staccato burst, like "a string of firecrackers."

Six to eight feet behind Kennedy, UAW official Paul Schrade saw flashes and thought he was being electrocuted by wet television cables. He fell backward, colliding with student Robin Casden and waiter Vincent Di Pierro on his way to the floor. Martin Patrusky looked over to see his friend Vincent's glasses covered with blood.

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Left and bottom left: Two views of the pantry, seen from the west swinging doors through which Kennedy approached. The steam table is on the left, the tray stacker on the right. The Xs on the floor mark where Kennedy and Schrade fell.

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Below: View from the pantry, looking west toward swinging doors. Ice machines line the wall on the left; Xs mark where Kennedy and Schrade fell; lighted doorway in the distance leads to the backstage area.

Just behind Kennedy and slightly to his right, security guard Thane Cesar ducked, lost his balance, and fell back against the ice machines. He looked up to see the senator lying on his back right in front of him, blood oozing from his right ear to form a crimson pool on the dirty concrete floor.

Karl Uecker leaped onto the man with the gun after the second shot -- or possibly the third. He grabbed Sirhan around the neck in a headlock with his right arm and seized the wrist of his gun hand with the other. Uecker slammed the gun hand down on the steam table and tried to divert it away from the crowd. He dwarfed Sirhan, but the gunman's grip was strong -- Uecker could still feel him pumping the trigger as Eddie Minasian and Frank Burns grabbed Sirhan around the waist from behind and tried to push him up onto the steam table.

As bullets sprayed around the pantry, Burns and Romero felt powder burns on their cheeks, and Jesus Perez heard a bullet fly past his ear.

Continental News reporter Ira Goldstein felt a sharp pain in his hip and threw himself against a wall. Student Irwin Stroll screamed, "My leg!" and hopped from the pantry with a wound to the shin. As ABC associate news director William Weisel was coming through the swinging doors, he saw bodies falling in front of him, and then felt "three thumps" in his side and fell to the floor. Behind him, Elizabeth Evans's shoe came off as what sounded like a string of firecrackers exploded. She leaned down to retrieve it, and when she straightened up, blood was flowing down her face from a wound to her forehead.

The crowded room parted down the middle as people ducked for cover. Just outside the swinging doors, Rosey Grier pushed Ethel Kennedy to the floor and covered her body with his. Bill Barry charged through the crowd, struck Sirhan twice in the face with his fist as writer George Plimpton and advance man Jack Gallivan tried to pry the gun from his hand.

"Get a rope so we can tie him up!" yelled Barry. Frank Burns took off his belt and grabbed Sirhan's legs, and they wrestled him up onto the steam table. Plimpton was transfixed by Sirhan's eyes -- "dark brown and enormously peaceful."

Thane Cesar scrambled to his feet, pulled his gun, and moved to Kennedy's side "to protect him from further attack."

"Put that gun away," shouted Barry, and Cesar put it back in his holster.

Paul Schrade lay on the floor, his feet by Kennedy's head. Political aide "Cap" Hardy, thinking Schrade was dead, put a straw hat over his face, then found a pulse and straddled him to protect him from the stampede.

Burly CBS cameraman James Wilson and his crew, caught in the doorway as the shots began, shoved their way through to the senator, filming.

"Oh, my Jesus Christ!" cried Wilson as he saw Kennedy on the floor. He turned his camera away in revulsion, and his soundman, John Lewis, yelled in his ear.

"You've got to shoot, Jimmy; you've got to shoot!"

"Christ, no!"

A hysterical Wilson pointed his camera back toward the fallen senator but couldn't bear to look through the viewfinder. Lewis grabbed the lens and aimed as best he could. When the film ran out, Wilson threw down the camera and pounded the concrete floor.

"Fuck America; it's not worth it!" he cried, and vented his fury by jumping up and ferociously pushing back the crowd. "Get the hell outta here, will ya!"

At the edge of the crowd, out-of-breath radio reporter Andrew West flipped on his tape recorder.

"Senator Kennedy has been shot! Senator Kennedy has been shot! Is that possible? Is that possible? Is it possible, ladies and gentlemen? It is possible; he has. Not only Senator Kennedy. Oh, my God, Senator Kennedy has been shot and another man, a Kennedy campaign manager, and possibly shot in the head. I am right here."

West's audiotape and Wilson's film caught the chaos of the moment: a low-ceilinged passageway, dimly lit by three strip lights; a swirling kaleidoscope of crazed voices, juddering cameras, and television lights flashing on and off; screams of "Close the doors! The senator's been shot! Oh, my God! Jesus Christ! Get a doctor! Get the bastard! Kill him! Kill him!"

Kennedy aides and security guards linked arms to push the crowd back as photographers crouched on steam tables, heads dislodging ceiling panels, to catch a glimpse of Kennedy, prostrate on the floor. By now, the room was thick with two clusters of activity: one around the fallen senator, the other assailing the man with the gun.

In the eye of the storm, busboy Juan Romero was the first to the senator's side. He got down on his knees, cradling Kennedy's head with his right hand.

''I'm home in bed. I'm dreaming," he told himself, as he felt blood on his fingers, oozing from the back of Kennedy's right ear.

"Come on, Mr. Kennedy; you can make it!" he urged.

Kennedy's lips moved, barely perceptible, and Romero leaned in closer.

"Is everybody all right?" the senator asked.

"Yes, everything will be okay," said Romero.

A voice shouted, "Throw that gum away, Mr. Kennedy."

Romero, crying, started to reach for a wad of chewing gum in Kennedy's mouth, but couldn't bring himself to do it. Kennedy's right eye was open, and his left eyelid moved up and down erratically.

Romero pulled out a crucifix his father had given him for his Catholic confirmation and pressed it into Kennedy's left hand, closing his fingers over it. Kennedy moved the crucifix to his chest.

As Romero looked up, Life photographer Bill Eppridge captured the most famous image of the assassination -- the anguished busboy comforting a peaceful-looking Kennedy, in mortal repose.

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a. Paul Schrade lies wounded in the pantry.

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b. Elizabeth Evans is treated for a head wound on a table in the Embassy Ballroom as a Kennedy girl and security guard Thomas Perez look on.

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c. A pool of blood forms under Kennedy's head, next to Paul Schrade's right leg.

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d. Busboy Juan Romero holds up his bloodied right hand.

As Romero shouted for a doctor, student Paul Grieco took Kennedy's head in his left hand and lifted it gently, trying to stop the flow of blood from his ear.

Kennedy looked up and asked, "Is Paul all right? Is everybody all right?"

"Don't worry, Robert; you'll be all right," assured Grieco.

Assistant Press Secretary Hugh McDonald took off his coat and propped it under the senator as Fred Dutton arrived, opened the senator's collar and belt, and took off his cuff links and shoes. McDonald was seen clutching the shoes for the rest of the night, refusing to yield them to the police.

***

The crowd around the gunman was increasingly agitated, with people yelling hysterically, "Kill him! Kill him!" as blows rained down hard on Sirhan. Barry lunged for the gun, and it fell on the table as Rosey Grier and Rafer Johnson charged across the room.

"Take care of the senator; I have him," shouted Jack Gallivan as Barry went to Kennedy's side. In the switch over, Sirhan grabbed the gun again from the table, but Gallivan got the web of his left hand between the hammer and the frame of the gun before it could be fired again.

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Top: George Plimpton and Jack Gallivan struggle with Sirhan as (left to right) Uno Timanson, Richard Aubry, Karl Uecker, and Frank Burns look on. Rosey Grier is approaching, rear right of frame.

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Right: Karl Uecker holds Sirhan in a headlock as Rosey Grier tries to twist the gun from his hand.[/i]

Electrician Earl Williman jumped on the table and tried to kick the gun from Sirhan's hand as a crazed tableau of limbs and bodies flailed with the assassin. Williman later told the police of Sirhan's "superhuman strength."

Teenage reporter Ira Goldstein, hit in the left buttock, made it to a chair, and Ethel heard him ask after Kennedy in a vulgar manner as she made her way through the crowd.

"How dare you talk about my husband that way!"

She stopped to scold Goldstein and slapped him across the face.

"Listen, lady. I've been shot, too!" protested Goldstein.

"Oh, I'm sorry, honey," said Ethel, bending down to kiss him on the cheek.

Finally, Mrs. Kennedy reached her husband's side, pushed Romero away, and started talking to him in a low, soothing voice. Then she left for a moment, filled a towel with ice from the nearby ice machines, and came back with it just as Dr. Stanley Abo arrived, the first doctor on the scene.

Abo examined Paul Schrade briefly, then pressed his ear to the senator's chest. Kennedy's breathing was shallow, his pulse slow. His left eye was closed but his heartbeat was strong. The small entry wound behind his right ear was clotting, so Dr. Abo probed it with his finger to keep it bleeding and prevent pressure building up in the brain that could lead to internal hemorrhaging.

Kennedy moaned, "Oh, Ethel, Ethel ... ," and she patted his hands.

"It's okay," she said.

"Am I all right?"

"You're doing good," soothed Dr. Abo; "the ambulance is on its way."

"The ambulance is coming," repeated Ethel.

Kennedy took her right hand in his and brought it up to the crucifix on his chest.

***

"Take him, Rosey; take him!" shouted Bill Barry.

All 287 pounds of Roosevelt Grier slammed into Sirhan, and he grabbed the butt of the gun as Rafer Johnson lunged in and got hold of the barrel. Somehow, the diminutive Sirhan still had his finger in the trigger housing.

Radio reporter Andrew West was right there:

"Rafer Johnson has a hold of the man who apparently has fired the shot. He still has the gun. The gun is pointed at me right at this moment. I hope they can get the gun out of his hand. Be very careful! Get the gun! Get the gun! Get the gun! Stay away from the gun!"

Rosey had Sirhan around the waist, Plimpton had his right side, Uecker had him around the neck, and Joe LaHive and Look magazine correspondent Warren Rogers held his legs.

"His hand is frozen. Get his thumb; get his thumb," urged West. "Take ahold of his thumb and break it if you have to; get his thumb! Get away from the barrel, man!"

Rafer held Sirhan tight as Rosey twisted the gun from his hand and pointed it toward the ceiling. Veteran hotel guard Fred Murphy identified himself as a former lieutenant of the police department.

"Let me have the gun," he demanded. "Let go, Rosey; let go, Rafer."

"Shut up!" shouted Johnson, then looked across at Rosey.

"Rosey, let me have the gun," said Rafer.

Rosey passed the gun to Rafer, who put it in the left pocket of his coat and released his grip on Sirhan. Murphy ran to the bell captain's desk to call the police and an ambulance.

"All right, that's it, Rafer!" shouted Andrew West, for listeners at home. "Ladies and gentlemen, they have the gun away from the man."

From beneath the pile of bodies, Sirhan cried, "Stop, you're hurting my leg!" "Like a kid," according to Plimpton. Columnist Jimmy Breslin, face-to-face with Sirhan, shouted, "Why did you have to do it?" But Sirhan's eyes were rolling and he didn't answer. His legs thrashed around, but his body was held secure.

Sirhan was now on his back, his head and shoulders hanging precariously off the edge of the steam table. Hungarian salesman Gabor Kadar jumped up on the table and hit him in the chest and knee. As Watts organizer Booker Griffin aimed a punch, Rosey shouted, "Don't do that, baby! Let's take him alive; don't kill him."

California Speaker Jesse Unruh, alert to the danger, jumped up on the steam table. "We don't want another Oswald! If the system works at all, we are going to try this one!"

Rafer Johnson pressed his face against Sirhan's and looked straight in his eyes. "Why did you do it?" he demanded. The gunman said nothing. Johnson placed a clenched fist on Sirhan's forehead. "Why did you do it?"

"I'll explain it," said Sirhan.

"Shut up!" someone cried, and that was the end of it.

***

As chaos swirled around the pantry, wild-eyed memorabilia collector Michael Wayne ran out through the Colonial Room and into the lobby with a rolled poster in his hand. A voice called out:

"Stop him! He's getting away!"

Several bystanders chased Wayne into a cul-de-sac, and Ace guard Augustus Mallard handcuffed him. Wayne pleaded innocence -- he was just running for a phone. Several witnesses later claimed they saw a black metal object hidden inside the poster, but no gun was ever found.

***

Campaign worker Sandra Serrano was still sitting on the fire escape below the southwest corner of the Embassy Ballroom. She heard what she thought was a car backfire six times; then the girl in the polka-dot dress and the Mexican American man in the gold sweater burst out onto the hotel fire escape and ran down the stairs, almost stepping on her.

"We've shot him! We've shot him!" the girl exclaimed.

"Who did you shoot?" asked Sandra.

"We've shot Senator Kennedy!"

The girl seemed so excited about shooting Kennedy, Sandra went back inside in a state of shock. She spotted a guard in a gray uniform just inside the door, one floor below the pantry.

"Is it true they shot him?" she asked.

"Shot who?" asked the guard.

"Senator Kennedy!"

The guard looked at her like she was crazy, then spotted a glass in her hand. "I think you've had a little too much to drink, honey."

But Serrano couldn't be shaken from what she'd heard. She ran to a public phone booth and dialed her parents in Ohio, collect, long-distance. Crying and near complete hysteria, she launched into a garbled account as a girl she recognized approached the glass.

"Has Kennedy been shot?" Serrano asked.

Yes, Kennedy had been shot.

12:17 a.m.

At Rampart Station, desk officer Schiller received a call from an unknown male, wanting to talk to the watch commander. Sergeant Rolon accepted the call for Lieutenant Commander Sillings.

"Kennedy has just been shot."

Rolon and Sillings left to investigate the call as a very nonchalant switchboard operator at the Ambassador dialed 911:

"This is the Ambassador Hotel. ... They have an emergency. They want the police to the kitchen right away."

"What kind of an emergency?" asked Officer Hathaway in the LAPD Communications Division.

"I don't know, honey. They hung up."

"Well, find out .... We have to know what we're sending on."

"Well, honey, I don't know .... I'll ring back; hold on .... That's all he said and hung up .... You know we have Mr. Kennedy here tonight."

"Big deal!" snorted Officer Hathaway.

"I don't know what happened, but it's something. You want me to find out what it is?"

"Yes, please!"

"Hold on .... I think somebody was shot."

"Oh, great."

"Great. Do you want me to still try to ... ?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Oh, God. I can't get the party back on here."

The switchboard operator left Hathaway holding for thirty-five seconds; then Night Supervisor Ruby Ford came on the line.

"This is the Ambassador Hotel. ... Ahhh ... my banquet maitre d' reported that Senator Kennedy had been shot."

"He's been shot?" repeated Officer Hathaway. Now she had his attention.

"That's right, and I think you better send somebody over here."

***

The emergency call took two and a half minutes. Moments later, Sergeant Paul Sharaga heard an all-unit call on his car radio: "All units in the vicinity ... an ambulance shooting at thirty-four hundred Wilshire Boulevard ... "

Sharaga looked across the street at the rear entrance of the Ambassador and gunned his car toward the rear parking lot. He jumped out to find mass confusion, hundreds of people running in all directions. As the first officer to arrive, he started setting up a command post in the parking lot.

2:22 a.m.

An ambulance pulled up at the front entrance, and Uno Timanson escorted the attendants up to the pantry in a state of panic. They sauntered along behind, refusing to walk up a flight of stairs with the stretcher and insisting on taking the elevator.

More police arrived, and hotel staff took Officers Travis White and Arthur Placencia upstairs, where Rosey and Rafer were still fighting off the crowd "milling around the suspect and punching and kicking him."

As White entered, the suspect was being held down on his stomach by eight or ten people on top of the third steam table at the east end of the pantry. Uecker had him in a headlock, Rosey lay across his legs, and Jesse Unruh was on the table with his knee in Sirhan's back.

"Quick, they're trying to kill him!" a man yelled to the officers.

"This is the bastard that shot Kennedy!" shouted Unruh.

White, Placencia, and three other officers pushed their way toward Sirhan and forcibly peeled people off him. Rosey wouldn't let go of his legs.

"We are police officers; step aside!" shouted White.

"This one's going to stand trial! No one's going to kill him!" cried Unruh from on top of the steam table. "I want him alive! I hold you responsible for him being alive!"

White and Officer Nunley freed Sirhan's arms, handcuffed them behind his back, and pulled him off the table.

"Let's get him out of here!" shouted White as the angry crowd screamed for the suspect's head and Unruh grabbed White by the shoulder.

"You're not taking him anyplace."

White pushed Unruh away, but he lunged again at the officers and grabbed Sirhan by the scruff of the neck.

"Okay, you can take him, but I'm going with you," said the Speaker of the California State Assembly.

"Let's get him out of here!" repeated White, and they made for the east exit.

"We don't want another Oswald! We don't want another Oswald!" hollered Unruh as Frank Burns led the group out through the Colonial Room into the carpeted lobby and down the twisting stairs to the ground floor. People tried to strike out at Sirhan and tear his clothes as the group moved quickly to the front entrance.

***

Back in the pantry, the uniformed ambulance attendants finally reached the senator. Ethel Kennedy was applying an ice pack to his head.

"What happened?" asked medical attendant Max Behrman.

"It's none of your business," she said, not realizing who he was.

The attendants tried to lift Kennedy onto a stretcher.

"No, please don't ... don't lift me up," said the senator.

Kennedy aide Dick Tuck helped them put him on the stretcher, and they took him out by the freight elevator, en route to Central Receiving Hospital.

***

Out in the rear parking lot, a couple in their late fifties ran up to Sergeant Paul Sharaga, hysterical.

"Slow down, slow down," Sharaga said. "What happened?"

The lady did most of the talking. "We were coming out through the Embassy Room and a young couple ran past, maybe late teens or early twenties, well dressed and really happy ... shouting 'We shot him! We shot him!' And I said, 'Who did you shoot?' and she said, 'Kennedy; we shot him! We killed him!'"

The woman was becoming hysterical.

"Okay, okay ... what are your names?"

Sharaga noted down the suspect descriptions and the couple's names and contact details -- he later recalled them as "the Bernsteins." He tore out a sheet from his notebook and handed it to a field courier for the Rampart chief of detectives.

"Get this to Bill Jordan."

He went over to his patrol car and put out an APB on the male suspect:

"Description suspect, the shooting at thirty-four hundred Wilshire Boulevard, male Caucasian, twenty to twenty-two, six foot to six foot two, very thin build, blond curly hair, wearing brown pants, light tan shirt, direction taken unknown."

***

12:28 a.m.

A large, hostile crowd surged forward as Sirhan was frog-marched out of the hotel under the canopied front entrance. Officer Placencia pushed the suspect into the backseat of a patrol car, locked the door, went around to the other side, and climbed in beside him.

Officer White jumped behind the wheel, and Jesse Unruh slid in beside him. Others tried to crawl over Unruh to get to the prisoner, but Burns and Uecker pulled them away and slammed the car door shut. The officers had no idea who Unruh was but didn't have time to ask. As they pulled away, Unruh heard Sirhan mumble, "I did it for my country."

As White sped out the drive, red lights flashing, Placencia turned on his flashlight and saw a strange smile on the suspect's face. He flashed the light into the young man's pupils. They were dilated and didn't respond -- a sign he was either drunk or drugged.

"You'd better give him his rights, partner," suggested White.

Placencia took out his field notebook and read Sirhan his rights off the inside cover.

"Do you understand your rights?" he asked the suspect.

No reply. Placencia read them again and repeated the question.

"Yes," replied Sirhan.

"Do you wish to remain silent?"

"Yes."

"Do you wish an attorney present?"

"Yes."

Placencia gave up and glanced at Unruh in the front seat.

"By the way, who did he shoot?"

"Bob Kennedy."

"Oh," said Placencia.

Unruh turned to Sirhan. "Why him? Why him? He was trying to do something."

"It's too late; it's too late," muttered Sirhan.

***

Fred Dutton, Ethel Kennedy, and her sister Jean jumped in the back of the ambulance with the senator. Bill Barry and Look magazine reporter Warren Rogers were in the front seat with the driver. When attendant Max Behrman asked Mrs. Kennedy more questions, she grabbed his call record book and threw it out into the hotel parking lot.

En route to Central Receiving, as Behrman applied a bandage to the senator's head wound, a traumatized Mrs. Kennedy shouted, "Keep your dirty, filthy hands off my husband!" and slapped him across the cheek.

She shouted to Bill Barry in the front seat. "Come back here, Bill, and throw this guy out the back door!"

As the ambulance sped up Wilshire at seventy-five miles an hour, Barry tried to crawl back through the cab window as driver Robert Hulsman steered with one hand and pulled him back with the other. The senator began gasping, and Behrman administered oxygen. At 12:30, they arrived at Central Receiving.

***

Back at the hotel, Kennedy supporters wandered around aimlessly, clutching PRAY FOR BOBBY signs, some cursing, some weeping. In the kitchen, Rosey Grier and CBS cameraman James Wilson sat side by side, heads in hands, sobbing. The Plimptons brought Rosey a glass of water, took him upstairs to the Kennedy suite, and put him to bed.

In the pantry, Andrew West was signing off:

"Repetition in my speech. I have no alternative. The shock is so great .... At this moment we are stunned. We are shaking, as is everyone else in this kitchen corridor at the Ambassador Hotel, in Los Angeles .... I do not know if the senator is dead or if he is alive. We do not know the name of the other gentleman concerned. This is Andrew West, Mutual News, Los Angeles."
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Re: Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kenn

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:02 am

TWO: The Aftermath

And so the round of eyewitness interviews began. KNXT film runner Don Schulman was grabbed by Jeff Brent of Continental News Service in a hotel corridor.

"I'm talking to Don Schulman. Don, can you give us a halfway-decent report of what happened within all this chaos?"

"Okay. I was ... ah ... standing behind Kennedy as he was taking his assigned route into the kitchen. A Caucasian gentleman stepped out and fired three times ... the security guard ... hit Kennedy all three times. Mr. Kennedy slumped to the floor ... they carried him away ... the security guards fired back.... As I saw ... they shot the ... ah ... man who shot Kennedy in the leg ... He ... ah ... before they could get him, he shot a ... it looked like to me ... he shot a woman ... and he shot two other men. They then proceeded to carry Kennedy in the kitchen and ... I don't know how his condition is now."


"Was he grazed or did it appear to be a direct hit? Was it very serious from what you saw?"

"Well ... from what I saw ... it looked ... fairly serious. He had ... he was definitely hit three times."

"I was about six people behind the senator, I heard six or seven shots in succession ... Now ... is this the security guard firing back?"

"Yes ... the man who stepped out fired three times at Kennedy ... hit him all three times ... and the security guard then fired back."

***

Within minutes, reports of a security guard firing back hit the UPI newswires. Leading French newspaper France Soir reported a man firing "and then the Kennedy bodyguard pulls his gun out of his holster and fires from the hip like in a Western movie." But Don Schulman was the only witness who saw a security guard fire.

***

In another part of the Ambassador, radio reporter John Marshall cornered security guard Thane Eugene Cesar for local station KFWB.

"Officer, can you confirm the fact that the senator has been shot?"

"Yes. I was there holding his arm when they shot him."

"What happened?"

"I don't know .... As he walked up, the guy pulled a gun and shot at him."

"Was it just one man?"

"No. Yeah, one man."

"And what sort of wound did the senator receive?"

"Well, from where I could see, it looked like he was shot in the head and the chest and the shoulder .... "

Minutes after the shooting, Cesar gave the most accurate witness description of the senator's wounds but was never called to testify at the trial. In addition to Don Schulman's "Caucasian gentleman," witnesses variously described the swarthy gunman as Filipino, Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Armenian, and Italian.

***

When they arrived at Rampart Station, White and Placencia placed the prisoner in the "Breathalyzer room." Although Sirhan sat next to equipment for testing drunks, no blood-alcohol test was given. The LAPD later admitted this was a big mistake.

Minutes later, they moved him next door to Interrogation Room B, a bare room with a metal table, metal chairs, and a microphone hidden in the walls, taping everything. They assured Jesse Unruh that Sirhan was handcuffed and could do himself no harm. There wouldn't be another Oswald. White searched the suspect and laid out his possessions on the metal table. A short time later, Sergeant Bill Jordan, head of Rampart detectives, came in and took over.

The audiotapes of Sirhan's time in custody are still preserved at the California State Archives, and as the late author Philip Melanson noted, throughout this first session "Sirhan sounds very scared and intimidated; he speaks in a soft, almost inaudible tone that is very different from the tone and manner in later tapes. At times, he sounds very tired and breathy .... He can sometimes be heard in the background gasping for air."

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LAPD mugshots of Sirhan.

12:45 a.m.

Jordan sized up the guy who had just tried to kill Kennedy. He was dark skinned, with black, bushy hair, intense brown eyes, a bruise on his forehead, and a cut near his left eye.

"My name is Sergeant Jordan. This is Rampart Detectives. What is your name, sir?"

Silence.

"No comment?" Jordan heaved a big sigh and read the prisoner his rights. "Do you understand your rights?"

"Is this what the officers told me in the car?" asked Sirhan.

"I have no idea at this point, sir, what you were told."

"Could you please repeat it?"

Jordan repeated Sirhan's rights. "These are your rights. Do you have any questions regarding these rights?"

Sirhan shook his head.

"Now you're shaking your head. You do understand me?"

"Your name again, sir?" asked Sirhan.

"My name is Sergeant Jordan, J-o-r-d-a-n. I'm night watch commander at Rampart Detectives, which is where you are at the present time. Now, would you tell me what your name is?"

"I want to abide by the first admonishment, sir, to the right of keeping silence."

''All right, sir, that is your privilege." Jordan gestured to some dollar bills laid out on the table with the rest of Sirhan's property.

"I want to count this in front of you, so that you're satisfied that this is the right amount. Is that all right with you?"

''Are you saying this, sir, under the authority of the first admonishment that you gave me, of keeping silence? Is keeping silence, sir, involved in this process here?"

Sirhan sounded in shock, as if he was finding it hard to breathe. Jordan paused, bewildered by the prisoner's mannered responses.

"I cannot see how that possibly could be incriminating to you .... " Sirhan shook his head. "You don't wish to do that, either? All right."

Jordan read the items on the metal table "into the record" anyway.

"Let's see, one-hundred-dollar bills. We have one, two, three, four one-hundred-dollar bills. We have one five-dollar bill. We have one, two, three, four one-dollar bills. We have one dollar ... and sixty-six cents in silver.... We also have a comb, a key, David Lawrence's column from the Independent Star-News .... "

The column was titled "Paradoxical Bob" and began, "Presidential candidates are out to get votes and some of them do not realize their own inconsistencies." Lawrence asked why Kennedy was a dove in opposing the war in Vietnam while a hawk in advocating military assistance for Israel in the Middle East.

''And a clipping here ... " Jordan picked up the clipping and read aloud.

'''You and your friends are cordially invited to come and see and hear Robert Kennedy on Sunday, June second, 1968, at eight p.m. at the Cocoanut Grove, the Ambassador.'"

Jordan stopped to check the poker face of the prisoner. No reaction. He continued with his inventory of objects taken from the pockets of Sirhan's denim trousers.

"We have two unexpended cartridges, which appear to be twenty-two caliber, and we have one copper-jacketed slug, which appears to be expended, no casing involved, also which appears to be twenty-two caliber. And we have a white piece of paper with writing on it which has to do with 'This man is your man. This man is my man,' and apparently refers to Senator Kennedy."

It was a sing-along sheet for his campaign song. Jordan pondered the suspect for a moment. He got Sirhan to stand, so he could pat him down for weapons. Sirhan gave a quick, anxious breath.

"Sorry, what happened?" asked Jordan.

"I mentioned it to officer number 3909 .... I mentioned to him my ankle, my knee hurt me."

"Okay, I'm very sorry .... I'll be as gentle as possible, okay?"

"Okay."

"You're clean," said Jordan. "Sorry, I know you're clean, but I'll be as gentle as possible .... What happened to your leg?"

Again, silence. Jordan gathered up Sirhan's property and left, asking Officers Willoughby and Austin to keep a close eye on the prisoner. The two men lit up cigarettes.

"How long have you been in here?" asked Austin. "You don't want to say?"

"You speak English?" asked Willoughby.

Sirhan said nothing. Jordan briefly returned with a hot chocolate for Willoughby, after which further attempts to engage the prisoner in conversation were met with long silences, punctuated by Officer Willoughby slurping his drink.

''I'm thirsty," said Sirhan.

"Well, I'm not going to give you any of this," said Willoughby.

"It's hot, really?" asked Sirhan.

"It's hot."

Sirhan kicked out with his right foot, spilling hot chocolate all over himself and Willoughby.

"I'll give you some in a minute!" shouted Willoughby.

"That's enough, pal," said Austin, trying to calm the situation.

"Yeah!" screamed Willoughby, practically strangling with rage.

There's an obvious splice on the tape here, editing out some of Willoughby's rage. The transcript later presented in court reads, "They'll give you some in a minute."

As Willoughby left to get a rag to wipe the hot chocolate off the floor, Austin tried to reason with the prisoner.

"You're not gonna prove nothin' that way."

"Later, please apologize for me to him," the prisoner replied softly. "I trust you."

***

Over at Central Receiving, an officious policeman wouldn't let a priest in to administer the last rites to Senator Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy identified herself and pleaded with him to let Father Mundell in.

"No, I can't," replied Officer Ambrecht.

"But I'm Mrs. Kennedy!" she said.

''I'm a policeman."

At that, she hit him. He hit her, and Kennedy's press secretary, Frank Mankiewicz, and somebody else hit the cop. It almost descended into a brawl.

Inside, Dr. Victor Bazilauskas gave the senator closed cardiac massage, placed him on a heart-lung machine, administered oxygen, and injected him with adrenaline.

Kennedy was breathless, pulseless, and lifeless, dying right there on the table. The doctor started to rough him up a little, slapping his cheeks.

"Be gentle," pleaded Mrs. Kennedy.

"Bob! Bob! Wake up!" urged the doctor.

No response. Ten minutes later, as all seemed lost, there was a feeble breath, the senator's pulse picked up, and, finally, came the sound of a heartbeat. Dr. Bazilauskas handed Ethel the earpiece of his stethoscope. As she heard her husband's heartbeat, her distraught face lit up.

"Will he live? Will he live?" she asked.

"Right now, he's doing all right. Let's hope; let's hope."

***

Back at the hotel, a police bus was waiting as officers tried to round up witnesses to the shooting and take them down to Rampart for statements.

Sandra Serrano was waiting in the witness room when somebody asked her what she had seen. Next thing she knew, she was being interviewed live by Sander Vanocur on NBC television. It was one thirty in the morning and she was slightly hysterical, but she had a clear picture in her mind of what she'd seen.

"Miss Serrano ... ," said Vanocur. "Just take your time .... What happened?"

It was too hot in the main room before the speech, she explained, so she had gone outside for some air.

"And I was out on the terrace ... standing there, just thinking about how many people there were and how wonderful it was. Then this girl came running down the stairs in the back ... and said, 'We've shot him! We've shot him!' And I said, 'Who did you shoot?' And she said, 'We've shot Senator Kennedy.' ... I can remember what she had on and everything, and after that, a boy came down with her. He was about twenty-three years old and he was Mexican American .... I can remember that because I'm Mexican American."

Vanocur couldn't believe what he was getting here. She seemed vivid and composed, but he knew she could also be a "ding-a-ling."

"Wait a minute, did this young lady say 'we'?" he asked.

'''We,' she said," replied Serrano.

"Meaning, we, the Mexican Americans?"

"No, she was not of Mexican American descent .... She was Caucasian. She had on a white dress with black polka dots. She was light skinned, dark hair. She had black shoes on and she had a funny nose. It was, it was -- I thought it was real funny. All my friends tell me I'm so observant."

"Did you work for Senator Kennedy?"

''I'm co-chairman of Youth for Kennedy in the Pasadena-Altadena area .... In 1965, I met him in Washington, DC, in an elevator. He stepped on my foot and I shoved him, and it's an unforgettable experience."

"Thank you, Miss Serrano."

Vanocur shook his head in slight bewilderment, and so began the tale of the girl in the polka-dot dress.

***

At 1:43, Inspector John Powers radioed Paul Sharaga in the rear parking lot to find out where his second suspect had come from.

"From a witness who was pushed over by this suspect. Witness and his wife, we have name and address ..."

"What proximity to the shooting were these people?"

"They were adjacent to the room."

"Disregard that broadcast," said Powers. "We got Rafer Johnson and Jesse Unruh, who were right next to him, and they only have one man, and don't want them to get anything started on a big conspiracy. This could be somebody that was getting out of the way so they wouldn't get shot. But the people that were right next to Kennedy say there was just one man."

"2130 to control," Sharaga radioed back, "disregard my broadcast. A description, male Caucasian, twenty to twenty-two, six foot to six foot two, this is apparently not a correct description. Disregard and cancel."

***

Back at Rampart, the interrogation room door opened and an officer asked for a description of the suspect.

"How much do you weigh?" asked Austin. "How tall are you?" Sirhan didn't respond. "Makes no difference to me; I'm only a peon here."

"I like your humor, sir," said Sirhan, resisting further attempts at conversation.

"Just say yes or no if you understand," said Austin. "We're not recipients of voodoo, 'cause we can't outstare each other."

Jordan came back in with Sergeant Melendres. It was time to go downstairs.

"Will you please get my pants fastened for me?" asked the handcuffed Sirhan.

"Take a breath," said Jordan as he hitched up the suspect's pants.

"Jack 'em up. Jack 'em up," said Sirhan.

Pants fastened, the suspect was hustled down a back stairway to the garage and lay on the floor of an unmarked Ford as Jordan, Willoughby, Sergeant Frank Patchett, and Sergeant Adolph Melendres drove him the short journey to police headquarters at Parker Center. On arrival, the suspect asked for a drink of water and got Jordan to taste it first.

At a minute past two, Sirhan was examined by Central Jail physician Dr. Elwin Lanz. His left ankle was sprained and swollen and he had a bruised left index finger and a bruised forehead. The doctor saw no indication he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but again he was not tested.

The prisoner was placed in Interrogation Room 318 next door. Once again, the room was bugged. Bill Jordan was now joined by Deputy District Attorney John Howard; his chief investigator, George Murphy; and Sergeant Melendres. During this and subsequent sessions, Sirhan sounded a lot more alert than during his first session with Jordan. His speech was quick and intense, with a slight accent, an odd turn of phrase, and an eclectic vocabulary. Howard started by once more reading the prisoner his rights.

"Now, understanding those rights, do you think that you want to make a statement now?"

"Sir, I said I shall remain incognito," said the prisoner.

"Would you tell me your name? Can we go that far?"

"That's it, sir. I said I wish to remain incommunicado."

"Okay, fine. Let's go," said Howard. "Thank you very much." As he got up to leave, he printed the names and numbers of the investigators on a card and put it in Sirhan's shirt pocket.

"Now, do you have anything you want to ask us?"

"When will I have a chance to clean up?" asked Sirhan.

"As soon as you go through the booking process," said Murphy.

Anything else? "Not at present, sir."

"Okay, I expect to hear from you, okay?" said Howard. "Am I wrong?"

Sirhan just looked at him.

***

Sirhan was taken downstairs for booking and strip-searched. At 2:20, he was booked as "John Doe" and charged with "assault with intent to commit murder." The custodial officer noted he was very composed and at ease. Mug shots were taken, but Sirhan refused to give a sample of his handwriting.

As an officer took a full set of fingerprints in the Homicide squad room, Sergeant Patchett tried again for a name.

"Who are you?" No answer. "If you'd give us your name, you'd save us an awful lot of work. ... What's the matter? Ashamed of your name?"

"Hell, no!" said Sirhan.

As Patchett sent the prints off to the FBI lab in Washington, Sirhan was allowed to wash and change clothes. He took a "slow, deliberate and thorough" shower and came back in a prison uniform far too big for him.

He was then brought to cell J-1 of the Central Jail and chatted with Officer Frank Foster through the steel-cage door. Foster's brief was to make sure Sirhan didn't harm himself and to keep him talking before the next interrogation. They were the same age and instantly hit it off.

They chatted for some time before Howard reappeared with Jordan and Melendres. "Did you get cleaned up?" Howard asked.

"Well, I don't look very presentable," complained Sirhan, looking down at his baggy new clothes. "I wish you could accommodate me more."

They took the prisoner into an interrogation room and sat around a wooden table as their superiors watched from the darkened corridor on the other side of one-way glass.

After another rambling conversation, Howard grew a little impatient.

"You know where we are now?" he asked.

"I don't know," said Sirhan.

"You are in custody. You've been booked."

"I have been before a magistrate, have I or have I not?"

The investigators were a little confused. Was he putting them on?

"No, you have not," said Howard. "You will be taken before a magistrate as soon as possible. Possibly will be tried."

"Are you going to take me up there like this?" asked Sirhan, looking down at his pants.

"You'll be properly attired," Howard assured him. "We're not communicating very well up to now, but you are in downtown Los Angeles, okay?"

Howard tried again for a name. "If I were going to call you something, what would I call you, George or Pete or what?"

Sirhan said the officer in the jail introduced himself as Frank and "I introduced myself as John Doe."

"Did you?" replied Howard.

"I think I gave him a clue to that." Jordan laughed. "You like the name 'John Doe'?"

"Oh, it's nice for a last name."

Howard was called out of the room for a moment. When he came back in, Melendres made a last attempt to talk to Sirhan. "Young man, let's be friendly and manly here for a second, will you?"

"Yes, sir."

"We have a job to do .... Now, do you want to talk to us about the incident at the Ambassador or don't you? Were you at the Ambassador tonight?"

"Well, look, Mr. Jordan ... I must act right for a minute and say that when he informed me of my constitutional rights, the first thing he said, that I have the right to remain silent."

"This is correct," said Melendres.

"This is basic American jurisprudence, no?"

"Right," seconded Howard.

"No argument," Jordan agreed.

"Now, you have the right to give up these rights if you want to talk to us -- this is your privilege," said Melendres. "Now, do you want to talk to us about the incident tonight? You want to at least give us your name?"

"I thought that you had mine."

"John Doe," said Howard.

"John Doe," said Sirhan.

The interrogators gave up, and Howard asked Sirhan to call him if he changed his mind.

***

Left alone with Murphy for a while, Sirhan debated the meaning of "justice."

"Fair play ... that you don't take advantage of anybody," offered Murphy.

"Right," said Sirhan. "Treat others as you would want them to treat you; that's what Christ said. Beautiful thing."

"Do you go along with that?" asked Murphy.

"Very much so, sir. Very much so."

"Do you have any religious convictions?"

"My conscience," replied Sirhan.

"Is that all?"

"What more do you want, sir? If you can't live with it ... "

"That's right," said Murphy.

***

Jordan soon returned with more coffee and tried another tack.

"Do you have any objections to telling us what you've done in your illustrious past here?"

"Beautiful. Beautiful," said Sirhan, as Jordan mimicked his wordplay. "I love the implication there."

"I mean, what type of work you've indulged in?"

"Oh, whatever you want me to do," said Sirhan. "Really, everything fascinates me in life, you know."

"When you go in front of the magistrate, and you're going to be asked your true name, what kind of an answer are you going to give the judge?" asked Murphy.

"Well, John or Jesse Doe, or Incommunicado."

"Jesse Incommunicado," said Jordan.

"Yeah, that's beautiful."

***

Throughout these sessions, it's clear Sirhan was very aware that anything he said could be used against him and didn't answer specific questions about the case, citing the First Amendment. But, while the investigators mentioned the Ambassador Hotel, they never mentioned Robert Kennedy himself. Sirhan played games with them and seemed completely detached from what had happened earlier in the night, reveling in the legal jargon and being "most wonderfully entertained" by the chitchat with the investigators. Later, these tapes would be played in full to the jury by the defense to try to prove Sirhan was in an altered state at the time of the shooting.

***

Jordan was called outside again and came back in with new information. Officers searching for the suspect's car in the vicinity of the hotel had matched his key to a vehicle parked just off Wilshire Boulevard. For a time they tried to get Sirhan to admit it was his, but he played with them teasingly.

***

As the session came to an end, Sirhan reminded his captors to work on some new clothes before his arraignment -- he couldn't wear his own clothes because they'd been booked.

"Can you buy me some? I would like this all fixed up if at all possible."

Jordan assured him he'd try to find better pants.

"You look very presentable compared to when I first saw you. You're clean, you're neat, your eyes are clear, and if we can get you something that fits you a little better ... "

***

Jordan later summarized his opinion of the interview: "Sirhan was in good spirits and quite stimulated. He acted like he was playing a game and enjoying it. He appeared anxious to match wits with Murphy and myself .... He was happy to talk about anything other than the Kennedy case.... I was impressed by Sirhan's composure and relaxation. He appeared less upset to me than individuals arrested for a traffic violation. I thought that his mind was keen and that he fancied himself somewhat of an intellectual."

***

Officers were dispatched to Briar Knoll Drive, the address for the driver of the car they suspected was Sirhan's, and found nobody home. It turned out the owner, Robert Jean Gindroz, was the executive chef at the Ambassador. He never locked his car door, and any key turned the ignition switch, hence the mix-up.

***

By six a.m., Sirhan was back in his cell, chatting quietly with Officer Foster. He sounded tired, and his voice was very soft.

"Your leg hurt you?" asked Foster.

"Kind of."

"How did you hurt it?"

"I don't know."

"Did you fall down or something? When did it happen?"

"I don't remember."

"You don't remember?"

Foster was confused. Either the prisoner was very cagey or he had a very poor memory. There was a long pause. Sirhan stretched out and seemed tired for the first time. He asked Foster about life as a policeman.

"It's like any profession," said Foster. "There are cases where there's injustice .... Maybe you're just the victim of circumstances."

"Beautiful."

"Maybe if circumstances were different, it would be vice versa: I'd be on the bench and you'd be over here, you never know."

Sirhan told Foster he was the "complete opposite" of his stereotype of a policeman.

"Well, in some respects, I hope you think of me as just another human being," said Foster.

"We're all puppets," said Sirhan.

***

Police chief Thomas Reddin called a news conference at seven a.m. in Parker Center, and as the press pack gathered upstairs, Officer Donald Day backed his camper truck up to the elevator exit of the police garage, so the prisoner could be discreetly transferred three blocks to the Halls of Justice without a Jack Ruby getting in the way.

Reddin related a brief conversation with the prisoner. "He was very cool, very calm, very stable, and quite lucid. He almost appeared to be the calmest man in the room. He sounds well educated. Speaks good English with a slight Jamaican or Cuban accent and is a good conversationalist.... He was very relaxed and wanted to talk about just about everything except the events last night. If I were to judge him strictly on the basis of our conversation ... I would say he was a gentleman."

***

As Reddin spoke, Sirhan was arraigned in the LA County Municipal Court by Judge Joan Dempsey Klein and advised of the charges against him.

"Do you have a name?" asked Judge Klein.

"John Doe," replied the prisoner, in white hospital pants, a blue denim shirt, and black slippers.

Judge Klein appointed public defender Richard Buckley to represent Mr. Doe and set bail at $250,000. Mr. Doe asked Buckley if he could speak to someone from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and then a team of sheriff's deputies escorted him to a waiting station wagon in the basement and put him on the floor in the back as they sped the short distance to the county jail.

The prisoner was booked, weighed, and measured, and brought to the jail hospital on the second floor. X-rays were taken and revealed a fractured left finger and a sprained and swollen ankle. Around eight thirty, jail medics took a blood sample. Though there was no analysis for the influence of drugs or liquor, they performed a routine test for syphilis.

***

Across town, Sergeant William Brandt visited the home of Gaymoard Mistri. Mistri had had dinner with the suspect the previous evening and immediately recognized his picture on TV, but now he couldn't remember his name. He called some friends who also knew the suspect, but they couldn't remember his name, either. Then Brandt got a call to go to Nash's Department Store in Pasadena. The weapon had been traced to a guy called "Joe" who worked there.

***

Twenty-one year old Munir "Joe" Sirhan arrived at work at Nash's Department Store and saw news of the shooting on TV. His still unidentified brother's face flashed up on the screen, and he did a double take, then ran to his supervisor's office and asked if he could borrow his car.

"My brother just shot Kennedy."

Munir pulled up outside a modest, cream-colored clapboard cottage at 696 East Howard in Pasadena, darted inside, and woke his twenty-nine-year-old brother, Adel.

"Sirhan didn't come home last night, did he?" asked Munir.

"I don't know. Did he?" replied Adel, who worked nights as an oud player at the Fez nightclub.

Sirhan was not in his room.

***

As Sergeant Brandt showed up at Nash's looking for "Joe," the Sirhan brothers were on their way to Pasadena Police Station. Fifteen minutes later, they walked into the station and up to the desk sergeant.

"Have you got a morning paper?" Adel asked.

"No," barked the desk sergeant, turning away. The brothers ran outside, and Adel spotted a newsstand up the street.

"I have to take my boss's car back," said Munir. As he sped away, Adel returned to the desk sergeant alone with a copy of the Pasadena Independent.

"I think this is my brother," he said, pointing to the picture of Sirhan on the front page. Now he had the sergeant's attention.

***

Munir returned to his supervisor's office to find a gentleman in a suit waiting for him. Special Agent Sullivan of the FBI's Pasadena office flashed his credentials.

"You better come with me," he told Munir.

"What for?"

"You bought a gun from George Erhard?"

"No, my brother did."

Sullivan brought Erhard into the office.

"Is this the fellow who bought the gun?"

"Yes, it is," said Erhard.

"No, sir, you're mistaken. It was my brother Sirhan. We just saw his picture in the paper; my brother Adel's over at Pasadena Police Station."

They went there next.

***

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Sirhan's brothers Adel and Munir were the first to identify him as the suspect police had in custody.

Dr. Phillip Attalla visited Sirhan's cell in the county jail at 9:32 a.m. and applied a splint to his finger. Attalla saw no indications of narcotic withdrawal.

Sirhan was then examined by the jail's medical director, Dr. Marcus Crahan. He sat in bed as Crahan asked his personal history. Conscious of the stenographer in the room, Sirhan replied, "No comment," to questions about his age, nationality, family background, education, occupation, and medical history. Otherwise, he was chatty and curious, at one point making a face and hunching his shoulders.

"What's the matter?" asked Dr. Crahan.

"It's chilly."

''Are you cold?"

"Not cold."

"What do you mean?"

"No comment."

"You mean you're having a chill?"

"I have a very mild one."

It was June, but Sirhan was shivering, as he would later, every time the psychiatrists brought him out of a hypnotic trance. He asked who had put the bandage on his finger.

"Doctor Attalla ... one of your countrymen," ventured Crahan, on a hunch the suspect was Jordanian as well.

"No comment," said Sirhan, loudly snapping his fingers, and smiling at a jail deputy.

"I might sound overbearing. I haven't brushed my teeth in two days."

"We will see that you get a toothbrush," assured Crahan.

"What's the latest on it?" he asked the doctor. "The discoveries of the mind, being a psychiatrist?"

"Well, there's something happening every day."

"Amplify. Elucidate," said Sirhan, sitting up and adjusting his pillow.

***

In Dr. Crahan's report on the session, he described the suspect as "an alert, wary, composed and unconcerned well-oriented male of short, slight stature, whose gestures and facial expressions indicated him to be highly pleased with himself. There was no evidence of fear, apprehension, remorse or regret in his attitude. He spoke evenly, responding quickly and calmly, even when his reply was 'no comment.' His fingernails were closely bitten [but he had] a light, happy manner."

Soon after Sirhan got back to his cell, he received a visit from A.L. ("Al") Wirin, chief counsel in Los Angeles for the ACLU. The suspect immediately asked the sheriff if his cell was bugged. Sheriff Pitchess assured him it wasn't, and once alone with the lawyer, the prisoner whispered his name into Wirin's ear. Sirhan asked Wirin to represent him, but Wirin explained that the ACLU took cases only on constitutional matters. There was no constitutional right to assassinate.

"And besides, I'm Jewish," he added.

"Oh, I'm dead already," groaned Sirhan.

But Wirin agreed to help Sirhan find an attorney, to ensure he got a fair trial.

***

At ten fifteen, Sirhan's older brother Adel was interviewed by Sergeant Brandt, Officer Evans from Homicide, and FBI agent Sullivan. Adel confirmed that he lived at the house with his mother, Mary, and brothers Sirhan and Munir. The family were Jordanian and had arrived in the United States in 1957 via Christian sponsorship. Their father never settled and returned to Jordan a few months later.

Mary Sirhan was the head of the house and the owner of the property, but she was at work at the Westminster Presbyterian Nursery School. Adel didn't want to disturb her, so he gave Sergeant Brandt permission to search the home.

As the brothers were being interviewed, Mayor Yorty held a news conference across town to announce the assailant's identity.

"His name appears to be ... Sirhan ... S-I-R-H-A-N ... Sirhan, both names. He was born in the Arab part of Jerusalem and we believe he is Jordanian. His listed address is 696 East Howard in Pasadena."

***

The brothers drove home with the investigators, arriving around eleven fifteen. They were met by LAPD Lieutenant King, three more officers, and a crowd of several hundred who had already gathered in front of the house after the mayor's broadcast.

The three-bedroom clapboard cottage dated from the twenties, with a large, blooming magnolia tree in the front yard. A rusty lawn mower sat next to the garage, by a pile of empty Pepsi bottles.

Image
Above: The Sirhan house, 696 East Howard, Pasadena.

Image
Left: Mary Sirhan.

There was a lucky horseshoe on the front door, and an FBI agent dispersed reporters picking through a trash can at the side of the house.

Adel Sirhan unlocked the door and led the investigators to Sirhan's bedroom. Officer Evans and Sergeant Brandt searched it in the presence of Special Agent Sullivan and Adel while Lieutenant King and his men checked the rest of the house and the garage.

The search of Sirhan's room revealed a large green spiral notebook on the floor next to his bed and another spiral notebook on Sirhan's desk, next to some candles and a mirror. The second notebook contained writings pertaining to the shooting of Senator Kennedy.

May 18 9.45 AM -- 68

My determination to eliminate R.F.K. is becoming more the more of an unshakable obsession ... R.F.K. must die -- RFK must be killed ... Robert F Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June 68


They also found a good deal of literature from the mystical order of the Rosicrucians; other readings on the occult; a brochure by Anthony Norvill entitled Mental Projection -- You Can Project Things Metaphysically Right into Being; and a large white envelope, with the return address of the U.S. Treasury Department, Los Angeles, across the face of which was written in pencil, RFK must be disposed of like his brother was.

These items were taken into custody to be booked as evidence, and the search concluded around noon. The group went back to Rampart Station, where Adel was reinterviewed and Mayor Yorty started poring over the notebooks. Reporters coming out of a police briefing at one fifteen bumped into Yorty on the stairs.

"What can you tell us about Sirhan Sirhan?" asked a reporter.

"Well, he was a member of numerous communist organizations, including the Rosicrucians."

"The Rosicrucians aren't a communist organization."

"Well ... "

The reporter smiled disdainfully, and Yorty gave an impromptu press conference in the basement on what he'd seen in the notebooks.

"It appears that Sirhan Sirhan was a sort of loner who favored Communism of all types. He said the U.S. must fall ... He does a lot of writing, pro-communist and anti-capitalist, anti-United States ... When he was arrested, he had a column by David Lawrence about Robert Kennedy wanting the United States to supply arms to Israel ... There's much scribbling, repeated phrases, many references to Senator Kennedy ... They're not very clear, but there's a direct reference to the necessity to assassinate Senator Kennedy before June 5, 1968. I don't know why."

June 5, 1968, was the first anniversary of the start of the Six-Day War, when Israeli forces quickly routed several Arab states and seized Jerusalem. Arab commentators were already suggesting Kennedy had become the personification of Sirhan's anti-Zionist hatred because of his recent pro-Israeli statements to woo the Jewish vote.

The next day, Yorty blamed an "evil Communist organization" for inflaming the assassin. He was soon politely told to shut up by California Attorney General Thomas Lynch for fear the notebooks might be inadmissible as evidence -- no search warrant had been obtained, and Yorty's disclosures might prejudice a fair trial.

***

Back at the Sirhan house, a young student was charging onlookers a dollar each to take pictures in front of the house of the assassin. The police had cordoned off the street to traffic and formed a guard around the house.

Reporters canvassed Sirhan's neighbors for comments:

"He hated people with money."

"He was just a normal kid. He took cars and bikes apart and put them back together again."

"He was nice," said a black girl.

"Was he an angry fellow?" asked a reporter.

She shook her head. "He didn't show it."

A twenty-eight-year-old Syrian friend admitted Sirhan was violently anti- Zionist and pro-Palestine, especially since the Arab-Israeli War. "But we all were. We all had strong feelings about it. He was no more active than anybody else and he's never made any threatening remarks about anybody."

***

When Mrs. Sirhan heard of the shooting, she collapsed. "No. No. It can't be true. My son is a good boy. He has caused no trouble," she said. The next day, she sent a telegram to the Kennedys: "It hurts us very bad what has happened and we express our feelings with them and especially with the children and Mrs. Kennedy and with the mother and the father. I want them to know that I am really crying for them and we pray that God will make peace -- really peace -- in the heart of the people."

***

At four that afternoon, the FBI finally located Sirhan's two-door, pink-and-white 1956 DeSoto on New Hampshire Avenue, a couple of blocks from the Ambassador. They found a parking ticket under the windshield, issued by the LAPD at 9:35 that morning.

The police obtained a search warrant and unlocked the car door with Sirhan's key at eleven thirty that evening. They found two expended .22-caliber slugs on the front passenger seat under a copy of the Los Angeles Times; an empty box of CCI Mini-Mag Hollow Point .22-caliber bullets in the glove compartment, along with a wallet containing Sirhan's identification and PCC library card; an unused Super-X long rifle bullet and a sales receipt showing a purchase on June 1 of four boxes of .22-caliber bullets for $3.99 at the Lock, Stock 'n Barrel gun and fishing equipment store in San Gabriel. A Lock, Stock 'n Barrel business card lay on the floor behind the passenger seat, and a book entitled Healing -- The Divine Art sat on the backseat. Fingerprints were obtained from the steering wheel and glove compartment.

***

Just before two the next morning, Frank Mankiewicz walked slowly down the street in front of Good Samaritan to a gymnasium strewn with cigarette butts and empty coffee cups to meet the press. Shoulders slumped, he faltered once or twice as he spoke:

"I have a short announcement to read, which I will read at this time. Senator Robert Francis Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. today, June sixth, 1968. He was forty-two years old."

***

The next morning, Soviet government newspaper Izvestia carried reports of Kennedy's death under the headline "Such Are the Jungles of America." Back home, the hopes of young students for a "new politics" were in tatters. '''Everything we tried to do now seems so futile. All the work intended to change the country is gone, snap, with one man with a gun. All of us are left asking, "Is politics really worth it?'"

'''Such a good man to have around,' a negro supporter said, 'and someone had to go and blow his head off.'"

***

Sirhan woke the next morning in a windowless twelve-foot-square cell in an isolated wing of the county jail hospital ward. One officer stayed in his cell while another watched through a peephole in the door. He was very quiet and spent most of his time on his bunk because of his injuries.

Sirhan didn't ask to see his family but requested and was given copies of the Los Angeles Times and the Herald Examiner and two books on theosophy -- The Secret Doctrine, by Madame Blavatsky, and Talks on "At the Feet of the Master," by C.W. Leadbeater, based on the work of spiritual writer Krishnamurti.

***

Dr. Crahan returned to see Sirhan later that morning. Sirhan was sticking to Wirin's instructions to remain silent but thanked Crahan for getting him a can of tuna -- he didn't care much for meat.

"That's the best thing I have eaten in a long time," he said. "I appreciate it very much, sir. Make sure you put that down."

"You have quite a bad nail-biting habit, don't you?" said Dr. Crahan.

"That's a presumption there only. Now, sir, are you trying to judge me here? How shall I put it? Psychically, with psychiatry in mind or medicine in mind, internally?"

"Both. Do you have trouble with your eyes?"

"No comment."

"Are you studying spiritualism?"

"I am interested in it."

"Have you ever practiced it?"

"No comment."

After a long pause, the suspect complimented Dr. Crahan.

"I like your smile, Dr. Crahan. It seems very sincere."

"I try to be."

The stenographer continued to note Sirhan's behavior during lulls in the conversation.

"Does he practice spiritualism, sir?" Sirhan asked. "He was writing something there was nothing said about ..."

"Have you ever used narcotics?" Crahan continued.

"No, sir."

"Do you drink?"

"Occasionally."

"Ever get drunk? What do you prefer to drink?"

"No comment."

Then, A.L. Wirin arrived and interrupted the session, carrying a bundle of newspapers under his arm.

"Kennedy's dead," he said.

Sirhan hung his head, then looked up at Wirin with tears in his eyes.

"Mr. Wirin, I'm a failure," he said. "I believe in love, and instead of showing love ... " He didn't finish his sentence.

***

When Dr. Crahan continued the interview after Wirin left, Sirhan's light, happy manner had changed considerably. He appeared exhausted and complained he hadn't been able to sleep. He asked the doctor for a sleeping pill and Crahan prescribed a half grain of phenobarbital.

Sirhan continued to complain of stomach cramps over the next few days. He was allowed to purchase candy bars and ate six or eight a day, neglecting his regular meals, so he was rationed to one bar daily.

From his observations of Sirhan and the writing in his notebooks, Dr. Crahan noted the following characteristics: "Emotional immaturity. Better than average intelligence. Idealistic. Impressionable. Easily led. Zealous. Inflammatory. Dogmatic. Stubborn. Self-sacrificial. Visionary. Worshipping. Fierce hatred and animosity. Detailed planning habits. Studious. Frugal. Hunger for Knowledge. Money hungry. Power proud. Opinionated. Arrogant. Self-assured. Patriotic. Egocentric."

"It is also noted in his writings," continued Dr. Crahan, "that he has had great mood swings from elation to moody depression and self-pity."

To Crahan, it was an open-and-shut case. Sirhan had repeatedly asked kitchen porter Jesus Perez what route Kennedy would take; practiced shooting hundreds of rounds beforehand; tried to shoot his way out of the crowd after shooting Kennedy, injuring five persons; and said, "I did it for my country," at the scene, indicating that his motivation was patriotic.

"There was no evidence that he had been drinking or was drunk when examined at the Central Jail at the time of his booking. He was in complete control of his faculties, was alert and even gleeful over his accomplishment."

Crahan thus concluded that Sirhan was legally sane at the time of the shooting and had the mental capacity to form the specific intent to commit the crime of murder.

***

But strangely enough, in all the tapes and transcripts of these sessions after Sirhan's arrest, the name "Kennedy" was never mentioned. And, for the last forty years, Sirhan has insisted he has never been able to remember the shooting. He still insists he had no idea why he'd been arrested until he saw A.L. Wirin of the ACLU the following morning.

***

On the plane back to New York, as Ethel slept against her husband's coffin in the cabin, Ted Kennedy talked to family friend Sander Vanocur of the "faceless men" who had killed Jack, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and now Bobby.

Ted was now effectively the father of sixteen children -- his own, Jack's, and Bobby's.

Also onboard were Jackie Kennedy and Coretta King, who had flown to Los Angeles on hearing of the shooting. They joined Ethel midflight to mourn another loss -- widows of the three great political assassinations of the sixties.

***

The body lay in state in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral all day Friday, as hundreds of thousands of mourners filed past. On Saturday, June 8, Ted Kennedy delivered a moving eulogy during the funeral mass:

My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. Let him be remembered simply as a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it; who saw suffering and tried to heal it; who saw war and tried to stop it. As he said many times in many parts of this nation; to those he touched and those who sought to touch him; some men see things as they are and say "why?"; I dream things that never were and say "why not?"

The remains of Robert Francis Kennedy were then transported southbound on a slow-moving funeral train from New York to Washington, DC. The railway system stopped all northbound traffic, and thousands gathered along the route to pay tribute to Senator Kennedy as news came through from London that a man named James Earl Ray had been arrested for the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.

At ten thirty that night, floodlights illuminated an open grave at Arlington National Cemetery, and fifteen hundred candles were distributed to mourners as the casket was borne from the train by thirteen pallbearers, including former astronaut John Glenn; former secretary of defense Robert McNamara; Senator Edward Kennedy; and Robert Kennedy's personal bodyguard, Bill Barry, wrongfooted by a last-minute route change that propelled Robert Kennedy into the pantry to a rendezvous with death.
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Re: Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kenn

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:06 am

PART 1 OF 2

THREE: Autopsy and Ballistics

June 5, 12:45 a.m.


"Mr. Johnson, do you have the gun?" asked a police officer in the hallway of Central Receiving Hospital.

"No, I don't," replied Rafer as he waited anxiously with the deputy mayor and last rites were administered to the ailing senator.

Two plainclothes detectives from the LAPD's Intelligence Division, James Horrall and Jean Scherrer, rolled up in a patrol car. Rafer knew Jean -- he was the head of VIP security with the department. Rafer now admitted he had the gun but would surrender it only at police headquarters. In the spirit of the times, he didn't trust the cops. Horrall and Scherrer played along and escorted Rafer to Good Samaritan Hospital, so he could check on the senator's condition after his transfer before going to the station.

***

Thirty years later, Jean Scherrer recalled the night with author C. David Heymann. He claimed he was the LAPD official assigned to work with Kennedy when he came to Los Angeles. "RFK was very concerned about his image. He didn't want his followers -- the poor, the blacks, the ethnic groups, the liberals -- to see him surrounded by police types. I argued with him about it on the last day, but he told me not to come to the Ambassador that night."

While there was no official police presence at the hotel on election night, Scherrer went along anyway. "I had a premonition," he told Heymann. "I don't know why; I just did."

Scherrer's presence at the hotel was never disclosed by the LAPD. "Because I wasn't supposed to be there that evening," he recalled, "the Los Angeles Times referred to me as the man who wasn't there."

***

The LAPD Intelligence Division log shows the "man who wasn't there" driving around in patrol car 3Y65 with his partner, James Horrall, that evening. Horrall was presumably at the hotel with Scherrer, but their presence there has not been explained to this day.

Perhaps they were there to keep an eye on things. Perhaps they made the anonymous call to Rampart to advise the watch commander of the shooting. Either way, Scherrer later told Heymann that for five thousand dollars, he could go into more detail about the assassination.

***

At 12:25, car 3Y65 was notified of the shooting, and ten minutes later, Scherrer and Horrall were logged as en route to Central Receiving. The close timing suggests they may well have been the police escort for the ambulance carrying Robert Kennedy.

At 12:46, Scherrer and Horrall reported from Central Receiving that Kennedy had been shot once in the shoulder and once in the head. When Rafer Johnson showed up with Deputy Mayor Quinn, they confirmed he had the gun and left with Johnson for Good Samaritan. Twenty minutes later, Rafer showed them the gun and they called in a description of an Iver Johnson Cadet .22-caliber revolver.

By 1:20, car 3Y65 was en route to Rampart, and at 1:45, Rafer was deposited in an interrogation room with Sergeant McGann and Sergeant Calkins from Homicide. Rafer began to relate the events of the evening.

"Now, how many shots did you hear?" asked McGann.

Image
Sergeants J.M. Scherrer (left) and J. Horrall (right) outside Good Samaritan Hospital with Rafer Johnson, who has Sirhan's gun in his coat pocket.

"I don't really know," said Rafer. "I really stopped counting them. Once I saw -- I thought it was a balloon, the first shot, because I didn't see anything. I looked, and then the second shot, I saw smoke and I saw something like ... uh ... the residue from a bullet or cap ... a cap gun throwing off residue.

"And when I saw that, I fought my way through, and by the time I got there ... the fellow had -- I don't know how many shots. I couldn't count them, to tell you the truth, but I know it was like four or five. By the time I got there, Roosevelt Grier had him, and I jumped on him, grabbed the gun with Rosey, and someone else grabbed a leg, and you know, everybody just had him at that point."

"Was there anybody else that appeared to be with him?"

"No."

"Did he say anything?"

"No, nothing more than, 'Don't hurt me.' Everybody was trying to beat his brains out."

"Now, I understand you have possession of the gun."

"Yeah."

Johnson took the revolver out of his pocket.

"Well, we'll take possession of it here, and then we'll take it into evidence." McGann's partner, Sergeant Calkins, took the small weapon in his palm and handled it gingerly, so it could be dusted for prints later on. It was a snub-nosed .22-caliber Iver Johnson Cadet revolver with a double-action, eight-bullet cylinder and a two-and-a-half-inch barrel, serial number H-53725, a gun so small, some witnesses had thought it was a toy.

***

June 5, 1 a.m.

DeWayne Wolfer got a call at home, summoning him to the Ambassador. Wolfer was the chief criminalist at the LAPD's Scientific Investigation Division, charged with investigating the firearms evidence in the shooting -- what weapons were used, tracing the flight paths of the bullets, and so on.

He arrived at the hotel at two a.m. with Officer William Lee and civilian police photographer Charles Collier. Wolfer asked Collier to take orientation photos of the pantry as Wolfer and Lee searched the crime scene for physical evidence. Collier was instructed to "photograph everything," so he set about documenting the numerous holes in doorframes, door hinges, and ceiling tiles that could possibly be bullet holes. The public wouldn't see these photographs for another twenty years.

The ballistics team continued to search the crime scene until early afternoon, sweeping the entire floor of the pantry and backstage anteroom for evidence. They left with two ceiling panels and two boards from a doorframe, which were booked into evidence, so they could be checked for possible bullet holes.

***

At this point, Wolfer knew that six people had been shot:

Reports from the hospital suggested that Kennedy had been hit twice -- once behind the right ear and once in the right shoulder. One bullet had fragmented in Kennedy's brain; the other was still lodged in his neck.

Paul Schrade had a superficial wound in his forehead, just above the hairline. Two bullet fragments were found in his scalp, the rest of the bullet seemingly exiting through a hole several centimeters behind the entry point.

Further bullets were recovered from Ira Goldstein's left buttock; Irwin Stroll's left shin; William Weisel's left abdomen; and the center of Elizabeth Evans's forehead, one inch below the hairline.

Two bullet fragments were recovered from Evans during surgery. Their combined weight indicated that a quarter of the bullet was missing. There was no exit wound in her scalp, suggesting that the bullet may have struck something before it hit her.

All wounds were superficial, with the exception of the bullet fragments lodged in the senator's brain. In total, there were six victims and seven wounds. Sirhan's gun held eight bullets, so allowing for one stray shot, the balance sheet seemed pretty straightforward.

***

After lunch, Wolfer went over to Central Property at Parker Center and retrieved the Stroll and Goldstein bullets and Sirhan's gun. Back in his crime lab, Wolfer rotated the chamber of the gun to see all eight empty shell casings still inside, indicating that all eight bullets had been fired.

Each shell casing was stamped as CCI brand Mini-Mag, hollow-nosed ammunition, used mainly for hunting. These hollow points were high-velocity bullets, which mushroomed on impact, expanding to cause maximum damage, explaining the devastation in the senator's brain.

After examining the gun, Wolfer conducted chemical and microscopic tests on a ceiling panel to check for bullet holes. When he X-rayed the panel early the next morning, he found two more bullet holes.

June 6, 3 a.m.

Dr. Thomas Noguchi, LA County coroner and chief medical examiner, hurried into Good Samaritan's basement autopsy room, ready to go to work. For more than six hours, Noguchi and his two assistants labored under the gaze of three top military pathologists and sundry representatives of the LAPD, FBI, Secret Service, and sheriff's office.

Noguchi concluded that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the right mastoid bone, one inch behind the right ear, penetrating the brain. He described three separate bullet wounds and numbered them for ease of identification -- the numbers didn't designate the sequence of shots:

Bullet number 1 penetrated the right mastoid bone and traveled upward to sever the branches of the superior cerebral artery. The bullet exploded and fragmented on impact. The largest fragment lodged to the right of the brain stem, causing extensive damage on the right side of the brain, marked swelling of the brain, and flattening of the brain stem due to pressure buildup.

Bullet number 2 entered the back of the right armpit in a right-to-left direction and exited clean through the front of the right shoulder.

Bullet number 3 entered the right armpit one inch below bullet number two and traveled in an almost parallel pathway, burrowing through the muscle structure in the back of the neck and lodging just short of the sixth cervical vertebra, where the neck meets the back.

At 8:40 a.m., Noguchi retrieved this bullet by making a small incision in the back of the neck and pulling it out gently with his right index finger. Noguchi scratched his initials on the base of the bullet along with the last two digits of the case autopsy number, 68-5731: TN 31. He handed it to Bill Jordan, who nodded grimly, surprised to see the bullet still in "near-perfect" condition.

***

Dr. Noguchi's autopsy findings give us the clearest indication of the firing position of Kennedy's assassin. All three shots that hit the senator were fired right-to-left and upward, from a shooting position slightly behind and to the right of Kennedy.

The fatal shot was fired at an angle of fifteen degrees upward, from thirty degrees behind; the bullet that exited clean through the shoulder flew fifty-nine degrees upward, from twenty-five degrees behind; and the bullet removed from Kennedy's neck traveled sixty-seven degrees upward, from five and a half degrees in front. The rotation of Kennedy's body as he spun left and raised his arm to avoid the shots would explain the variations.

Image
The Sirhan gun, with the eight expended shell casings found in the chamber, and the Weisel, Goldstein, and Kennedy bullets Wolfer examined.

So Wolfer now had three Kennedy wounds instead of two, and similar upward trajectories, suggesting that all three bullets were fired from one gun, behind and to the right of the senator. The bullet that had exited Kennedy's right shoulder was missing, and with the five other victim wounds and the two holes in the ceiling panels, Wolfer's bullet count was near the limit of what could reasonably have been achieved with one gun.

As Dr. Noguchi examined the brain, Wolfer spent most of the day examining the victim bullets.

The standard procedure in matching evidence bullets to a gun is to test-fire the same brand -- and preferably the same batch -- of ammunition into a water recovery tank, so the test bullet can be recovered with no impact damage.

There are imperfections in the barrel, or the "rifling," of a gun that are unique to that weapon. These imperfections scratch the bullet as it passes through the barrel, producing on the bullet a series of valleys and ridges called "striation marks."

By placing a test bullet and an evidence bullet on two stages of a comparison microscope, the criminalist can look through the common eyepiece at both bullets, line them up, and compare the striations to see whether they match.

According to Wolfer, some time after he retrieved the gun, he test-fired eight bullets into a water recovery tank. One jumped out of the tank and was lost, so he had seven test bullets to compare to the victim bullets.

On the morning of June 6, Wolfer examined the Goldstein and Stroll bullets under a comparison microscope and concluded they were both CCI Mini-Mag ammunition, with the same rifling specifications as the Sirhan weapon.

The bullet fragments retrieved from the brain at autopsy were sent to the FBI lab in Washington, DC, for analysis, but Wolfer received the Kennedy neck bullet from Rampart detectives at three fifteen p.m. and the Weisel bullet and the Schrade and Evans fragments by early evening. He could now try to match six of the victim bullets to Sirhan's gun by comparing them to the test bullets.

Three of the bullets were too badly damaged for comparison purposes, but the Kennedy neck bullet, the Weisel bullet, and the Goldstein bullet could be compared to the best of the test bullets to determine if they were, in fact, fired from Sirhan's gun. Wolfer worked until one in the morning, trying to find a match.

***

The next day, Wolfer was called to present his findings before the grand jury and outlined his credentials to the court. He had a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California, "where I was a pre-med student, [with] a background in the field of chemistry, physics, and all types of laboratory technique courses."

Trajectory studies by Robert Joling, based on Dr. Noguchi's autopsy findings.

Image
a. The trajectories of the gunshots that hit Robert Kennedy, as seen from behind. Autopsy measurements indicated that the armpit shots (G.S. #2 and #3) were fired at upward angles of 59 and 67 degrees, respectively, as viewed from behind and to the right.

Image
b. The trajectories of the gunshots that hit Robert Kennedy, as seen from the front. Autopsy measurements indicated that the armpit shots (G.S. #2 and #3) were fired at upward angles of 35 and 30 degrees, respectively, as viewed frontally.

Image
c. (Top) Top and back views of the fatal gunshot, fired at an angle of 15 degrees upward and 30 degrees forward. (Bottom) Top views of the armpit shots. G.S. #2 was fired from 25 degrees behind and exited through the chest. G.S. #3 was fired from 5=1/2 degrees in front of Kennedy and lodged in the senator's neck.[/i]

(In fact, Wolfer had been a zoology major, with mostly C and D grades.) He subsequently worked for seventeen years at the LAPD's Crime Laboratory.

"Is it possible to read markings on a bullet that is fired from a gun and determine what gun that bullet was fired from?" he was asked.

"Yes, it is." Wolfer described the standard procedure to the jury and concluded, "If we can line up a majority of the lines, we can say it was fired from this revolver and no other."

Wolfer confirmed he had examined Grand Jury Exhibits 5-A (the Kennedy neck bullet) and 7 (the Sirhan gun). He then introduced an evidence envelope for Exhibit 5-B, containing four of the spent slugs he had fired into the water tank from the Sirhan gun. He had kept the three better test bullets for further use.

"Did you compare the markings on the test slugs in 5-B with the questioned bullet, 5-A [the Kennedy neck bullet]?"

"I did."

"And from your comparison of the two bullets, were you able to form any opinion as to the bullet 5-A?"

"I was."

"What is that opinion?"

"That the bullet in People's 5-A here marked as the bullet from Robert Kennedy was fired in the exhibit, the revolver here, People's Exhibit Number 7 at some time. Yes, it was fired in the weapon."

"Any question about that?"

"No."

The proceedings of the grand jury were then concluded, and Sirhan's gun and the victim bullets were sealed by court order until the trial.

***

Wolfer's subsequent LAPD report confirmed that all three victim bullets came from Sirhan's gun "and no other" -- that, in effect, he had successfully matched the Kennedy neck bullet, the Weisel bullet, and the Goldstein bullet to the test bullets.

He determined that all bullets recovered, including the fatal fragments found in Kennedy's brain, were the same CCI Mini-Mag ammunition, matching the shell casings found in Sirhan's revolver. So, allowing for the missing bullet that exited Kennedy's right shoulder, the bullet fragments in his brain, the bullet recovered from his neck, and Evans, Schrade, Stroll, Weisel, and Goldstein, this accounted for all eight shots.

***

But seven years later, when Sirhan's gun was again refired after huge controversy over botched ballistics in this case, Wolfer's testimony was found to be false. Seven independent firearms examiners found that the three best victim bullets (Kennedy neck, Weisel, and Goldstein) could be matched to each other but not to Sirhan's gun. The examiners tried to retrace Wolfer's steps and match these three victim bullets to the test bullets Wolfer fired into the water tank, but they found that the barrel of Sirhan's gun had not left strong enough impressions on the test bullets to create striations that could be positively matched to the markings on the victim bullets.

A letter buried in LAPD files seems to indicate Police Chief Reddin and Chief Houghton of Special Unit Senator (SUS, the LAPD unit set up to conduct the investigation) were aware of this from the beginning. In a reply dated July 1, 1968, to Lieutenant Hewitt in Salem, Oregon, they wrote, "In regard to your Teletype of 6-5-68, we are unable to fulfill your request for test shot from Iver Johnson Cadet .22 Revolver. This revolver and test bullet were received by the Grand Jury as evidence on 6-7-68. Micro photos of test bullet too poor for comparison."

Photomicrographs are photographic enlargements of bullet striations taken to show a match. As the striations on the test bullets were too poor for comparison, Sirhan's gun has never been positively matched to the victim bullets in this case.

The letter concludes, "We will be happy to accommodate you when the weapon becomes available to us for further testing." Why further testing was necessary is not explained. As far as we know, no further testing took place until the grand jury ordered the retesting of the firearms evidence in 1975.

The work of this panel is discussed further in chapter 14.

***

The first witness called before the grand jury on June 7 was Dr. Noguchi. He pronounced the cause of death as a "gunshot wound of the right mastoid, penetrating the brain."

Noguchi noted a gunpowder tattoo one inch long around the fatal entry wound on the edge of Kennedy's right ear. He didn't want to preempt firearm tests, but "the position of the tattooing and the powder on the edge of the right ear indicate that ... the muzzle distance was very, very close."

"What is the maximum distance the gun could have been from the senator and still have left these powder burns?" asked Deputy DA John Miner.

''Allowing a variation, I don't think it will be more than two or three inches from the edge of the right ear," replied Dr. Noguchi.

The armpit shots would not have been fatal, he said, but to trace their trajectories, he had to place the senator's right arm forward almost ninety degrees, suggesting Kennedy's arm was raised to defend himself at the time of these shots.

The fatal bullet was so fragmented, Dr. Noguchi could not even confirm its caliber, so the only Kennedy bullet suitable for comparison with Sirhan's gun was the bullet retrieved from the base of the senator's neck.

Miner asked Noguchi to identify this bullet, Grand Jury Exhibit 5-A, in an evidence envelope.

"How do you know that is the bullet you retrieved?" asked Miner.

"Well, I placed my identifying mark, TN, my initials, and last number of Medical Examiner Coroner's Case Number 68-5731; so I placed '31' -- it is very clearly visible on the base of this bullet," said Dr. Noguchi.

This identifying mark was crucial to ensure the continuity of the physical evidence. This was the only bullet that could directly link Sirhan's gun to the shooting of Robert Kennedy. This was the last record of this identifying mark the public would ever see.

***

After his grand jury testimony, one of the deputy district attorneys, surprised at the muzzle distance, approached Noguchi.

"Tom, are you sure three inches?" he asked. "Do you mean three inches or three feet?" If Noguchi had made a mistake, he said, now was the time to correct it.

"It was inches, not feet," Noguchi said in disbelief.

***

This prosecutor immediately realized they had a problem -- none of the eyewitnesses in the pantry placed Sirhan's gun that close to Bobby Kennedy. Five witnesses were called before the grand jury that day -- hotel assistant maitre d's Karl Uecker and Eddie Minasian, kitchen porter Jesus Perez, waiter Vincent Di Pierro, and shooting victim Irwin Stroll.

Uecker said he grabbed Sirhan and diverted his gun hand after the first two shots. Uecker's body was between Kennedy and Sirhan, so Sirhan had to shoot around him for the first two shots. He wasn't asked about muzzle distance.

Minasian saw the suspect holding the gun at shoulder height and pointing it at the senator.

"Could you tell how close to the senator the barrel of that gun would be?"

"Approximately three feet," said Minasian.

Vincent Di Pierro was five feet away from the senator when the shooting started.

"How close did the suspect get to the senator?"

"It couldn't have been more than six feet ... because Mr. Uecker was almost right next to him. He was pushing the crowd back."

"How close to the senator was the suspect when this gun started firing?"

"Four feet -- four to six feet."

"What did he do?"

"He kind of went around Mr. Uecker and he looked like he pulled his hand out from here and came around. And when he stuck the gun, he looked like he was on tiptoes because he wasn't that tall. Mr. Uecker is quite huge, and he tried to get Mr. Uecker out of the way, and he shot him."

***

So, within two days of the shooting, on the first morning of testimony, there seemed to be an immediate discrepancy between the muzzle distance of two to three inches described by Noguchi and of at least three feet observed by Minasian and Di Pierro. But, strangely, apart from the deputy DA, nobody seemed to pick up on it.

***

Four days later, on June 11, Wolfer picked up some hogs' ears from butchers at Farmer John's market and spent the day with Dr. Noguchi.

First, they studied X-rays and autopsy photos of Kennedy's wounds. They then went over to the police academy to conduct muzzle-distance tests to determine more precisely how close the gun was to Kennedy at the time of the fatal shot.

They tried to re-create the density of the very distinctive powder tattoo found around Kennedy's right mastoid and on the edge of his right ear at autopsy by firing at various muzzle distances into pig ears, used to simulate human flesh. The ear was nailed to a board covered in a single layer of white muslin, and later, shots were fired into the muslin itself in search of a powder density that matched the powder patterns around Kennedy's right mastoid in the autopsy photographs.

***

Because the Sirhan gun had been taken into evidence by the grand jury, Wolfer supplied a test gun "of nearly identical manufacture." Wolfer also went back to the Lock, Stock 'n Barrel gun shop in San Gabriel and bought the same brand of CCI Mini-Mag ammunition Sirhan had bought there ten days before.

At the end of the session, they concluded that "with the test weapon at an angle of fifteen degrees upward and thirty degrees forward (to correspond with the trajectory of the fatal bullet), the test pattern is most similar ... at a distance of one inch."

Yet not one credible witness has ever placed the Sirhan gun an inch from Kennedy's head. Let's look at what witnesses have said over the years about the muzzle distance.

***

At the end of their investigation, the LAPD drew up a list of their "five best witnesses" for the prosecution -- those closest to the senator at the time of the shooting who could best describe what happened: assistant maitre d' Karl Uecker, Unruh aide Frank Burns, waiter Martin Patrusky, busboy Juan Romero, and kitchen porter Jesus Perez. But during their police interviews and during the trial, none of these men were asked how close the gun was to Kennedy's head.

Juan Romero told the FBI he had just finishing shaking hands with the senator and looked up to see the gun "approximately one yard from the senator's head."

Karl Uecker later told Congressman Allard Lowenstein, a close friend of Robert Kennedy's, "The gun was one and a half to two feet away. There is no way the shots described in the autopsy could have come from Sirhan's gun .... Sirhan never got close enough for a point blank shot. Never!"

Frank Burns was interviewed by Dan Rather for the 1976 documentary The American Assassins. Asked if the gun was ever close enough to inflict the wounds described in the autopsy, Burns replied, "No, never closer than a foot and a half to two feet."

"You know, the theory is that the gun was held about this close?" said Rather, indicating an inch.

"Well, it wasn't that gun," replied Burns.

"No way?"

"No way."

Martin Patrusky told attorney Vincent Bugliosi, "I would estimate the closest the muzzle of Sirhan's gun got to Kennedy was approximately three feet."

Jesus Perez, who used a magnifying glass to read because of poor vision, has never been asked about the muzzle distance. When the police asked him about the size of the gun, he said, "It was big like this," gesturing.

"It looked awful big to you, huh? You thought it was about a foot long?"

"Yeah."

***

But a number of other witnesses had a clear enough view to express an opinion on the muzzle distance. Ace guard Thane Cesar was right behind Kennedy and estimated "two feet."

Writer Pete Hamill told the police that "Sirhan was four to six feet away and the gun was about two feet from" Kennedy.

At trial, Valerie Schulte testified that Sirhan was "three yards" away.

Richard Lubic was at Kennedy's right side when Sirhan appeared: "The muzzle of the gun was two to three feet away from Senator Kennedy's head. It is nonsense to say that he fired bullets into Kennedy from a distance of one to two inches, since his gun was never anywhere that near to Senator Kennedy."

When I recently interviewed another witness, photographer Evan Freed, his estimate of the muzzle distance was "five feet."

Finally, there's San Diego high school student Lisa Urso. The summary of her initial police interview states, "From what she observed, she thought the shot was fired from 'point-blank' range."

In 1977, after years besieged by second-gun theories, the LA district attorney's office decided to fly Urso back from Hawaii to settle the distance issue once and for all. Under heavy security, Urso was wined and dined and asked to participate in a videotaped reconstruction. A VHS tape of the reenactment was discovered by researcher Greg Stone in 1985.

When she saw the first flash, Urso said she was standing close enough to touch Sirhan.

"How far was this man from the senator?" she was asked.

"Well, from where I was standing, it looked, maybe, between three and five feet." She said the first shot was closer to her head than to Kennedy's. Only one witness put the muzzle distance inside a foot and a half during the original investigation. Bill Barry put the distance at twelve inches, but he also told the LAPD that he was six to nine feet behind the senator, moving up on him when the firing started, and that he didn't even see the first shot.

***

When the second-gun controversy began in the early seventies, LA Times photographer Boris Yaro claimed the distance was "within a foot or less." But Yaro was looking through the distorting viewfinder of his camera lens. He told the FBI two days after the shooting that "the senator and the assailant were little more than silhouettes."

Several years after the shooting, Vincent Di Pierro also claimed Sirhan's gun came within inches of Kennedy's head, but his earlier grand jury testimony placed Sirhan "four to six feet" from the senator.

Muzzle distance became such a hot issue, Sirhan's researcher Lynn Mangan actually sent him a tape measure and asked him to extend his arm and measure his reach. With a clenched fist (as if holding a gun), Sirhan's reach was two feet, so Di Pierro's estimate of the muzzle distance was effectively "two to four feet."

The LAPD measured Sirhan as five-two, and he measured himself as five-four. As Robert Kennedy stood five-ten, their height difference might account for the upward trajectory of the shots, but, according to the witnesses, Sirhan never got that close to the senator.

***

After the grand jury hearing, there should have been questions about the muzzle distance, but nobody blinked. The grand jury took Wolfer's word that the bullets matched the Sirhan gun, but Wolfer still had a problem accounting for where all the bullets went.

Up to now, the balance sheet looked healthy: eight shots, six victims, eight wounds. But when Wolfer examined Kennedy's suit coat the morning before testifying in front of the grand jury, he found two more holes in it.

As expected, there were two holes of entry made by the shots under the armpit and an exit hole where the bullet passed clean out through the right shoulder. A Walker's H-acid test conducted on the area of the two entry wounds indicated that the muzzle of the gun was held at a distance of between one and six inches from the coat at the time the senator was shot.

But Wolfer also found two more holes in the right shoulder just below the seam, indicating that the senator had been hit a fourth time. This time, the bullet had entered his coat just below the armpit, missed his body, went through his raised shoulder pad, and exited just below the coat seam.

This shot had the steepest trajectory of all -- eighty degrees from behind -- so, again, it's likely the senator's arm was raised to ward off attack at the time, accounting for the bunching of his shoulder pad.

This gave Wolfer a lot to think about. On Tuesday, June 11, after the tests with the pig ears, he went back to the Ambassador pantry with Dr. Noguchi and Officer Lee and spent the afternoon "doing ballistic studies and reconstructing the crime scene."
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Re: Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kenn

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:07 am

PART 2 OF 2

The photographs of this session -- released twenty years later -- are intriguing. Dr. Noguchi assists Wolfer as they take turns trying on a suit coat through which two metal rods are threaded to simulate the sharp upward angles of the shots. The two rods clearly represent the bullet that exited Kennedy's right front shoulder and the bullet that went through the shoulder pad of his coat. Both bullets were missing, leaving only six bullets for the other seven wounds.

It's clear from the photographs that Wolfer believed the only possible trajectory for these bullets was that they flew up and hit the ceiling. Some of the photographs are taken from the floor, illustrating the point of view of a gunman firing from such a steep angle.

Ceiling panels had been removed and a lot of time seems to have been spent looking for ricochet marks in the plastered ceiling. In later photos, two rods run from the steam table to holes in the ceiling.

There are also photographs of Dr. Noguchi holding an LAPD ruler to four holes in the pantry doorframes and Wolfer and Lee holding rods to two possible ricochet marks high above each of the swinging doors and running rods from Sirhan's firing position up to these ricochets.

It was an extraordinary dilemma for Wolfer. He had testified, incorrectly, that all the victim bullets matched the Sirhan gun. Now he was walking a ballistic tightrope, trying to keep to a lone assassin while new bullet holes were being discovered almost daily, and the trajectories just did not add up to one gun.

***

The other key factor to remember here is Kennedy's body position at the time of the first shot. Wolfer and Noguchi had him facing north, still shaking hands with the busboys. In photographs from the same session, Dr. Noguchi has drawn a pair of chalk shoes on the floor, with chalk arrows pointing backward to indicate where the senator fell. He then plays the part of Sirhan, cheating himself out a little from the steam table, just enough to fire at the requisite thirty-degree angle into the mastoid behind Kennedy's right ear. If you accept that Kennedy was turned to his left and you ignore the witness testimony about the muzzle distance, you can line up the trajectory for Sirhan to fire the fatal shot.

But, even if we accept this scenario, how do we explain the other three shots into Kennedy's suit coat from much steeper upward angles?

Virtually all the witnesses describe Sirhan's gun arm as fully extended and parallel to the floor. Not one witness describes the gun pointing upward. Frank Burns has it pointing slightly downward as the senator falls to the floor, and Boris Yaro has Sirhan jabbing violently downward, firing the gun as if he's stabbing Kennedy with a knife. None of these descriptions come close to the photographs of Noguchi and Wolfer, where metal rods run at very steep angles through the coat into the ceiling.

And what of the other holes? Wolfer inexplicably didn't find time to X-ray the doorjamb from the pantry until the following Friday afternoon, June 14. Four days later, he returned to the Ambassador for more ballistic tests, and then received more bad news when he examined Ira Goldstein's pants. There were entry and exit holes in the left pant leg where a bullet passed clean through.

Wolfer spent the next three weeks trying to figure out what happened. His log for the case finishes on June 20, but he didn't report his findings until July 8. A recurring question was asked at the weekly interagency meetings of the LAPD, FBI and district attorney's office -- "Is Wolfer finished yet?"

He was now under tremendous pressure. He'd already told the grand jury that the bullets matched Sirhan's gun. What was he going to do if he found that more than eight bullets had been fired? Would the public believe that Sirhan shot Kennedy and a second gunman missed?

On July 8, Wolfer presented his analysis of the bullet trajectories to SUS. Wolfer concluded the following:

Bullet one entered Kennedy's head behind the right ear, and fragments were recovered from his head and booked as evidence.

Image
Top left: Wolfer and Noguchi work on bullet trajectories while an officer wears Kennedy's coat.

Image
Top right: Wolfer wears Kennedy's coat as Noguchi runs white rods through the bullet holes to simulate the steep trajectories.

Image
Dr. Noguchi points to apparent bullet holes in the center divider between the swinging doors.

Bullet two passed through the right shoulder pad of Kennedy's suit coat without entering his body and traveled upward at an eighty-degree angle, striking victim Schrade in the center of his forehead. "The bullet was recovered from Schrade's head and booked as evidence."

Bullet three entered Kennedy's right rear shoulder, seven inches below the top of the shoulder. The bullet was recovered from the sixth cervical vertebrae and booked as evidence.

Bullet four entered Kennedy's right rear back, one inch to the right of bullet three. The bullet traveled upward and forward and exited the victim's body through the right front chest. The bullet passed through the ceiling tile, striking the second plastered ceiling, and was lost somewhere in the ceiling interspace.

Bullet five struck victim Goldstein in the left rear buttock. This bullet was recovered from the victim and booked as evidence.

Bullet six passed through victim Goldstein's left pant leg without entering his body, struck the cement floor, and entered victim Stroll's leg. The bullet was later recovered and booked as evidence.

Bullet seven struck victim Weisel in the left abdomen and was recovered and booked.

Bullet eight pierced a one-inch-thick plaster ceiling tile, ricocheted off the inner ceiling, reentered through the tile, and struck victim Evans in the head, fifteen feet from the point of reentry from the ceiling. "The bullet was recovered from the victim's head and booked as evidence."

What had Wolfer done here to resolve his dilemma? His investigation revealed three holes in the ceiling but none in the door frames.

Bullet two went through Kennedy's shoulder pad at an eighty-degree angle, but instead of hitting the ceiling, Wolfer had it hitting Paul Schrade in the head. But Schrade told the FBI he was standing six to eight feet behind Kennedy.

Schrade told author Dan Moldea that the only way a bullet could pass through the shoulder pad of Kennedy's coat, travel upward at an eighty-degree angle, and strike him in the forehead would be "if I was nine feet tall or had my head on Kennedy's shoulder." It's impossible.

Image
LAPD bullet trajectory diagram.

Wolfer didn't explain how bullet four, fired at a fifty-nine-degree angle, could have hit the ceiling, while bullet two, fired at a steeper trajectory, hit Paul Schrade. Both were fired back-to-front, from behind and to the right of the senator. How could one of these hit Schrade if he was "six to eight feet" behind Kennedy? It's also troubling that one of the key Kennedy bullets could get "lost somewhere in the ceiling interspace."

Bullet six, clean through Goldstein's pants into Stroll's shin, seems possible, but bullet eight, ricocheting downward from the ceiling to hit Elizabeth Evans, makes no sense at all.

Bullet eight pierced a one-inch-thick plaster ceiling tile, ricocheted off the inner ceiling, reentered through the tile, and struck victim Evans in the head, fifteen feet from the point of reentry from the ceiling. Two bullet fragments were recovered from the victim's head and booked as evidence.

The medical report described the Evans bullet entering "just below the hairline" and traveling "upward," not downward. Evans reported she was bending down to retrieve her shoe when she was hit. The bullet fragments recovered from her head retained three-quarters of the bullet's original weight despite piercing a one-inch-thick plaster ceiling tile, ricocheting off the inner ceiling, reentering through the tile, and striking Evans in the head.

Three of these four "difficult" bullet trajectories are just not credible.

There is also evidence of another bullet hole. When author Philip Melanson interviewed Vincent Di Pierro in 1987, Di Pierro pulled out the orange turtleneck he was wearing that night. When Di Pierro washed the blood-splattered shirt, he discovered "two small, well-defined holes in the upper left sleeve" that weren't there previously. "Their size, shape and alignment appear consistent with a .22-caliber slug having passed clean through."

Di Pierro confirmed this to me in a later interview. When he showed the turtleneck to Detective John Howard before the trial, Howard said it was a bullet hole, and told Di Pierro to "keep it; we might need it." Howard never asked him about the shirt again.

While it's impossible to be certain about the sequence of shots, the key question is: when was Paul Schrade hit in relation to Robert Kennedy? If Karl Uecker grabbed Sirhan's gun arm after the second shot and one of the first two bullets hit Paul Schrade, how could Sirhan have hit Kennedy four times at close range?

According to Wolfer, the fatal shot came first, then the shoulder-pad shot that hit Paul Schrade in the forehead, then the two shots to Kennedy's armpit as he fell.

As Kennedy lay on the floor and Paul Grieco tried to staunch the blood behind his right ear, the senator looked up and asked, "Is Paul all right?"

Grieco was almost certainly referring to Paul Schrade, walking right behind him. Eddie Minasian told the police he saw Schrade fall first, then Kennedy. Schrade remembered seeing more than one flash and "a crackling sound like electricity."

This suggests that as Kennedy turned his head and raised his arm to defend himself, he saw that Schrade had been hit behind him. It seems logical to deduce that as Kennedy tried to duck the bullets and was hit in the armpit and through the shoulder pad, a bullet hit Paul Schrade in the head. He went down; then the fatal shot hit Kennedy and he also slumped to the floor. But by then, Karl Uecker had already diverted Sirhan's gun.

***

So the muzzle distance, bullet trajectories, number of bullet holes, and sequence of shots all seem to indicate a second gun. The last key issue to examine is Kennedy's body position at the time of the first shot.

Wolfer had him turned all the way to his left, still shaking hands with busboy Juan Romero, facing north. This presents the right side of Kennedy's face to Sirhan, who was facing west toward the swinging doors. The upward angle of thirty degrees can be explained by the difference in height. Some witnesses even describe Sirhan standing on tiptoe to gain elevation -- Richard Lubic thought he placed his right knee on the steam table to raise himself.

In this position, could Sirhan have shot Kennedy from fifteen degrees behind? Well, yes, he could have. Frank Burns said the senator was turned more than ninety degrees to his left, slightly west of north. As Sirhan was facing directly west, this gives the shallow angle from behind described in the autopsy.

So the position of Kennedy's body at the time of the first shot is critically important. If he had turned away from the busboys to walk east again or even started to turn, it seems impossible for Sirhan to have fired the fatal shot from fifteen degrees behind.

The problem for Wolfer is that, according to Juan Romero, Kennedy was already moving away from him, turning east toward the Colonial Room.

Right after the shooting, Romero told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, "He was shaking my hand and had just turned away when this guy came out and started shooting."

The next day, he told the FBI, "He held out his hand and I shook it. Senator Kennedy kept walking for approximately one or two steps"; then Romero saw a man to his left "who was smiling and who appeared to be reaching over someone in an effort to shake Senator Kennedy's hand." Then Romero heard gunfire and saw the gun in Sirhan's hand "approximately one yard" from Kennedy's head. Kennedy "placed his hands to his face and staggered backwards a few steps and slumped to the floor."

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Bullet entry and exit holes in Vincent Di Pierro's orange turtleneck.

Romero told the LAPD that after they shook hands, "he turned around -- no, he hadn't finished turning around, he just kept on walking, you know, sort of looking this way. He took two steps and all of a sudden I just seen somebody ... reaching over." Romero also felt powder burns on his cheek.

***

As Romero finished shaking hands with Kennedy, assistant maitre d' Karl Uecker said he took hold of Kennedy's right hand and was pulling him forward again at the time of the first shot. Here are his three earliest accounts of what happened:

To the LAPD: "I saw him shaking hands with one of the dishwashers, and then he came back and I grabbed his hand again, and then at that time it happened." Sirhan suddenly appeared right in front of Uecker, pressed against the steam table, and reached around him and shot with his right hand. "I didn't even realize at the first shot that it was a gun, but by the second shot, I turned around and saw Kennedy falling down out of my hand .... I realized it must have been a gun; then I grabbed him, you know .... He was right in front of me. He was trying to get away from me and I was afraid if I let him loose, he's going to shoot me in the stomach, you know."

To the FBI: "While Kennedy was still observing [Romero], I took his hand to lead him along, somebody reached around me and before I knew what happened two shots were fired and the senator fell to the ground. I immediately grabbed the gun hand of the assailant and pushed him onto the steam table. During this time, he continued to fire the gun."

To the grand jury: "He shook hands again with one of the dishwashers. And while I was holding his hand, I was turning to my right towards the Colonial Room. At the same time, something rushed on my right side. At that time I didn't recognize what it was, and I saw some paper flying ... paper or white pieces of things. Then I heard the first shot and the second shot right after that, and Mr. Kennedy fall out of my hand. I lost his hand. I looked for him, and I saw him falling down. And I turned around again, and I saw the man -- right standing next to me [and] pushed the arm down against the steam table."

After the second shot, Uecker grabbed Sirhan's gun hand, got him in a headlock, and tried to push the gun arm away from the crowd as Sirhan kept firing. He pushed Sirhan down to the middle of the steam tables and kept him in a headlock until the police arrived. He heard six or seven shots.

Image
Top: Dr. Noguchi simulates Sirhan's firing position in relation to Kennedy. Note the many ceiling panels removed overhead.

Image
Bottom: LAPD diagram of victim and witness positions in the pantry at the time of the shooting. D, Sirhan; V-1, Kennedy; V-2, Schrade; V-3, Goldstein; 1, Perez; 2, Romero; 3, Patrusky; 4, Uecker; 5, Burns; 6, Lubic; 7, Schulte; 8, Cesar; 9, Yaro; 10, Freed; 11, Minasian; 12, Aubry; 13, Drew; 14, Unruh; 17, Casden; 29, Di Pierro; 41, Freddy Plimpton; 42, Guy; 43, George Plimpton; 44, Kawalec; 45, Urso; 46, Royer.[/i]

In an interview with the DA's office three years later, Uecker said that when the shooting started, Kennedy was facing him and he had grasped the senator's right hand around the wrist to lead him from the pantry. "I took Senator Kennedy's hand again and said, 'Senator, we have to go.' ... He was still talking towards the busboy and he starts looking at me and we start going."

After fifteen years in Los Angeles, Uecker returned to Dusseldorf in his native Germany, from where he provided this summary in 1975: "I have told the police and testified during the trial that there was a distance of at least one and a half feet between the muzzle of Sirhan's gun and [Senator Kennedy's] head. The revolver was directly in front of my nose. After Sirhan's second shot, I pushed his hand that held the revolver down and pushed him onto the steam table. There is no way the shots described in the autopsy could have come from Sirhan's gun. When I told this to the authorities, they told me that I was wrong. But I repeat now what I told them then: Sirhan never got close enough for a point-blank shot, never."

***

Uecker's partner, Eddie Minasian, corroborated his story. He told the FBI he was three to four feet ahead of Uecker when he turned around, sensing the senator had fallen behind: "My partner, Karl, was on the senator's left, one or two steps in front of him. While the senator was shaking hands, I saw out of the right corner of my eyes someone darted behind my partner and reached around him, with a gun in his right hand. Before I could react, he fired two shots. My partner grabbed the gunman in a headlock, and I grabbed him around the waist, and forced him up against a steam table. We could not control his gun hand until after he fired a number of shots in rapid succession."

Minasian's statement to the LAPD is also very interesting: "All of a sudden, I looked up and someone reached around from the front -- to the senator's left as he was facing him -- I guess Karl was blocking my view because all I saw was the arm extended with the gun and I personally saw two shots fired. Then I saw Karl grab him and I jumped across and we grabbed him. Just before I grabbed him, I glanced to the left and I saw [Paul Schrade] go down first and then I saw the senator fall."

Minasian had Sirhan firing from the front left of Kennedy, not the back right, and indicated that Schrade fell first, then the senator.

***

Waiter Martin Patrusky was standing to the right of Juan Romero, three or four feet from Kennedy, when the shooting started. Sirhan "came out from behind the tray rack, crossed in front of Uecker, and was standing against the steam table to Uecker's left." Patrusky thought he was going to shake hands with the senator; then he leaned around the left side of Uecker's body and pointed his gun over Uecker's left shoulder toward Kennedy. "The guy looked like he was smiling.

"At the time, Kennedy was leaning slightly to the left and shaking somebody's hand or reaching to shake someone's hand .... Kennedy's back was not facing Sirhan. Sirhan was slightly to the right front of Kennedy. I would estimate the closest the muzzle of Sirhan's gun got to Kennedy was approximately three feet. After Sirhan fired the first shot, Uecker grabbed Sirhan around the neck with one hand and with his other hand he grabbed Sirhan's right wrist." As Sirhan continued to fire, Patrusky heard "a ping noise" come off the ceiling.

***

Freelance writer Pete Hamill told the FBI he was walking along in front of Kennedy, looking back. "Kennedy turned to his left to shake hands with someone ... and then turned to continue walking straight ahead" when what Hamill thought were five shots were fired "in very rapid succession." Hamill saw Sirhan standing "in front of and to Senator Kennedy's left about seven or eight feet with his arm fully extended and his face in tremendous concentration shooting a gun at Senator Kennedy. Senator Kennedy was falling to the floor and someone caught Senator Kennedy."

Paul Schrade was walking directly behind Kennedy at the time of the first shot, six to eight feet back. He insisted that Kennedy had just finished shaking hands with the busboys and had turned to walk forward again when the shooting began.

***

Vincent Di Pierro was five feet behind Kennedy, by the ice machines, at the time of the first shot. Within hours of the shooting, he told the police he saw Sirhan get down from the tray stacker and appear behind Karl Uecker at the steam table, with one hand covering the other "like if he had a sore hand or something .... I thought he was going to go and shake his hand ... and then he kind of swung around and he went up on his ... tiptoes and he stuck over with the gun and he shot, you know, and the first shot I don't know where it went, but I know it was either his second or third one that hit Mr. Kennedy and after that I had blood all over my face from where it hit his head."

What stuck in his mind about Sirhan was "the stupid smile he had on his face ... kind of like an envious smile ... villainous -- I don't know how to describe it."

Two days later, Di Pierro told the FBI, "I saw this individual reach his right arm around Mr. Uecker and in his hand he had a revolver which was pointed directly at Senator Kennedy's head. The revolver was about 3-5 feet from Senator Kennedy's head. This individual then shot Senator Kennedy in the head. Senator Kennedy at this time threw his hands and arms up, reeled backwards and fell to the floor .... After the first shot was fired, I heard 3 more rapidly fired shots. At this time the individual standing next to me on my left [Paul Schrade] fell into my arms and I saw that he had been shot in the forehead." Then, Ira Goldstein fell on top of Di Pierro, pushing him to the floor. His glasses were covered in blood, and he thought it was Kennedy's.

***

Other witnesses also saw Sirhan reach around Uecker. Guard Thane Cesar was behind Kennedy as he turned to shake hands with some busboys. He remembered the gun being two feet from Kennedy and said, "It looked like [Sirhan] was arching his arm a little bit like he was getting over the group of men in front of him."

Kennedy aide Frank Burns, in a written statement to the LAPD on June 12, gave a slightly different picture. When Kennedy stopped to shake hands with the two busboys "I would judge that he turned slightly more than ninety degrees from his original direction of travel." Burns now caught up with him "and got perhaps half a step in front of him. I also turned to my left and was facing in the same direction as the senator. It was at this moment that I heard a noise like a string of firecrackers going off."

Burns felt a burning sensation on his cheek, turned his head to the right, and saw an arm extended, holding a gun, "about even with the front edge of the serving table. The arm did not appear to belong to anyone. I immediately glanced to my left toward the senator, and he was falling backward. He had thrown his hands up and his body appeared to be spinning to the left. I looked back toward the gun, and by then the person holding the gun had stepped forward past the edge of the serving table so that he was directly in front of me. He was aiming the gun down toward Senator Kennedy's falling body, and appeared to be shooting at him. My impression is the noise of the gunfire had ceased by then."

Burns had Kennedy turned slightly more than ninety degrees away from Sirhan at the time of the first shot and did not appear to see Uecker tackle Sirhan after the second shot. But he had Sirhan firing downward at Kennedy as Kennedy spun to the left and fell backward, totally inconsistent with the upward trajectory from behind described in the autopsy.

***

Valerie Schulte was about four to five feet behind Kennedy, to his right, when he turned to greet a group of kitchen workers lined up against the wall.

She was pushed sideways and forward by the crowd, "and then I saw this gun. It was a small gun. It looked like a cap gun" -- at first, she thought it was a toy. "The suspect raised up, pushing it forward and started shooting. He kept shooting rapidly, more than four times. The gun seemed parallel to his head, aimed at the side or back of his head." "He appeared to be reaching over someone to point the gun."

She later testified at trial that she could see Sirhan "from his shoulders up" and that the gun arm "was pointed at the Senator's head ... approximately five yards from me, approximately three yards from the Senator."

***

But some witness testimony did suggest Sirhan might have acted alone. Freddy Plimpton was interviewed by the LAPD within hours of the shooting and told essentially the same story to the FBI three weeks later:

"As she was walking along, she was looking back at Senator Kennedy and saw him turn to his left to shake hands with a male kitchen employee. At this moment, Senator Kennedy gave a slight jump and his hands went up to the side of his face as if to push something away. She then saw an arm go up towards Senator Kennedy's head, but did not see a gun, heard shots and it was obvious to her that the Senator had been shot. All of this happened very quickly and some of it almost simultaneously.

"She saw Sirhan very clearly. She saw his arm go up towards Senator Kennedy's head but did not see the gun. She saw Sirhan's arm working and his eyes were narrow, the lines on his face were heavy and set and he was completely concentrated on what he was doing."

She was barely five feet tall but could see Sirhan very clearly and so thought "he was raised in some way.... He may have been sitting on a table or the [dense] crowd may have pushed him onto or against a table ... before the shooting."

She thought that "Senator Kennedy, in turning to his left to shake hands, put himself in close range of Sirhan ... and that when Senator Kennedy gave a slight jump, he was being shot in the arm .... There were about five shots in very rapid succession and two or three scattered shots after that."

***

High school student Lisa Urso told the LAPD she was standing in the middle of the pantry, between the first and second steam tables, watching Kennedy shaking hands. A hotel employee was between her and the senator. "A male entered her field of vision three or four feet in front of her, to her left. She observed [him] take his right hand, move it across his body in the area of his waist and then move his hand back across his body, extend his arm in an upward position and at this time, she observed the gun and the flash of the first shot. She heard three shots. After the first shot, she recalled the Senator move his right hand in the vicinity of his right ear and possibly stagger forward slightly or backward. She was not sure."

Urso told author Philip Melanson that, at the time of the first shots, Kennedy was turned to his left, shaking hands with a busboy.

***

TV producer Richard Lubic told the LAPD that when Kennedy "stopped to shake hands with part of the help, I was only an arm's length away from him and was reaching over to try and shake hands with him when I observed an arm with a gun come up and point at the Senator's head. I did not see the flash of the gun, but I heard one shot, short pause, five more shots .... I turned to my right and ducked down near the ice machine. When I looked up, the Senator's head was lying right next to my leg." Lubic got Kennedy's blood on his pants.

Lubic told the FBI he heard a voice say, "Kennedy, you son of a bitch," and heard two shots that sounded like a starter pistol at a track meet. He looked up to see a man with a gun on the left side of the pantry, with "his knee on a small table or air-conditioning unit [who] had lifted himself up on this knee to obtain elevation while shooting." He did not see the suspect's face but saw the gun and the arm of the assailant and noted the jerk of the gun and the arm caused by the recoil action.

***

As is often the case with eyewitness testimony, it is hard to distill these statements into a definitive picture of what happened, but what can be said is that not one witness placed Sirhan's gun close enough to Kennedy and in the correct firing position to inflict the wounds observed in the autopsy.

***

Photographer Boris Yaro was the only witness who placed Sirhan's gun "less than a foot" from Kennedy.

The day after the shooting, he told the FBI, "I was about three feet behind and to the right of him and was trying to find [Kennedy's] head in my camera viewfinder when I heard what I thought were two explosions [like firecrackers].... All of a sudden, the two people that had been blocking my view of the senator disappeared, leaving me with a clear view of what was happening.

"The senator and the assailant were little more than silhouettes, but the senator was backing up and putting his hands up in front of him in a protective effort. The suspect appeared to be lunging at the senator; I don't know which hand the gun was in -- I didn't realize it was a gun until he started firing again -- this time I could see flashes from the short-barreled muzzle .... I felt powder from the weapon strike my face. I thought I heard three shots; in retrospect I know it's more."

In a later LAPD interview, Yaro placed himself four to five feet from Kennedy. He put his camera up and heard two shots like firecrackers, and then three more. Two men standing next to the senator moved off to the right when the shooting started. He saw Kennedy backing away with his arms raised toward his head as Sirhan, "with a snub-nosed gun held extended and high," lunged toward the senator and fired several times. He then saw Kennedy slump to the floor.

In an article in the LA Times on June 6, Yaro said he was "getting ready to take a picture when the gunman started firing at point-blank range. Senator Kennedy didn't have a chance. Kennedy backed up against the kitchen freezers as the gunman fired. He cringed and threw his hands up over his face. The gunman moved closer toward the senator, holding a short-barreled revolver. Three or four people grabbed him but by then it was too late."

In the mid-seventies, Yaro emphasized the lunging at Kennedy: "'Boom! Boom! Boom! It was like he was stabbing at Kennedy each time he pulled the trigger. The Senator was backing up. He cringed. He turned. He put his hands over his face. As he backed up, he twisted and he turned, both ways. Later on, when you hear people say, 'Well, the angle of the bullet was this .. .' Well, for crying out loud, if anybody had seen how the Senator was backing up, they'd understand how there could be a bullet in the right side or a bullet in the left side just because of the way in which he was turned."

But shots from above, stabbing down at Kennedy, make no sense at all, and I don't find Yaro a very credible witness. As he was taking his famous pictures of Kennedy on the floor, a distraught woman kept telling him, "Don't take pictures."

"Lady, this is history," he told her. When she kept pulling his arm, he shoved her into the wall and kept shooting.

***

In preparing for court, the LAPD final report noted that "because the statements of various witnesses essentially duplicated one another, it was decided that only certain witnesses would be necessary."

The five "best witnesses" the prosecution picked were Burns, Uecker, Patrusky, Romero, and Perez. Burns and Uecker disagreed on Kennedy's body position but vigorously stated that Sirhan's gun never got close enough to fire the fatal shot. Patrusky and Romero also placed the gun a yard away.

The five witnesses chosen "to establish Sirhan's approach from the ice machine to the Senator and the capture of Sirhan" included Urso, Di Pierro, and Minasian, all of whom placed the gun at least three feet away.

Boris Yaro, looking through his camera lens, didn't make the cut.

***

On November 12 and 13, the DA's office and the LAPD set up camp at the Ambassador Hotel as key witnesses were called back to the pantry to reenact the shooting. Eddie Minasian was the only key witness missing from the group discussed above.

"It was critical that the statements of witnesses be as accurate as possible," so the DA's office shot film, video, and photographs.

These films and videos make for awkward viewing. No attempt is made to reenact the sharp upward angle of the armpit shots, and Karl Uecker pulls the "senator" forward before "Sirhan" can get close enough to fire the fatal shot. The report notes that "such inconsistencies which might arise from seeing the shooting at different angles had to be resolved to prevent the prosecutor's case from appearing to conflict on its own witnesses accounts."

In practice, this meant cheating Sirhan closer with a stand-in, after Uecker had left.

***

On November 14, Wolfer returned to the pantry as Schrade, Goldstein, Stroll, and Evans came in to place themselves where they stood as the first shot was fired. Wolfer checked these positions, "verifying his findings as to the flight and direction of the bullets." Oh, to have been a fly on the wall as he watched Elizabeth Evans bend down to pick up her shoe and tried to explain to Paul Schrade how the bullet that flew up eighty degrees through Kennedy's coat hit him in the head.

***

As the case was prepared for trial, Sirhan's defense team didn't pick up on any of the inconsistencies between the evidence and Wolfer's findings, as we'll see in later chapters, but for Dr. Noguchi, doubts remained.

Two days after the shooting, he consulted Dr. Vincent Guinn, an expert in neutron-activation analysis (NAA), regarding possible testing of all bullets and bullet fragments recovered from the scene. NAA uses a tiny scraping from a bullet to analyze its chemical composition and determine whether bullets tested come from the same lead batch of the manufacturer and, hence, from the same gun. Dr. Guinn thought this would be extremely helpful in determining how many guns were used.

Wolfer later testified that he discussed such tests with Dr. Noguchi, "the District Attorney, the Attorney General, the FBI, our chief ... the whole works."

In early October, Dr. Noguchi met President Johnson at the White House for a conference on the case. The president asked Noguchi to get a federal laboratory to do the tests.

Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Holloway then submitted a request to the FBI asking their laboratory to examine a specimen bullet and metallic deposits the bullet had left on bone and brain matter in Kennedy's head to determine if the lead deposits "originated from a bullet of the same lot" as used by Sirhan.

But as the LAPD was already handling the ballistics in the case, the FBI policy was not to get involved, and Dr. Guinn heard nothing more on the matter. The tests were never done.

***

As the New Year began, the LAPD was still concerned about its ballistics work. On January 7, as jury selection began for Sirhan's trial, Chief Reddin and Robert Houghton, head of SUS, wrote to the FBI to thank them for their part in a "painstakingly thorough and accurate parallel investigation, commensurate with the historical significance of the incident":

Desiring to maintain the highest level of integrity in every phase of the investigation, the Chief of Police and District Attorney agree that a back-up analysis by personnel of your agency would obviously strengthen this phase of the investigation. A separate and independent analysis would be of value in later refuting any claims attacking the validity of the examination by a single department and should preclude disputes or frivolous complaints.

If such an analysis can be made by your agency, the District Attorney recommends that in the interest of preserving the control and continuity of evidence that it be done at the [LAPD], using our laboratory facilities and equipment as required.


The letter was forwarded to J. Edgar Hoover from the FBI's LA office with a confidential briefing that is still redacted and a recommendation that, as the trial was under way, "there is little or nothing to be gained for the FBI in conducting these examinations." A week later, Hoover duly confirmed "that the Bureau will not re-examine the Kensalt firearms evidence."

LA County sheriff Peter Pitchess stood ready to do an independent analysis of the evidence, but after the trial, DA Evelle Younger judged this "an unnecessary precaution .... At the trial, no issue was raised with respect to the [LAPD analysis] and there appears little likelihood that any questions will be raised in the future."

This soon proved to be a major miscalculation.

***

Dr. Noguchi remained skeptical, later noting in his autobiography, "Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable but this time sheer unanimity was too phenomenal to dismiss. Not a single witness in that crowded kitchen had seen him fire behind Kennedy's ear at point-blank range. There are lessons to be learned from this case: Do not take for granted that the one who is in custody is the one who committed the crime. Until more is positively known of what happened that night, the existence of a second gunman remains a possibility. Thus I have never said that Sirhan Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy."
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Re: Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kenn

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:10 am

PART 1 OF 2

FOUR: Sirhan B. Sirhan

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was born in Jerusalem on March 19, 1944. His father, Bishara, worked in the city's sanitation department. The family of his mother, Mary, had lived in Jerusalem for generations. Sirhan was the name of an ancient tribe that roamed the Syrian Desert and means "wolf" in Arabic. Bishara means "good news."

When Sirhan was born, the city of Jerusalem was a part of Palestine. After the British withdrew in 1948, Sirhan lived in the Old City, ruled by Jordan until June 5, 1967, when Israel launched a preemptive attack on Arab forces, routing them in what came to be known as the Six-Day War. Israel then took full control of Jerusalem.

On May 18, 1968, Sirhan wrote that Robert Kennedy must be assassinated by June 5, 1968, and he rationalized the shooting as a channeling of his anger at American support for the Israelis and Kennedy's campaign promise to send fifty jet bombers to Israel.

The Jewish claim to Palestine was rooted in Zionism, a movement founded by Jewish leaders in Europe based on biblical prophesies of a return to Zion by the Jewish people.

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Sirhan family photo, c. 1945. Sirhan as a baby in the arms of his mother, Mary (bottom left); father, Bishara (bottom right).

The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after World War One led to a carve-up of territory by the Allied Powers in the Middle East. In 1917, British foreign minister Arthur Balfour published the Balfour Declaration, establishing long-term plans for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and in 1922, with Zionist support, the League of Nations approved the British mandate of Palestine.

Over the next twenty years, the Jewish population in Palestine rose from 11 to 30 percent, accelerated by the oppression of the Jews by the Nazis in Germany. In 1939, under pressure from the Arab states and facing another war, a British white paper severely limited further Jewish immigration and aimed to establish Palestine as an independent state to be governed by both Arabs and Jews. Zionist terrorist groups resisted this move and assassinated Lord Moyne, the British minister in the Middle East, in 1944.

***

In March of that year, Sirhan was born in the feuding city of Jerusalem, the sixth child of the Sirhans. Two years later, his oldest brother, Munir, was run over and killed by a British army truck in the city. A seventh Sirhan child was born in 1947 and also called Munir, in his memory.

Heavy fighting, destruction, sporadic sniping, and terrorist activity were a constant presence in Sirhan's early childhood. By 1947, the violence had brought Palestine close to a state of anarchy, and Britain announced plans to terminate its mandate. Arab leaders rejected a United Nations plan to partition the territory into separate Jewish and Arab states, and the fighting continued.

On December 12, the Zionist terrorist group the Irgun, led by future Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, bombed the Damascus Gate, killing twenty passersby. Five thousand casualties were reported over the next few months as armed skirmishes between Arab and Jewish paramilitary forces continued. The following April, the Irgun carried out the massacre of 120 Palestinian men, women, and children in the village of Deir Yassin. Palestinian survivors were driven like ancient slaves through the streets of Jerusalem by the celebrating terrorists.

With the British mandate set to end on May 15, 1948, British forces began their withdrawal, and the Sirhan family left their home in the New City to seek refuge near the Jewish quarter of the Old City. They lived with friends or in church buildings with other refugees. Food and water were rationed in the fifteen refugee villages, and housing consisted of tents, bombed-out buildings, and caves.

On May 14, the last of the British withdrew and the Zionists proclaimed the establishment of the state of Israel. Neighboring Arab states immediately attacked Israel following its declaration of independence, and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War ensued.

On July 11, Arab forces subjected the Israeli sector of Jerusalem to its first air bombardment. The Jews retaliated by bombing the Arab sector, and Sirhan witnessed an Israeli soldier killing an Arab in front of his home.

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and neighboring Arab states eliminated Palestine as a distinct territory. With the establishment of Israel, Jerusalem was divided, with Jordan taking the eastern parts, including the Old City, and Israel taking the western parts. But Jerusalem continued to be home to intense fighting and artillery bombardment between the Arab and Israeli sectors of the city from 1948 until the Sirhans left in 1957. Mary Sirhan advised investigators that Sirhan witnessed much shooting and bombing by Israeli planes during this time.

***

In 1955, Mr. and Mrs. Haldor Lillenas were visiting Jordan when they were contacted by Sirhan's father, Bishara, about the possibility of coming to the United States. Mr. Lillenas, an ordained minister of the Church of the Nazarene, found the Sirhans to be "a worthy Christian family" and decided to sponsor them through the Church World Service and the Quakers. The family qualified for visas as Palestinian refugees and made plans to move to the United States in late 1956. But Sirhan "wanted to stay with his people" and briefly fled to a relative's house in Ramallah ten or fifteen miles away.

Sirhan traveled by ship to New York and arrived on January 12, 1957, with his father, Bishara; mother, Mary; brothers Adel and Munir; and sister Ayda. Lillenas refused to sponsor his other brothers, Sharif and Saidallah, as they were of legal age. Twelve-year-old Sirhan asked his mother if, by coming to the United States, he would get blond hair and blue eyes. From an early age, he would always refer to himself as a "Palestinian Arab" even though, technically, he was a Jordanian citizen.

The family traveled by train to Pasadena, California, where they were greeted three days later by Reverend Lillenas and his wife, with whom they stayed for the next three months.

With the help of the church, Mrs. Sirhan found a job as a housekeeper at the Westminster Presbyterian Nursery School in Pasadena. Ayda enrolled at Pasadena City College, and Sirhan and Munir were enrolled in the Pasadena City school system to continue their education.

Reverend Lillenas rented and furnished a house for the Sirhans, and they moved into their first home at 1321 North Mentor, Pasadena, later that spring. By the time Sirhan completed sixth grade, his father had become unsettled in his new life. At the end of July, he flew back to Jordan without telling the family, and they never saw him again.

Contrary to some reports, the family was never Muslim. They belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church prior to leaving Jordan and began attending the First Baptist Church on arrival in Pasadena.

Sirhan maintained a consistent C-plus average through high school. His teachers described him as quiet, well-mannered, reserved, and sensitive. One thought he had gone to a British school because all his responses were either "Yes, sir" or "No, sir." He was very proud of the fact that he was an Arab and had strong nationalistic feelings but expressed no strong political views. Teachers often remembered him only for his unique name.

When Munir, the youngest Sirhan boy, got into fights with students who teased him about his name, fourteen-year-old Sirhan visited the school principal, Mr. Hornbeck. He said his mother spoke very little English, so he had taken it upon himself to visit Hornbeck to discuss Munir's difficulties. Munir's misconduct was a threat to the family honor, he said. It was important to preserve their good reputation. Hornbeck remembered Sirhan as a very intense boy who would visit him from time to time just to chat.

Sirhan stood out among the predominantly white student body and was teased about his strange name and nationality. He was very obedient and well behaved but didn't mix or take part in school activities, appearing to be something of a loner.

Carol Neal took classes with Sirhan in tenth grade and regarded him as an odd person since he didn't really mix with other students, go out with girls, or attend school dances or games. He frequently argued with the social studies teacher and, if not called upon during discussions, waved his hand and snapped his fingers to get the teacher's attention. But Sirhan's term paper on his country was held up by the teacher as an example of good work.

Sirhan's eldest brothers, Sharif and Saidallah, were granted refugee status with the help of the Church World Service and joined the family in Pasadena in the summer of 1960. That September, Sirhan entered John Muir High School, graduating in June 1963. As he started his final year, Sharif and Saidallah moved out and Mary Sirhan bought the house at 696 East Howard. Sirhan's classes included two years of Russian and three years of German and California Cadet Corps -- a military science course covering military history, drill, rifle range practice, and firearm safety.

His eleventh-grade history teacher said he fell under the influence of fellow student Tom Good, who was very antigovernment and "the closest to being an anarchist of any boy that age." Good wasn't into rules and possibly influenced Sirhan's political development.

***

Sirhan's first contact with the police came on August 4, 1963, when he approached Officer Cannow at an intersection near the Sirhan house and said he'd had an argument with his mother and was afraid to go home. Cannow brought him home and was told by Mrs. Sirhan that Sirhan was at an age where he would not listen to the advice of his elders. Mother and son started to argue again, so Cannow advised Sirhan to leave the house until he "cooled off."

Sirhan had been working for gardener William Beveridge during his last year of school and now moved into a camper truck in Beveridge's garden for seven months before making up with his mother and returning to the family home.

In September 1963, Sirhan entered Pasadena City College (PCC) and juggled part-time jobs as he worked his way through college. He continued to work as a gardener but by the following summer, was also working the night shift at a gas station while pulling shifts as a short-order cook at Peak's Hamburger House. He saved up some money and bought his first car for four hundred dollars -- a pink-and-white 1956 DeSoto.

At the end of August 1964, he was caught napping in the car twice as the water from the sprinkler system he had going was running off the lawn onto the street. He got his marching orders, but despite this setback, his employers consistently described him as an excellent worker who got along well with his coworkers.

As he went back to college for his second year, he kept up the night shift at the service station. He didn't appear to have many friends, but he loved to talk about horses and his desire to become a jockey. His boss at the gas station thought he spent most of his money gambling at Santa Anita. One friend said he sometimes bet sixty to eighty dollars on one race.

Another friend reported that Sirhan asked a few girls for dates but none accepted. The typical reaction was, "He's a nice guy, but I'd feel funny if I went out with him." Gwendalee Gum remembered one time, when she was a contestant for Carnival Queen at PCC, she was sitting in a booth collecting donations -- a penny donation counted as one vote. Sirhan approached the booth and dropped in a ten-dollar bill. He later asked her for dates, but she declined. Sirhan wasn't politically active at college, but he held strong views on the Middle East, as did most of the Arab students. He wanted to be a diplomat and had a keen interest in languages, but in most courses, he got barely passing grades. When his beloved sister Ayda was diagnosed with leukemia in February 1965, Sirhan stayed home to care for her until her death on March 20 that year.

Two months later, he was dismissed from PCC for poor grades and poor attendance, with no leniency for his sister's illness. The pressure was building, and Sirhan snapped. On June 7, he had an argument with his manager at work about cleaning duties and was fired from Richfield Gas Station.

***

Where next for Sirhan? He had developed a love of horses and, with his five-foot-two-inch, 115-pound frame, dreamed of becoming a jockey. He went down to Santa Anita Race Track in August and asked English horse trainer Gordon Bowsher for a job. Sirhan offered to work for free initially, cleaning out stalls and walking horses, and finally landed a job on October 15 as a stable hand.

While working for Bowsher, Sirhan was introduced to theosophy and the occult by thirty-eight-year-old groom Thomas Rathke. He gave Sirhan a half dozen pages on meditation by a group called the Rosicrucians. Later, when Rathke moved north to Pleasanton, they kept in touch.

On December 16, 1965, Sirhan applied to the State Horse Racing Board for a Hot Walker's license and had his photo and fingerprints taken -- records that would help identify him after the shooting.

On New Year's Day, he was issued his license and Bowsher let him start riding horses. But foreman John Shear said Sirhan was a poor rider, constantly being thrown. He allowed Sirhan to practice on nonthoroughbred ponies, but Sirhan quit at the end of March.

***

On June 2, Sirhan was hired by Burt Altfillisch to work as an exercise boy at Granja Vista Del Rio Ranch in Corona for $375 a month. He left home and shared a motel room in Norco with an alcoholic named Edward Van Antwerp. He spent weeknights in his room, drinking large quantities of tea, and on weekends went home to Pasadena.

A few weeks later, inspired by Tom Rathke, Sirhan applied for membership in the Ancient Mystical Order of the Rosy Cross (AMORC) -- the Rosicrucians, a worldwide fraternal organization operating on a lodge system, exploring mysticism and the occult.

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Ran Sibbrel, Anno Silvera, Bonny Simmons, Marie Sims, Sirhon Sirhan, Elenore Skarsten, Beuna Smith
Sirhan's high school yearbook.

On his application, he indicated he'd been a student of metaphysics, psychology, and philosophy for three years and "by reading your book 'Mastery of Life,' I have discovered much I do not know about myself despite all the philosophical works that I have been reading. I sincerely want to better myself, and on that basis I submit my application."

Sirhan became a "corresponding member" of the Supreme Grand Lodge in San Jose -- "he received correspondence and instructions by mail and in turn submitted his lessons."

***

Sirhan settled quickly in Corona. He didn't drink, but he'd go to bars with coworkers from the ranch and buy everyone a round. Everyone knew him as "Sol," and he soon became good friends with Terry Welch, a fellow exercise boy. Sol was an avid reader of law, and they often discussed cases he'd read about. Welch considered Sirhan his best friend and described him as "neat, clean, intelligent, and a gentleman in every way." He was easy to get along with, generous with friends, and always curious and trying to improve himself. He would visit dairy and poultry farms in his spare time and could talk intelligently on almost any subject, though he didn't seem particularly interested in politics.

Sirhan told Welch he'd been expelled from school after an affair with a math teacher, but Welch never saw Sirhan dating and thought he'd made up the story to answer ribbing about his lack of girlfriends.

Sirhan later wrote obsessively in his diary about another employee at the ranch, Peggy Osterkamp. "She looked beautiful on a horse," he said later. Peggy had a few short conversations with him about horses, but they never dated. One time, when she was having lunch at a restaurant in Corona with a friend, Sirhan walked past her table, said "Hello," picked up her check, paid it at the register, and left.

***

Just as Sirhan was settling into his new life, disaster struck. Early one morning, on September 25, several trainers set up a race and asked the exercise boys to ride. The morning fog was so thick, some owners withdrew, but three horses set off, including "Hy-Vera," ridden by Sirhan.

As they thundered around the track at full speed, the fog suddenly closed in, causing the horses to bump one another. Sirhan fell between his horse and the fence, hitting his head. As he lay crumpled up, cut and bleeding on the ground, he screamed in pain.

"I was supposed to work the horse for three hundred yards," he said later. "Fifty yards after I started, sir, I don't remember anything .... I fell from that horse and was knocked unconscious."

He was taken to Corona Community Hospital, where Dr. Richard Nelson reported a two-inch cut on his chin, a cut on the upper lid of his left eye requiring stitches, and bruises and abrasions.

Sirhan complained he "hurt all over" and "was a very nervous patient, afraid of needles." He was hospitalized overnight but discharged himself the next day and was back at work a week later with a pay raise for his troubles.

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Sirhan on a horse at the Altfillisch ranch, July 1966.

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Sirhan's Rosicrucian membership card.

The following week, he fell again, reopening the cut over his left eye and sending him back to the hospital for more treatment.

At first, Dr. Nelson referred him to two eye specialists working out of the same office in Corona, Dr. Paul Nilsson and Dr. Milton Miller. Sirhan complained he suffered pain, blurring, and "extreme motion" in his eyes, but they found no evidence of an eye injury, and Miller thought Sirhan was exaggerating.

Sirhan continued to seek treatment for his eye injury and was examined by nine doctors in at least fifteen different visits over the next fifteen months.

***

On November 13, 1966, Sirhan quit. He didn't give a reason, but the writing was on the wall. Sirhan wanted to be a full-time jockey, but Altfillisch didn't think he was up to it. One of the trainers, Robert Wheeler, got Sirhan a job with his father as an exercise boy at Del Mar Race Track. But two weeks later, supervisor Larry Peters saw Sirhan fall from a horse, and a few days later, he almost fell again. At the end of the month, Peters told Sirhan he'd never make it as a jockey and dismissed him.

Wheeler remembered Sirhan as intelligent and well mannered, but once, he lost his temper and kicked a horse. When Wheeler asked why, Sirhan replied, "He provoked me."

On December 2, Sirhan returned to the Granja Vista Del Rio Ranch, and Burt Altfillisch gave him his old job back. He exercised horses at the ranch for ten days, then quit for good and moved back to Pasadena.

***

Sirhan telephoned Dr. Miller after his second visit on December 20 to request a letter verifying his injuries for a disability claim. When Miller declined, "Sirhan said I'd better do what he told me to, or he was 'gonna git me' and I 'would be sorry,' or words to that effect. I didn't know what to think. Before I could answer him, he just hung up."

Sirhan was unemployed for the next nine months. Details about his life during this period are sketchy. He started work at a health food store in Pasadena on September 24, 1967, but there are only four entries in his FBI chronology for earlier in the year -- three medical exams related to the fall -- on February 21, April 6, and September 6 -- and a job consultation at PCC in July.

In April 1967, he filed a disability complaint for workmen's compensation. He visited eye doctor Albert Tashma and complained he couldn't rotate his left eye or "look in both directions like I used to," but Dr. Tashma reported "normal binocular function" and "no permanent disability." Sirhan also saw neurologist Forrest Johnson and complained of back pain, but the radiology report was normal. Undeterred, Sirhan continued to seek medical documentation of his eye and back ailments until the end of the year, but the doctors he saw didn't find much wrong with him.

***

Though there seemed to be no lasting physical damage, those around Sirhan noticed a marked personality change after the falls. He became more withdrawn and irritable. His mother felt "he wasn't himself. I can't talk to him." Terry Welch said Sirhan "underwent a complete personality change." He became a loner -- quiet and aloof, unpredictable and resentful toward anyone with money.

Tom Rathke visited Sirhan in Pasadena that year: "Something happened to him after he got hurt. He just wasn't the same kid .... You really couldn't even talk to him .... He had his mind made up and that was the end of it. ... There was no more laughing .... [He was] just rigid."

Sirhan's older brother Sharif also lamented the change: "He was so nice before the fall ... everybody liked him. But he changed suddenly -- snap -- and became reclusive and irritable .... He'd disappear for four or five hours at a time .... He no longer listened when family members tried to talk to him. The way he acted was abnormal. I discussed it with our mother and she agreed something was wrong but said Sirhan was already seeing a doctor."

***

Now that Sirhan wasn't working, he read more than ever. Anything he could find on the Arab-Israeli situation, even the Jewish newspaper the B'nai B'rith Messenger. He figured "the best way to know what the Zionists are up to is to read what they say." He developed an intense interest in mysticism, self-hypnosis, and improving his mind.

John Strathman was a good friend of Sirhan's at PCC, and they shared a love of languages. John helped Sirhan with his Russian, and Sirhan taught him Arabic. "He was a very intense person ... extremely considerate ... and very eager to learn .... I taught our oldest child a couple of Arabic words, and that seemed to just thrill him."

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Undated photos of Sirhan from police files.

Strathman lost touch with Sirhan while he was away working on the ranch but after that, he saw him two or three times before the shooting. Sirhan told him the accident meant he couldn't be a jockey, "and that seemed to embitter him considerably." He seemed increasingly restless, lonely, and depressed. He said "school wasn't quick enough"; he wanted a more direct route to success and talked of his interest in mystical powers and the occult.

One night, in a restaurant, he claimed he could conjure up a vision of his "guardian angel" for Strathman and his wife to see. When the couple confessed they couldn't see anything, Sirhan admitted his powers weren't fully developed yet.

The last time Strathman and Sirhan saw each other was in front of Sirhan's house in April. He seemed extremely impatient and depressed. "He didn't invite me into the house, which was strange for Sirhan." Strathman couldn't figure out what he'd done wrong, "so I didn't invite him to my home, either, and I stopped calling."

***

That April, Sirhan's membership in the Rosicrucians lapsed when he failed to pay his four-dollar monthly dues, but he kept up his mystical studies. Whatever books he couldn't afford to buy, he'd read at Bryton's used bookstore in Pasadena.

He tried out experiments from a book called Cyclomancy after ordering it through an astrological magazine. He explained in court that it was about white magic: "You can do anything with your mind if you know how ... how you can install a thought in your mind and have it become a reality if you want it to ... the book gave some elementary exercises. One of them, sir, was to put your hand in a very hot pail of water and think cool. I know this sounds queer but, sir, the boiling water on my hand was cool when I put it in. I thought it was cool and I felt that it was cool. And I did it the other way around, with ice cold water, and thought hot; and I believe, sir, it was hot."

He practiced other experiments at the desk in his room, using a mirror and some candles to improve his powers of concentration. He placed a candle between himself and the mirror and if he concentrated on the yellow flame for five or ten minutes, he could change the color of the flame to whatever color he wanted.

He also played with thought transference a bit: "I was in my room, late at night, and my mother was in bed, and just for the hell of it, I thought I would try it. I sent this thought message ... for my mother to get up and go to the toilet. I waited about ten minutes and it didn't work. Nothing happened. I said, 'This is not going to work,' then I got into bed and started to doze. I kept that thought of my mother going to the toilet and the minute I got into bed, the radio switched on and all the lights in the house turned on and about five minutes later, I heard the toilet flushing."

He was impressed with his new powers. "Whenever I heard about it before, I thought it was a lot of baloney but I said, 'I'll take you up on it, I'll try what you say' ... and it worked."

"Where did you feel it would lead you eventually?" he was asked later.

"I didn't really know, except it would lead me to being a better human being, a better mind."

***

Sirhan had kept two spiral notebooks since his days at PCC, with pages full of Russian and Chinese lessons and random scribbling. But during this period, his jottings seemed to take a markedly political turn. The notebooks will be discussed fully in Chapter 10 but three pages in particular are dated and can be slotted into a chronology.

The first two are dated June 2, 1967, three days before the onset of the Arab-Israeli War. A series of border incidents between Israel and its Arab neighbors had escalated to the point where Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships and amassed a thousand tanks and a hundred thousand troops on the border. As tension rose in the Middle East, Sirhan wrote, "Editorial by Geo. Putnam June 2 10.30 P.M," on top of page twenty -- Putnam was the top-rated local newscaster in Los Angeles at the time. Sirhan continued:

An individual's freedom of speech is guaranteed as long as he remains aligned and in accord with what his decadent leaders want him to be.... We the leaders want to be in power and decree as we please and as to what ever is materially expedient to us and our families -- at your cost. Should you dissent, we will find some means to kill you (economically -- socially -- politically -- etc). We will use some of the loopholes that we have constructed in our legislation (which by the way we established with or without your concent -- even tho we tell you that we live in a democracy where the people decide on all important matters that concern them, not their appointees in Congress (the No. 1 clique in degeneration and stagnation and decadense which incidentally we are proud of) American Capitalism will fall an give way to the worker's dictatorship.


While capturing Sirhan's alienation, it's an odd, Communist-inspired rant for a person who had shown no prior interest in "the worker's dictatorship." Two of Sirhan's friends espoused these views. Walter Crowe was a member of the Communist Party and Tom Good was an anarchist, but neither saw Sirhan very often, and he never expressed much interest in their politics.

Page twenty-one is written in pencil, apparently two hours later:

2 June 67, 12.30 p.m.

A Declaration of War Against America

When in the course of human events it has become necessary for me to equalize and seek revenge for all the inhuman treatments committed against me by the American people.

The manifestation of this Declaration will be executed by its purporter(s) as soon as he is able to command a sum of money ($2000) and to acquire some firearms -- the specifications of which have not been established yet.

The victims of the party in favor of this declaration will be or are now -- the President, vice, etc. -- down the ladder.

The time will be chosen by the author at the convenience of the accused.

The method of assault is immaterial -- however the type of weapon used should influence it somehow.

The author believes that many in fact multitudes of people are in harmony with his thoughts and feelings.

The conflict and violence in the world subsequent to the enforcement of this decree, shall not be considered lightly by the author of this memoranda, rather he hopes that they be the initiatory military steps to WWIII -- the author expresses his wishes very bluntly that he wants to be recorded by historians as the man who triggered off the last war.

Life is ambivalence

Life is a struggle

Life is wicked

If life is in any way otherwise, I have honestly never seen it. I always seem to be on the loosing end. Always the one exploited to the fullest.


Sirhan was later asked about this passage in court.

"What was in your mind when you wrote that?"

"I must have been a maniac at the time. I don't remember what was on my mind."

"Did you have in mind on the 2nd of June, 1967, at some time killing the President and Vice-President of the United States of America?"

"Sir, if that is what I wrote and that is how I felt at the time, I must have been provoked to the point, sir, where I would have blasted anybody."

"Is it your recollection now that you had in mind acquiring a weapon of some kind for the purpose of killing the President, the Vice-President and so on down the ladder?"

"No, sir, I don't know what I had in mind."

"That is what you said, isn't it."

"That is what I said, but it's not me, sir. It's not Sirhan sitting right here who wrote that."

"Did you feel you had been exploited?"

"That's the problem, sir. I don't think I have ever been. I could have been provoked, sir, by that editorial by George Putnam .... Something must have moved me to write this .... I don't remember what my exact frame of mind was at the time."

***

The "$2000" reference was odd because it matched the disability award Sirhan got for his injuries the following April. After lawyers' fees, Sirhan pocketed $1,705. Sirhan was disappointed he got so little, so how could he have predicted the size of his award nine months before? Were these statements really written on June 2, 1967, or postdated to look that way?

It should be noted the dates on both pages and "the America must fall" reference are written in slightly different writing and different pen than the main body of text on each page, suggesting they may have been added later.

***

On June 5, 1967, a surprise preemptive strike by the Israeli air force destroyed more than 300 of the 450 planes in the Egyptian Air Force before they could even get off the ground. Six days later, the war was over. Jerusalem was under full Israeli control, and Sirhan was "burned up."

***

Sirhan was still out of work come September. His mother was a long-standing customer at John Weidner's health food store, Organic Pasadena, and asked Weidner if he could give Sirhan a job. Weidner needed help on Sundays, so on September 24, Sirhan was taken on as a part-time store clerk and deliveryman for two dollars an hour. Two months later, Sirhan became a full-time employee.

"He was a good worker," Weidner said later, "an honest man, with principles. He didn't smoke or drink, but he was emotional. He would resent authority. He didn't like taking orders."

He was neat, courteous to customers, and he got along well with the rest of the staff. Weidner trusted him to take money to the bank but felt he had an inferiority complex because of his height. "He had a lot of complexes," he said, "mainly related to Israel. He claimed when he was young, he had seen some relatives, I think, killed by Israelis."

Weidner told Sirhan he was a member of the Dutch resistance in World War II, helping Jews escape Nazi-occupied Holland. "I spoke with him about the Jewish people who suffered so, and told him how my own sister was killed by the Germans, my best friends tortured and arrested. I told him I had forgiven the Germans. He said: 'I would like to be like you -- but I cannot forgive.'''

***

Mrs. Donald Boyko first met Sirhan when she started work as a saleslady at Weidner's store shortly after Christmas, 1967. Everybody called him "Sol," and he drove around making deliveries in Weidner's station wagon. He was polite and respectful and carried customers' groceries to waiting cars.

Over the next few months, Boyko gained a close insight into Sirhan's life at the time. He went to Santa Anita on Saturdays but kept losing on the horses. This frustrated him because he was very interested in money and "harbored a great envy for the good fortunes of others," criticizing rich Jews and Nelson Rockefeller, but never mentioning Robert Kennedy.

"He was very conscious of his size," she said. "Being a little person, he felt disadvantaged and had a defensive complex about it."

No one ever came to visit him at the store and he showed no interest in girls, saying dating was a waste of time. Instead, he was making "a comparative study of religion."

Boyko and Weidner were Seventh-day Adventists, and Sirhan asked Weidner's nephew, Henry Peters, a minister visiting from Wisconsin, to come to the house and give him Bible lessons. On Tuesday nights, they sat with Mrs. Sirhan in the dining room and covered topics like "God's Forgotten Riches" and "The Problems of Sin."

Boyko said Weidner was a domineering taskmaster, harsh and rude to his employees, particularly Sirhan. At first, Sol would try to stand his ground: "You just don't talk to me like that. You have to treat me like a man," he'd say, then walk away in desperation and frustration.

Boyko tried to mediate, but after a while, there were arguments almost every day. "Sirhan wanted Weidner to fire him so he could get some severance pay, but Weidner sensed this and would not fire him."

Despite his heated exchanges with Weidner, Sirhan never expressed any strong hatred toward him, and when Sirhan's picture appeared in the paper after the assassination, nobody at the store could believe it.

"Mr. Weidner's reaction was electric," recalled Boyko. "He walked around the store beating his fists to his head, saying 'It's him, it's him -- it's got to be him; and then to a customer who had been friendly to Sirhan in the past, he said, 'You see -- I was right about him. I don't know why he didn't kill me -- he hated me so.'"

***

In late January, while still working at Weidner's store, Sirhan asked his brother Munir if he knew anyone who had a gun to sell. Munir knew a guy at work who had one -- George Erhard. After work one day in the middle of February, Munir chatted with George about the gun in the parking lot of Nash's Department Store. Erhard went home to get the gun, and they agreed to meet later on a street corner near the Sirhan home.

Sirhan's car was broken at the time, so when he walked home that evening, Munir approached him and told him these friends at work had a gun they wanted to sell and were waiting on the corner.

"Let's go down and see what they have," said Sirhan.

Sirhan had looked at guns before in a couple of gun stores and had experience handling them, taking them apart, and even shooting .22s and .45s in the Cadet Corps. The brothers didn't realize at the time that it was illegal for an alien to have a gun.

Erhard brought along his friend William Price, and Sirhan approached Price and asked to see the gun. The brothers examined the gun and spoke in Arabic. Sirhan thought it was a pretty good gun. Erhard asked for thirty dollars but settled for twenty-five. Munir was six dollars short, so Sirhan gave him the balance, and Price handed Sirhan the gun.

It was an eight-shot, Iver Johnson, double-action, .22-caliber revolver. Later, in court, perhaps to protect his brother, Sirhan said he bought the gun and paid for it himself.

"Your brother paid most of the cash?"

"No, sir. I am the one that paid for the gun. It was my money that paid for the gun."

Munir was the wild one in the family. While he was still at school, his list of "police contacts" was impressive -- malicious mischief; reported missing and later found sleeping in a neighbor's garage; chased by California Highway Patrol in a high-speed pursuit through Pasadena, which resulted in Munir crashing Saidallah's car into a tree and being knocked unconscious; subject of a juvenile investigation prompted by lewd photographs found in his car, later involving an alleged sex and homosexual party -- all before he was seventeen.

In 1966, he was arrested for vagrancy and possession of and selling marijuana to a state narcotics agent. He was convicted on the drug charge that October and sentenced to a year in jail and five years' probation. His attorney later persuaded the court to vacate the sentence and transfer it to juvenile court, but Munir was ordered deported by the INS the following July as a result of his felony conviction.

Now he was on probation, appealing deportation. If there was evidence he bought a gun, he'd be kicked out of the country.

***

"What did you want a gun for?" Sirhan was later asked by prosecutors.

"I don't know, sir.... It could have been from watching the westerns on television."

"You don't know whether it was for hunting or target shooting?"

"Probably both."

"Have you ever been hunting?"

"No, sir, I never have."

"Why did you want to buy one?" asked Cooper.

"I liked guns, sir.... It was cheap .... It was a fairly good gun, almost a new one. It appealed to me."

"Well, what did you intend to do with it after you bought it?"

"Shoot it, I guess."

"Shoot what?"

"Shoot at the shooting ranges."
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Re: Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kenn

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:11 am

PART 2 OF 2

How did he explain the writing dated June 2, 1967 -- his talk about revolution and the weapon being undecided -- and his purchase of a gun six months later?

"I can't, but that writing, sir, as I said, was good as long as the pen was in my hand writing that and, after that, I had no recollection of it."

"You mean it was just like turning off a water spigot?"

"That is my nature, sir."

***

The brothers bought the gun, Sirhan put it in his room, and Munir "just forgot about it." In February and March, Sirhan sent off two money orders to reactivate his Rosicrucian membership and soon started receiving the Rosicrucian Digest again.

***

On March 7, Weidner and Sirhan had their final argument at work. Weidner rebuked Sirhan for failing to cover a vegetable stand before closing, and Sirhan became extremely angry and defensive. When store manager Retta Drake tried to calm Sirhan down, Weidner ordered her not to talk to him, and she immediately quit in disgust.

Weidner ordered Sirhan out of the store, but he sat down and refused to leave until he was given two weeks' pay he believed he was owed and $180 severance pay. Weidner called the police, and when the officers arrived, Sirhan left without further incident.

Later in the day, Sirhan filed a labor claim against Weidner, and at a subsequent hearing, Weidner claimed he fired Sirhan because his work was unsatisfactory. The labor commissioner found insufficient evidence in favor of Sirhan and dismissed the case without prejudice.

Sirhan interviewed for other jobs but was turned down due to his lack of educational background.

***

Contrary to previous claims, Sirhan did not mysteriously disappear for three months in the period leading up to the Kennedy assassination. His family confirmed to the FBI that "Sirhan never stayed away from home one night in the past year until he was arrested for the shooting of Senator Kennedy."

Out of work again, Sirhan spent more time at the racetrack while continuing his Rosicrucian experiments. He tried out an experiment at Santa Anita on his birthday, March 19. He bet the daily double on horses one and nine but then found out horse one was Press Agent, a long shot owned by his old boss Burt Altfillisch.

"I didn't want that horse to win, sir," he later told his trial attorney Grant Cooper. "I don't know why. And I kept saying in my mind, 'you son-of-a-bitch, you are not going to win, period.' When I watched him in the parade ... 'He's not going to win, he's not going to win, he's not going to win.' Well, when that horse got in the gate, sir, and the horses started to run, three paces out of the gate, sir, and that horse wheels and broke through the temporary rail, dropped his jockey and was disqualified."

"And I take it you felt that was your power of concentration?"

"I can't prove it, sir, but it worked."

***

Sirhan also had time to try out his gun. He went to the San Gabriel Valley Gun Range on weekends and stayed around two hours, long enough to acquaint himself with the gun and how to shoot it. He fired two or three boxes of ammunition, then put the empty gun on the backseat of his car. He went shooting in San Gabriel or at the Corona Police Range about six times before the assassination.

"Why did you practice with the gun?" asked his attorney Cooper.

"I liked to. I didn't have any work at the time."

"Well, did you want to become proficient in this revolution you were about to create?"

"Sir, that was completely out of my mind at the time. I was interested, sir, in practicing, target practicing, perfection."

***

On April 12, 1968, the Argonaut Insurance Company sent Sirhan a check for $1,705 to settle his compensation claim. Sirhan didn't have a bank account, so he cashed the check, fixed up his car, and gave the rest to his mother for safekeeping. He had no regular friends but would chat with garbage collector Alvin Clark when he stopped on Howard Street for his noontime break on Wednesdays. Sirhan would bring out lemonade and sandwiches, and they'd shoot the breeze.

On May 2, Sirhan met high school friend Walter Crowe at Bob's Big Boy. Crowe hadn't seen Sirhan since PCC, back when Crowe was trying to organize a campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society; Sirhan hadn't shown much interest. Crowe became a member of the Communist Party and later worried that he might have inspired some of the Communist writing in Sirhan's notebook. He was treated as a "hot potato" for a while by the feds.

But that night, they went out on the town. They met two friends, drank four pitchers of beer, and cruised topless bars like the Cat Patch in Pasadena. They discussed Crowe's involvement with the Communist Party, and Sirhan talked about the Arab terrorist group Al Fatah. But Crowe's attempts to interest Sirhan in communism seemed to "turn him off."

***

In early May, Sirhan received the new issue of the Rosicrucian Digest. An article on page 191 caught his eye -- "Put It in Writing," by Arthur Fettig:

***

"Plan to Dare something different -- something exciting! Plan to become a success in some endeavor and be ready to jump barefoot into the excitement of living. But here's a word of advice: put it in writing! Put your plan, your goal, your idea in writing, and see how it suddenly catches fire. See how it gains momentum by the simple process of writing it down!

"Try it. Pick a goal. Set a target date.

"I Dare you to write it down!"


On May 18, Sirhan dared to write it down.

May 18 9.45 AM - 68

My determination to eliminate R.F.K. is becoming more the more of an unshakable obsession ... R.F.K. must die -- RFK must be killed Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated R.F.K. must be assassinated ... R.F.K. must be assassinated assassinated ... Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June 68 Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated I have never heard please pay to the order of of of of of


"Do you recall what your feelings were about Robert Kennedy on or about May 18?" he was later asked.

"It could have been the time, sir, when he came out and said he would send fifty planes to Israel," said Sirhan.

Sirhan recalled one evening when he brewed himself some tea and sat down to watch TV. "Well, as I flipped the channel, sir, this mention of Robert Kennedy came over and there was a biography of Robert Kennedy and I sat there and started to watch it. ... The last part of this program, sir, he spoke of Robert Kennedy as being for the underdog, the disadvantaged and the scum of society, that he wanted to help the poorest people and the most prejudiced against and the weakest.

"And at that moment, sir, they showed on the television where Robert Kennedy in 1948 was in Israel helping to, so I thought, celebrate the Israelites, sir, and the establishment of the state of Israel. And the way that he spoke, well, it just bugged me, sir, it burned me up.

"Up until that time, I had loved Robert Kennedy, I cared for him very much and I hoped he would win the Presidency until that moment, sir. But when I saw, heard, he was supporting Israel, sir, not in 1968, but he was supporting it from all the way back from its inception in 1948, sir. And he was doing a lot of things behind my back that I didn't know about ... it burned me up, sir. And that is most likely, sir, when I had written this."

***

The documentary in question was The Story of Robert Kennedy, a thirty-minute campaign film directed by John Frankenheimer. Kennedy didn't talk of sending bombers to Israel or even state his present support for Israel, but one sequence spoke of his reports from Israel as a young journalist in 1948. "He wrote his dispatches and came to a decision," intoned the narrator, as an Israeli flag fluttered for thirty seconds on the breeze. "Bobby Kennedy decided his future lay in the affairs of men and nations."

According to Sirhan, this none-too-subtle play for the Jewish vote -- Kennedy juxtaposed with an Israeli flag -- led to an instant decision to assassinate him. To me, this just doesn't make sense.

***

Author Robert Blair Kaiser pointed out another problem with this story. The notebook was written on the morning of May 18. The documentary was first shown in the Los Angeles area on Channel 2 (KNXT) at nine p.m. on May 20. It was repeated on Channel 7 five days later, billed as "an intimate and surprising account of the candidate through his years as Attorney General and a member of the National Security Council."

Kennedy didn't advocate sending fifty jet bombers to Israel until a speech on May 26 at Temple Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon. How could Sirhan write of his increasingly "unshakable obsession" to kill Kennedy on May 18 when he wasn't even aware of Kennedy's support for Israel until two days later and the bombers weren't mentioned until six days after that?

***

To complicate matters, Sirhan claimed he couldn't remember writing in the notebooks.

"You don't remember writing it?"

"I don't remember writing it."

Cooper got Sirhan to read a couple of lines.

"Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated by 5 June 68."

"Now, what is the significance of 5 June 68?"

"5 June means the beginning of the Israeli assault, the Israeli aggression against the Arab people in 1967 ... it invoked in me something that I can't describe ... the Zionists to me is just like the Communists to you."

''And did you feel Robert F. Kennedy must die?"

''At that time, sir, that was the way I felt about it, and if he were right in front of me, so help me God, he would have died right then and there."

But Sirhan didn't remember writing it.

"I must have been burned up .... That writing was good just for that period of time that it was written there, sir."

"Well, how do you know how you felt at the time when you don't remember writing it?"

''As I say, I was provoked. I was just pissed off."

"You try to watch your language, Sirhan, please. Do you remember writing 'Please pay to the order of of of of of of of of of of of this or that?'"

"No, sir, I don't remember that. ... I don't have a bank account. I don't understand it."

"But you don't deny writing it?"

"No, I don't deny it. It is my writing."

***

Kennedy made three public pledges of military support for Israel during his primary campaigns in Oregon and California. The first was at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles on May 20. Kennedy spoke in the sanctuary, wearing a Jewish skullcap, or yarmulke, and columnist David Lawrence noted some hypocrisy in what he said. In an article titled "Paradoxical Bob," he wrote:

Presidential candidates are out to get votes and some of them do not realize their own inconsistencies. Just the other day, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy of New York made a speech in Los Angeles which certainly was received with favor by Protestant, Catholic and Jewish groups which have been staunchly supporting the cause of Israel against Egypt and the Arab countries.

Kennedy said: "We cannot -- and will not -- permit the Soviet Union to achieve an imbalance in the Middle East. We can and will fully assist Israel -- with arms if necessary -- to meet the threat of massive Soviet military build-ups. We cannot -- and will not -- render Israel defenseless in the face of aggression.


Yet, Lawrence went on to say, the Soviet Union had been supplying North Vietnam with a billion dollars' worth of weapons a year for the last three years and Kennedy was now advocating U.S. withdrawal. Kennedy said the United States should use its power "only as a strategic reserve against the most serious of threats." Why then the double standard, sending military support to Israel when many saw it just as necessary to protect the countries of Southeast Asia from aggression? Why were liberal-minded politicians "doves" on Vietnam and "hawks" on the Middle East? The fear of the draft taking young Americans to Vietnam on the one hand, concluded Lawrence, and the Jewish vote on the other.

Sirhan clipped Lawrence's column from the May 26 edition of the Pasadena Independent Star-News, and the clipping was found in his shirt pocket after his arrest at the Ambassador.

***

On the night of May 26, Kennedy spoke at Temple Neveh Shalom in Portland and outlined a more detailed program of aid for Israel. He said the United States must defend Israel "from whatever source" and drew a sharp distinction between Israel and Vietnam: "Our obligations to Israel, unlike our obligations to other countries, are clear and imperative .... Israel is the very opposite of Vietnam. Israel's government is democratic, effective, free of corruption, its people united in its support. The Soviets have sent supersonic fighters to the Arabs. Soviet planes and pilots they have trained are on Arab soil. Forty Soviet warships are in the Mediterranean, and their advisers are in Arab nations."

He said that the United States could not permit such an imbalance and "the United States should without delay sell Israel the 50 Phantom jets she has so long been promised."

***

The next day, the Pasadena Independent Star-News carried a photograph of a skullcapped Kennedy speaking to the congregation across two columns at the top of page three. The caption read, "Bobby Says 'Shalom' -- Senator Robert F. Kennedy, wearing a traditional Jewish yarmulke, addresses the Neveh Shalom congregation in Portland on his campaign tour of Oregon. He told the congregation the U.S. must support Israel against outside aggression."

Sirhan had read David Lawrence's article in the same paper the day before, so it's quite likely Sirhan saw this photograph. While the text of the speech was not reported in the Los Angeles papers, it was carried by the Associated Press in a late-night wire and may have been picked up by some of the local radio stations. Sirhan remembered hearing news of it on KFWB all-news radio, his mother's favorite station, playing in her room next to his.

"It was the hot news ... the announcer said that Robert Kennedy was at some Jewish Club in Beverly Hills ... and that is where he had committed himself to formally sending 50 jet bombers to Israel."

"What did that make you think?"

"I thought Robert Kennedy was not all the good guy he claimed to be .... It boiled me up again."

Sirhan was still practicing his Rosicrucian studies in the mirror.

"He bugged me to the point, sir, where as I was concentrating in the mirror, sir, instead of seeing my own face, I actually saw his face, sir. I was that burned up about him."

"You actually saw his face."

''Again, sir, this is an illusion. I can't prove it but I saw it in that mirror. His face."

***

While this political rage was churning in Sirhan, to the outside world, he was the same mild-mannered young man as before. Ten days before the shooting, Sirhan stopped by to play Chinese checkers with two elderly neighbors he visited occasionally. On the day of his arrest, one of the neighbors, Mrs. Blakeslee, called him "a wonderful boy, an example of a good boy."

On Tuesday, May 28, a week before the assassination, Sirhan attended his first Rosicrucian meeting at the lodge in Pasadena. He volunteered for an experiment on touch sensations and was blindfolded. As the master, Ted Stevens, touched his skin with different objects, Sirhan had to guess how many there were. After the meeting, he browsed the literature briefly, then left as if he was in a hurry.

***

On June 1, Sirhan asked his mother for three hundred dollars of the insurance money, saying he needed it to get a job. There was only four hundred dollars left, so she threw it at him angrily, saying he wanted it only to bet on horses. He picked the money up, put three hundred in his pocket, and gave her the rest.

"This is for you, Mother."

Sirhan's worldly possessions at this point ran to four hundred sixty-odd dollars in his pocket, a patched-up pink-and-white DeSoto, a gun, two spiral notebooks full of strange, repetitive writing, and an impressive library on Rosicrucianism.

***

At 12:50 that afternoon, Sirhan paid a dollar and signed in at the Corona Police Pistol Range and practiced for a couple of hours. Prosecution handwriting expert Lawrence Sloan later confirmed that the signature in the log book was in Sirhan's handwriting, and according to the rosters, no one else was shooting on the range at that time.

But was it really Sirhan? The only people who saw him at the range that day were the range master, William Marks, and his deputy, Harry Starr, both regular Corona policemen.

Marks identified Sirhan from a police mug shot but described him as twenty to thirty years old, six foot to six foot two, and 215 to 225 pounds, with brown hair. This was at least eight inches too tall, double Sirhan's weight, and the wrong hair color. Marks said "Sirhan" was accompanied by a man of about the same age, five-five to five-seven and 130 to 145 pounds, with brown hair, a pencil moustache, and horn-rim glasses. The second man spoke with an unknown foreign accent and questioned Marks about aliens using the range, but did not shoot. "Sirhan" fired a .22-caliber gun, which he carried in a zippered carrying case (something the real Sirhan did not own).

Officer Harry Starr provided the same description.

By late December, Marks was "still positive that the person who signed Sirhan Sirhan on the roster is over six feet and over two hundred pounds with a face similar to Sirhan's."

Although no witnesses placed Sirhan on the gun range and the range masters described an apparent imposter signing his name, "investigators felt that Marks and Starr were confusing Sirhan with some other shooter."

During the trial, the prosecution called Marks to testify to Sirhan's handwriting on the sign-in sheet, in an attempt to show the premeditation of an assassin getting in some practice at a police range, of all places. Marks's mother had died back in Tennessee, so Harry Starr took his place on the stand.

Starr said Marks was in the office and he was out on the range when "Sirhan" signed in but Starr talked to him on the range later. Deputy DA John Howard asked Starr if he could identify the defendant as the same man.

"Do you want a stipulation?" asked defense counsel Grant Cooper, somewhat bizarrely.

"No, I don't think so," said Howard. "Thinking back to that Saturday, June 1st ... did you see the defendant?"

"I can't truthfully say that that is the man," said Starr. "I picked out a picture that resembled the man but to be truthful about it, I cannot say that he is the man."

"I will offer a stipulation, having first talked to counsel," said Cooper.

"We will accept the stipulation," said a grateful Howard.

Cooper, shamefully unaware of the range master's statements, stipulated that Sirhan was on the range.

***

Sirhan left the range at three and stopped off at the Lock, Stock 'n Barrel gun shop in San Gabriel on his way home. Retired fireman Larry Arnot was the clerk who served him.

Sirhan said he asked for Federal long rifle .22s, his favorite brand, but Arnot didn't have any.

"Well, give me your best," said Sirhan.

Arnot pulled out some CCI Mini-Mags and a cheaper brand of Super-X. Sirhan hadn't tried these brands before, so he bought two boxes of each. The receipt was later found in the glove compartment of his car.

But according to Arnot, Sirhan entered the store with two other men. The group looked very serious and didn't talk among themselves.

"I want two boxes of Mini-Mags," said Sirhan.

"Standard or hollow points?" asked Arnot.

"Hollow points," came the reply.

"Going rabbit hunting?"

"That's the plan," said Sirhan.

"And give me two boxes of Super-X Westerns," chimed in one of the others. Arnot put the four boxes on the same sales slip; the men paid him and left. Later, the FBI showed Arnot photographs of the five Sirhan brothers -- the eldest Saidallah, Sharif, Adel, Sirhan, and Munir. Arnot identified Sirhan as "identical" to the guy who asked for the Mini-Mags and Sharif as strongly resembling the guy who asked for the Super-X. Arnot described the second man as the same age as Sirhan but a couple of inches taller, with a darker complexion, a broad, flattened nose, short, black, kinky hair, and somehow looking Mexican or American Indian. But Sharif was ten years older than Sirhan and hadn't spoken to him for three years, so it's highly unlikely it was him.

***

One of the owners of the shop, Donna Herrick, was not there that day, but she told the FBI that back on April 3, Sirhan had come into the shop with two other foreign males and asked for .357 tank-piercing ammo. Her husband, Ben, said they didn't have any, and the three left. She was positive the man who spoke was Sirhan. She couldn't understand his accent and asked Ben to help. The other men bore a strong resemblance to Adel and Sharif Sirhan.

Adel denied ever going to a gun shop with Sirhan.

Arnot and Donna Herrick later failed polygraphs conducted by LAPD sergeant Enrique Hernandez on August 6. Hernandez concluded that Donna Herrick had never seen Sirhan, and "Arnot subsequently admitted that he did not remember seeing Sirhan in the store."

***

If Sirhan missed the May 26 reference to the bombers, they came up again during Kennedy's televised debate with Senator McCarthy on Saturday night. Kennedy stressed the U.S. commitment to Israel and renewed his promise to send fifty Phantom jets.

On June 4, the Israeli Air Force bombed the Jordanian town of Irbin, twenty miles inside the border, killing seventy civilians. The news reached Los Angeles on the afternoon of June 4, and the next day's Los Angeles Times carried the headline "Israel Jets Rip Jordan as New Fighting Erupts" on its front page, alongside news of the Kennedy assassination.

***

On Sunday, June 2, Sirhan got up early and drove his mother to church. In the early afternoon, he went back to the Corona Police Range but was turned away -- only large-bore guns were allowed on Sundays. On the way home, he bought a copy of the Los Angeles Times and saw a big advertisement inviting the public to come down to see and hear Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel.

"It said, 'You and your friends are invited to come down.' I thought I was as eligible as anybody else," he recalled later in court.

"On May 18th, you had written that Senator Robert F. Kennedy must die and that he must die by June 5, 1968."

"Yes, sir."

"When you read this on Sunday, the 2nd of June, did you have in mind going to the Ambassador Hotel for the purpose of killing Robert F. Kennedy?"

"No, sir, I did not .... That was completely forgotten from my mind."

"Completely forgotten?"

"Like I said, sir ... the feelings that I had when I wrote it were good as long as I was writing it -- for that period of time only, sir."

"In May, you had heard Senator Kennedy advocate sending bombers to Israel. Did you forget that?"

"No. Every time I was provoked, I would have written it that way. My feeling about Robert Kennedy was only good as long as I was writing that stuff."

***

Sirhan stopped off at Stan's Drive-In in Hollywood for some coffee and some of their home-made cherry pie. He got directions to the Ambassador and arrived at the hotel between six and seven thirty. He walked up a circular stairway to the main lobby on the second floor and saw a policeman and a guard. He showed them the ad and was directed to where the rally was going to be.

"Were there many people in that room?"

"Hundreds and hundreds."

"And did you talk to anybody that you recall?'

"I talked to whoever wanted to talk to me, sir."

"Did you have the gun with you?"

"No, sir, I did not."

"What did you do with it?"

"I left it at home, sir."

After a while, he left the room where the reception was being held.

"It became too hot for me, too many bright lights."

At the other end of the lobby, he found an urn with some coffee and Chinese fortune cookies. By the time he went back, Kennedy was addressing the crowd, and it was so packed, he and many others couldn't get in. The Kennedy staff said the senator would come out later to address the overflow crowd by a fountain outside, so Sirhan waited around, figuring "I came down to see him; I might as well see him."

***

Sirhan couldn't remember how long he waited.

"With all the excitement, sir, I couldn't keep track of the time."

"Did you listen to the speech?"

"Yes.... He encouraged all his supporters to go out for the last drive ... and he sang with a movie star, I think." Actually, it was the crooner Andy Williams.

"Did you enjoy yourself?"

"I was really thrilled, sir."

"Was it the first time you had seen Robert Kennedy?"

"The first time, sir, yes, sir. And my whole attitude towards him changed. Because every time before, I associated him with the Phantom jet bombers that he was going to send to Israel and I pictured him as a villain ... but when I saw him that night, he looked like a saint to me."

"You honestly mean that?"

"I honestly mean that, sir.... He looked like a saint to me. I liked him." Two prosecution witnesses testified that they got lost in the hotel corridors and ran across Sirhan in the pantry area that night.

"Did you go browsing around looking for the kitchen and the pantry and other places where you might be able to shoot?"

"No, sir. I did not. I might add, sir, those ladies who said I was going around, in my own words, sir, were complete liars."

"Well, now, pardon me, Sirhan. Maybe they were mistaken."

"Well, they swore to tell the truth, sir, and they didn't."

***

In a later interview, NBC's Jack Perkins returned to this point: "Sirhan, the obvious question is, of course: did you go to the Ambassador Hotel that Sunday to case the place, to plan, to plot, to wait, to stake it out, to find out where you could shoot him?"

"Sir, I know this sounds unbelievable but I went there just to see Senator Kennedy."

***

Sirhan couldn't explain to his attorney Grant Cooper why his view of Kennedy changed so drastically over the next few days. On June 2, he saw him as a saint, "but his willingness, his commitment to send those 50 Phantom jet bombers to Israel was still solidified in my mind .... I didn't like that at all."

After seeing Kennedy at the hotel, Sirhan went home and went to bed. He didn't do any writing that night.
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Re: Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kenn

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 7:57 pm

FIVE: The Girl in the Polka-Dot Dress

The last thing Sirhan remembered before the shooting was pouring coffee for a beautiful girl. Probed by defense psychiatrist Dr. Diamond, he tunneled back into his memory, struggling to recall the sequence of events that led him into the pantry.

Sirhan wasn't normally a drinker, but when he got to the Ambassador Hotel that night, it was hot and he wanted to fit in, so he drank four Tom Collins cocktails as he wandered around the campaign parties. This made him very sleepy, so he decided to walk back to his car to drive home. He then realized he was too drunk to drive, so he went back to the hotel in search of coffee. And he found some. There was a girl there, next to a big, shiny coffee urn. She was tired and wanted coffee, too. She was dark skinned and appeared to be Armenian, Spanish, or Mexican. He couldn't remember what she was wearing or where exactly they were, but there were a lot of bright lights, "a helluva lot of lights."

"So I gave her a cup; then I made some for me and we sat there. Then she moved and I followed her. She led me into a dark place."

The next thing he knew, he was being choked on the steam table.

"I only remember the girl and the coffee. That's it. It's a blank. ... When people talked about the girl in the polka-dot dress," he told his defense team, "maybe they were thinking of the girl I was having coffee with."

A mysterious girl was first spotted with Sirhan at a series of Kennedy campaign rallies in the weeks leading up to the assassination. The LAPD rejected these sightings -- the stalker pattern fit their "lone gunman" profile, but a female accomplice didn't. While Sirhan has always denied being at any rallies, the witnesses in each case are fairly convincing.

On May 20, two days after Sirhan's infamous notebook entry, there was a luncheon for Senator Kennedy and four hundred guests at Robbie's Restaurant in Pomona. Pomona police officer William Schneid spotted an attractive young woman in a satin blouse standing by the door to the restaurant kitchen, looking as if she was trying to get inside.

Schneid described her as Caucasian, five-six, twenty-five to thirty, with medium-blond, shoulder-length hair and a nice figure. He intercepted her.

''I'm sorry, you can't go in there."

"Which way will Kennedy go in to lunch?" the girl asked.

"He'll probably go up the stairs to the second floor."

As Kennedy made his entrance and climbed the stairs to the second-floor banquet room, Schneid watched the girl bolt to the foot of the stairs.

As a line formed at the bottom of the stairway and Albert LeBeau, a brawny thirty-five-year-old blond bartender, started taking tickets, Schneid saw the young woman climb over a brick flower holder and jump onto the stairs behind LeBeau. Then a man climbed over the rail and dropped onto the stairs behind her. LeBeau later said the man resembled Sirhan. The bartender then grabbed the woman to stop her from crashing the luncheon.

"Do you have tickets?"

"We're with the senator's party," the girl replied.

"Then, where are your tickets?"

"We're part of the senator's party. He just waved us to come upstairs."

The young man LeBeau thought was Sirhan said nothing but held his hands against the woman's back, as if pushing her forward. It was an unusually hot day, but "Sirhan" had a heavy jacket draped over his right arm.

The couple returned to the bottom of the stairs, and LeBeau proceeded to admit those with tickets. The would-be crashers seemed to give up trying to get in, and LeBeau lost sight of them.

A few minutes later, LeBeau went upstairs to find a "runner" for one of the newsmen present and found the pair standing against the back wall of the dining room as Kennedy gave a speech to a hundred people. As LeBeau moved through the crowd, he bumped against "Sirhan."

"Pardon me," said LeBeau.

"Why should I?" replied the man. He stood in a suspicious crouch, the coat still over his arm. LeBeau challenged the couple.

"If you're with the Kennedy party, what are you doing in the back of the room?"

"What the hell is it to you?" said "Sirhan."

***

LeBeau was later interviewed by the FBI: "The way his coat was draped over his right elbow, you couldn't see his right hand ... he could have hid a gun under there very nicely."

He picked out Sirhan's mug shot from twenty-five photos of male, Latin types between twenty and twenty-five years old -- "I'm pretty sure this is the man I saw."

Police investigators pulled no punches. "Could you under oath swear that Sirhan is the man involved in the incident on May 20th?"

LeBeau hung his head and stared at the floor.

"No."

And that was the end of their investigation. The final LAPD summary report said LeBeau "initially stated the man was Sirhan, but later admitted he lied." But there were more sightings.

***

Dr. Joseph Sheehan, a professor of psychology at UCLA, and his wife, Margaret, were also positive they saw Sirhan after a Kennedy rally at the LA Sports Arena on May 24, as a good-natured crowd waited to see Kennedy leave. Dr. Sheehan recalled that Sirhan stood in front of him for two or three minutes. He seemed to be alone and "appeared very intense and sinister" and "completely out of character in the crowd." The Sheehans remarked on how suspicious he was and immediately recognized his picture in the paper after the shooting. There was no girl this time, so the LAPD included the Sheehan sighting in their log of Sirhan.

***

On May 30, volunteer Laverne Botting saw two men and a woman come into Kennedy Campaign Headquarters in Azusa. One of the men very closely resembled Sirhan and walked up to her desk while the other two stayed in the background.

"I'm from the Pasadena (campaign) office," "Sirhan" said. "Is Kennedy going to come into your office?"

"No," replied Botting.

The man thanked her, then turned around, and all three of them left.

Botting described the woman as twenty-two to twenty-five years old, five-seven, slim, with an excellent figure and dishwater blond hair; and "Sirhan" as five-four, twenty to twenty-five years old, with dark eyes, black kinky hair, and a broad nose and shoulders.

She picked out Sirhan's mug shot for Patrolman Thompson of the LAPD but could be sure of her identification only if she saw Sirhan in person. The LAPD never gave her the opportunity. Officer Thompson rejected her description of the broad nose and shoulders, concluding, "Witness has obviously made an honest mistake."

***

But Ethel Crehan was also a witness to what Laverne Botting saw. She told the FBI she overheard Ms. Botting talking to the man, and she was "fairly certain" it was Sirhan.

In her first LAPD interview on June 7, Crehan estimated his height as five-five, but when reinterviewed two months later, she remembered it as five-eight. This alone led Officer Thompson to disregard her statement. He concluded, "The person described by Mrs. Crehan as possibly being Sirhan is 4" taller than Sirhan. It is doubtful if the person she observed was Sirhan."

Crehan described the female in the party as five-eight, thin, "nineteen, but made-up to look 23 to 25 years old," with brown or blond shoulder-length, bouffant-styled hair and a "prominent nose."

Botting and Crehan both agreed to take a polygraph test, but none was given. Later, Ms. Botting received an anonymous telephone call.

"I hear you think you saw Sirhan," said a male voice. "You had better be sure of what you're saying."

***

Early Saturday morning, June 1, insurance executive Dean Pack was hiking in the Santa Ana Mountains south of Corona with his teenage son when they came across two men and a woman shooting at cans set up on a hillside.

One of the men strongly resembled Sirhan and was shooting with a pistol. When he saw Pack, he just glared at him. The other two were equally unfriendly. Pack said the second man was six foot tall and ruddy-complexioned, with sandy hair, and the girl was in her early twenties, with long brown hair.

Pack later told author Jonn Christian he was relieved to get out of there before they put a bullet in his back. Pack offered to take the FBI up to the spot to recover bullets, shell casings, and fingerprints, but they weren't interested. Pack's five-line LAPD summary states, "Mr. Pack viewed a photograph of Sirhan [but] could not be positive of his identification." In fact, the LAPD interviewed Pack by telephone and never showed him a photograph.

June 4, 9:15 a.m.

Forty-year-old chemical salesman John Henry Fahey entered the back of the Ambassador Hotel, forty-five minutes late for a meeting with a sales colleague. He couldn't find him in the hotel coffee shop and as he stepped out into the hallway, he spotted a pretty young woman in her late twenties and made a flirtatious comment.

"Do you know where the post office is?" she asked.

Fahey said he didn't realize there was a post office in the hotel.

The young woman left and Fahey went into the coffee shop and sat at the counter. Ten minutes later, she returned and sat down beside him. She had a slight accent he couldn't place and was dressed well and spoke very good English. She was five-eight, with a light Arabic complexion and dirty blond hair, pulled down in a ponytail on one side. He described her nose as "prominent" and "of the hooked fashion ... from the Arabic world," and her clothes, shoes, and purse were all tan.

She'd been in Los Angeles only three days and had just come back from a trip to Eilat, Beirut, Aqaba, and Cairo. At first, she said her name was Alice; then she changed it to Jean.

"I can't go by my real name," she said. When Fahey asked why, she said, "I don't want to get you involved .... I think we're being watched."

Fahey discreetly followed her gaze to a man near the door of the coffee shop, with a dark Mediterranean complexion and sideburns.

Alice or Jean seemed shook up and in trouble -- very nervous, with clammy hands. She asked Fahey if he could help her get a new passport. She wanted to go to Australia to "get away from these people." She said Kennedy was "no good" and asked Fahey to come to "Kennedy's winning reception" that night and "watch them get Mr. Kennedy."

"What d'you mean?" asked Fahey.

"I don't want to get you involved," she said.

"Well, you can trust me, I'm for McCarthy."

"Well, they're going to take care of Mr. Kennedy tonight."

"Who?" asked Fahey.

"I don't know if I can trust you to tell you the whole thing."

At first, Fahey "figured the lady was either nuts, sick or drunk or something, but she wasn't." She seemed genuinely troubled and in need of help. He told her he had a couple of business calls to make in Oxnard and Ventura, and she invited herself along. When she opened her purse to pay the check, Fahey saw a fistful of money inside -- "big stuff -- fifty dollar bills -- hundred dollar bills." But as a gentleman, he insisted on paying for breakfast.

***

As they drove up the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu, Fahey noticed they were being tailed by a thin, gray-haired man in a blue Ford. When Fahey sped up, the Ford sped up. When he slowed down, it slowed down. When he eventually lost the Ford, it was soon replaced by a dark blue VW.

He pulled off the highway above Malibu onto a sightseeing promontory with two large boulders on the left-hand side. The VW pulled in and parked thirty to forty feet behind him.

A stocky man with dark gray hair got out and stretched and stared at Fahey, then backed his VW behind one of the rocks. Fahey pulled out and sped north toward Oxnard. The VW didn't follow.

By the time Fahey got up to Oxnard, his new acquaintance had changed her name to Betty, and they had picked up the blue Ford again.

"They're really after us," she said. "They use radios to communicate with each other."

"Would you like to go to the police?" he asked.

"No, no, no. Just take me back to Los Angeles."

Fahey decided not to call on his accounts after all and lost the Ford coming back down through Ventura. They drove back down the coast, stopping for a bite to eat, and the young woman finally admitted her real name was Gilda Dean (or Gilderdine) Oppenheimer.

She was staying near the Ambassador -- "on Kenmore but near Olympic" -- and Fahey dropped her off at the front entrance to the hotel around seven thirty.

She asked him to come to the "winning reception" that night and meet her in the Ambassador lobby at eight thirty. When Fahey refused, she got angry and jumped out of the car and slammed the door. Fahey watched her walk up the canopied sidewalk from Wilshire Boulevard toward the Ambassador.

***

More than a dozen witnesses saw "the girl in the polka-dot dress" at the Ambassador Hotel that night. Key witnesses consistently described a girl in a white dress with black polka dots either with Sirhan, or making statements while fleeing the scene that implicated her in the shooting.

Chief among these was Sandra Serrano, whose interview with NBC still stands up today as an extraordinarily vivid and credible account of a very traumatic incident. It was to be the first of many interviews: Serrano was quizzed by the LAPD at 2:35 a.m. and again at four o'clock, while the FBI interviewed her the following day. Her story was remarkably detailed and consistent all four times.

Serrano arrived at the hotel with friends around nine fifteen p.m. and spent most of the evening in the Ambassador Ballroom downstairs, thinking this was where Kennedy would speak later. But the room grew hot and claustrophobic -- she'd seen Kennedy speak several times and knew he'd win, so she walked outside onto a fire escape for some air.

She sat down on the fifth or sixth step of a metal stairway that led up to fire doors in the southwest corner of the Embassy Ballroom, where Kennedy would eventually appear. She was sitting there, savoring the occasion and the cool night air, when two or three minutes later, three people came up the stairs -- a girl and two guys. They didn't talk but they seemed to be together. As the woman approached, she said, "Excuse us," and Serrano moved to one side.

Sandra described the girl as a light-skinned Caucasian (Anglo, not Latino), five-six, between twenty-three and twenty-seven years old, with brown eyes and nicely combed, dark brown hair, curled bouffant style to just above the shoulder. She had a nice figure and wore black shoes and a white, voile, knee-length dress with black, quarter-inch polka dots, three-quarter-length sleeves, and a bib collar with a small black bow. She had a "funny nose," a little bit turned up, like "a pixie nose maybe ... a Bob Hope type."

Both men were short, needed a haircut, and looked Mexican American. One was twenty to twenty-five and a bit shorter than the girl -- about five-five -- and overweight, maybe 160 pounds. He had black, greasy hair, long on top and combed straight, but he was "clean shaven and cute." He wore dark trousers, a light sports shirt, and an "autumn gold" cardigan sweater.

The other guy "looked like what we call a 'borracho,' somebody who, you know, just doesn't look right .... He didn't look drunk but sort of messy ... seedy-looking ... like he didn't belong there ... he just didn't fit in with the rest of the crowd." He was "a little man," even shorter than the other two, about five-three, 130 pounds, slim, between twenty-two and twenty-five years old, with black, bushy, curly hair. He wore light, wrinkled clothes -- a light sports shirt and possibly beige pants.

Soon after these three went up, Serrano heard noise from inside, suggesting Kennedy was speaking. No one else came past. Then, fifteen to twenty minutes after seeing the three go up, Serrano heard what sounded like six backfires from a car.

Thirty seconds later, the same girl came running down the stairs, closely followed by the guy in the gold sweater. "She practically stepped on me and she said, 'We've shot him! We've shot him!' Then I said, 'Who did you shoot?' And she said, 'We've shot Senator Kennedy.''' The girl looked pleased, "like 'We finally did it,' like, you know ... 'Good going.'''

Serrano wasn't sure whether to believe her, "so I walked down the stairs. I went to the first floor and everybody was still partying and everything, and I stopped an officer [a hotel security guard] and I says, 'Is it true? -- did they shoot him?' And he said, 'Shoot who?' And I said, 'Senator Kennedy.' And he looked at me and goes, 'No, no.''' She had a glass in her hand and he said she'd had too much to drink.

"And by this time people were starting to form around me and they said, 'What happened?' And I says, 'Well, somebody got shot up there on the second level. ... They said Senator Kennedy got shot.' And everybody was saying, 'Oh, you're nuts,' you know. And some other girls came down and they were crying and crying. And I said, 'What's wrong?' They said, 'They've shot him,' but still nobody would believe anybody. So I walked directly to a telephone and called my parents long-distance."

Image
Sandra Serrano reenacts where she sat on the fire escape for the police.

Image
Wider view of the same stairway leading up to a fire door in the southwest corner of the Embassy Ballroom.

Sandra was crying hysterically on the phone, trying to explain to her mother what had happened, when a girl she recognized came down the hall. She told her mother to wait, then opened the door, and her friend confirmed that Kennedy had been shot.

A distraught Serrano kept repeating to her mother, "Why would they do anything like this? He was such a good man!"

When the FBI asked Serrano why she would call her parents long-distance in Ohio before she was sure Kennedy had been shot, she said, "If you could have seen the expression on [the girl's] face and heard the way she said, 'We shot him; you would have believed her, too."

After calling her parents, Serrano was still crying and near hysterical. "I was crying and crying and crying and people were fainting all over the place; it was quite a turmoil." She sat in front of a television set and said aloud, "I saw these people come down the stairs; what should I do?" Somebody said she should find a police officer, so she walked out of the ballroom and about five minutes after the shooting met her housemate Irene Chavez.

She described what she'd seen and heard, and Chavez tried to calm her down. Then they walked out to the car but the police weren't letting anybody leave. Serrano felt she had to tell someone, so as they came back to the main entrance, she walked up to a man, very excited, and said, "'I don't know what to do; I'm not crazy and I'm not drunk. I seen two people running down the stairway ... who should I tell?' And he said, 'You just happened to stop the right person, I'm a deputy district attorney.'''

The man was John Ambrose, a Los Angeles County deputy DA just arriving at the hotel after hearing news of the shooting on his car radio. Serrano proceeded to tell Ambrose the same story she later told the police and FBI. Ambrose recalled the key phrases as "We just shot him ... we just shot Senator Kennedy." He asked if the girl could possibly have said "they just shot him," but Serrano distinctly remembered her using the pronoun "we."

Ambrose told investigators Serrano impressed him as "a very sincere person and although she was alarmed and excited over what was told her by the couple, she remained insistent in the wording of the girl's statements."

The only major difference in Ambrose's account was the girl saying "We just shot him" while passing Serrano in a hallway rather than on the fire escape. The LAPD later used this detail to discredit Serrano, but moments before meeting Ambrose, Serrano told Chavez she heard the statement on the outside stairway, and in all subsequent interviews, she always referred to the stairway. Ambrose probably confused Serrano running into the hallway to see what had happened with the girl running past her on the fire escape.

***

It was now fifteen minutes after the shooting. Ambrose took Serrano up to the crime scene and turned her over to a police officer, and she was led into a witness area to await questioning. The next thing Ambrose knew, Serrano was live on national television with Sander Vanocur.

He asked one of the officers if it was a good idea to have Serrano interviewed on TV before the police had gotten her story.

"I guess there's nothing we can do about that now," came the reply.

When Serrano came back, Ambrose shook his head.

"Oh, God, you were on TV."

***

Just before Serrano appeared on television, another witness, Vincent Di Pierro, overheard her talking about what she'd seen and said he'd seen a similar girl in the pantry just before the shooting. Di Pierro later told the FBI, "they did not describe the dress to each other, except to mention ... that it was a white dress with black polka dots." Before they could discuss the girl, a police officer saw them talking and warned them not to discuss the case. From this point on, Serrano's fate as a witness was intertwined with Di Pierro.

***

Vince was a college student. His father, Angelo, was the maitre d' of the hotel, and had gotten him a part-time waiting job working nights for Uno Timanson. June 4 was Vince's day off, and he was studying for his finals, but as Kennedy was winning, his father called to say, "Come down and see the victory speech."

He arrived at eleven thirty and was in the pantry talking to his waiter friend Martin Patrusky when Kennedy passed through on his way to the ballroom. Di Pierro shook the senator's hand but didn't get to say congratulations, so he thought he'd catch him again on the way out. After the speech, he followed Kennedy into the pantry, about three feet behind. Kennedy walked though the swinging door on the left side, and Vincent took the door on the right.

Kennedy stopped, shook hands with Martin and Vince, then turned to his left to shake hands with Perez and Romero. Di Pierro was standing level with the ice machines, five feet to the right of Kennedy. He noticed Sirhan in a powder blue jacket, white shirt, and light blue pants at the opposite end of the ice machine, twelve to fifteen feet away. He was standing up on a tray stacker "in a kind of funny position like in a crouch -- like if he were trying to protect himself from something. I thought he was sick."

The tray stacker was raised four inches off the ground and had trays piled up on it. Sirhan was holding onto the stacker with his left hand and seemed to be cramped and "clutching his stomach, as though somebody had elbowed him." His right hand was down by his stomach and obscured "like he had it inside his shirt or something .... When I first saw him there was a girl behind him, too; I don't know if you need that. There were two people that I saw."

In fact, the only reason Di Pierro noticed Sirhan in the first place "was because there was this good-looking girl in the crowd there."

"All right, was the girl with him?" asked the police.

"It looked as though, yes."

The girl was up on the tray stacker behind Sirhan, and "she was holding on to the other end of the tray table and ... it looked as if she was almost holding him." Just before he got down, Sirhan turned and smiled and seemed to say something to her or flirt with her. She just smiled. When Sirhan got off the tray stacker, she stayed where she was. But "when she first entered, she looked as though she was sick also.... She was good-looking, so I glanced over once in a while."

Di Pierro described the girl as Caucasian, between twenty and twenty-four years old, at approximately the same eye level as Sirhan on the tray stacker, with dark brown hair to just above the shoulders, a little puffed up on one side, and a short, "pug" nose.

"How about her build; could you see that?"

"Oh, yeah," said Vincent.

'''Oh, yeah,' what does that mean?"

"Very shapely."

She wore a white dress with black or dark violet polka dots on it and a bib collar made of the same material as the dress. Her face wasn't that pretty, "but I would never forget what she looked like because she had a very good-looking figure -- and the dress was kind of lousy."

He didn't see her after the shooting.

***

Worse followed for investigators anxious to avoid another Dallas. When Serrano saw Sirhan's picture in the Los Angeles Times later that day, she told the FBI "she felt certain this was the same person she saw go up the stairs with this woman."

Early descriptions of Sirhan ranged all over the map -- Spanish, Mexican, Filipino. Serrano had grown up in Ohio, where there weren't that many Mexican Americans. She'd been only a year in Los Angeles, and these swarthy guys "all looked the same" to her.

At 11:50 a.m. on June 5, the LAPD finally put out an APB on the girl in the polka-dot dress: "Prior to shooting, suspect observed with a female cauc, 23/27, 5-6, wearing a white viole dress, ? inch sleeves, with small black polka dots, dark shoes, bouffant type hair. This female not identified or in custody."

***

As Di Pierro was testifying about the girl before the grand jury on June 7, Serrano was taken back to the Ambassador Hotel for more interviews and asked to reenact her story for a gaggle of investigators from the LAPD, FBI, and Secret Service. No summaries exist for Serrano-related interviews, just the notations "polka-dot story phoney" and "girl in kitchen J.D. settled ... witt. can offer nothing of further value" scrawled across blank report sheets by lead supervisor Manuel Pena.

***

Di Pierro's grand jury testimony only added to the intrigue about the girl in the polka-dot dress, and new sightings soon came flooding in. One report told of a white female matching the description, boarding a 10:30 a.m. flight in Atlanta on June 4. She was overheard telling another woman she was going to Los Angeles "to be there when the bullets fly about Kennedy."

The LAPD advised the FBI that "several women classified by this department as 'psychos' (had called up) and were so obviously not connected, their names were not even taken."

Late that Friday afternoon, nineteen-year-old Kennedy volunteer and belly dancer Cathy Sue Fulmer called Sheriff Peter Pitchess's office to say she thought she might be the girl in the polka-dot dress. At a hastily-arranged press conference with Pitchess, Fulmer told reporters she was at the door to the pantry when she heard the shots and ran into the ballroom, yelling "They shot him!" not "We shot him!" Pitchess thought she matched the description in the APB: "She was young, attractive and wearing a blond, bouffant wig ... she seemed sincere in wanting to eliminate herself [from the inquiry]."

Sandra Serrano viewed Fulmer at police headquarters and rejected her as "definitely not" the girl she saw. "She didn't even fit the description," Serrano told the Los Angeles Times. Not only was she not on the stairs where Serrano claimed to have seen the fleeing woman, but she was wearing a green dress with no polka dots and an orange polka-dot scarf -- "You've got to be color-blind to think that's the girl." Serrano was upset that some were already calling her a nut. "I did what Robert Kennedy would have wanted me to do -- say what I saw."

***

On June 7, Serrano was taken to NBC studios in Burbank but didn't recognize any of the three people she'd seen on the fire escape in TV footage of the crowd. The police interviewed the friends Serrano had been with that night. Irene Chavez "never knew her to imagine incidents or make up stories," and David Haines called her "reliable, level-headed and responsible." The cops couldn't shake Serrano's story.

On June 10, Serrano and Di Pierro were each shown eight assorted dress styles in an effort to find a match for the polka-dot dress the girl was wearing. Serrano stated dress number six looked the same except for the sleeve length. Di Pierro picked out dress number four.

Serrano was then brought back to the Ambassador for another reconstruction with an LAPD detective, FBI agent Richard Burris, and four men from the DA's office.

They zeroed in on a slip of the tongue in Serrano's two LAPD interviews on the night of the shooting. In the first one, Serrano was asked if she heard gunfire.

"Yes."

"When did you hear this sound, approximately?"

"Well, I didn't know it was a gun. I thought it was the backfire of a car."

In the second interview, she said, "I was sitting there for a while and then I heard, I thought it was the backfire of a car. And I thought, to me, I thought I heard six shots, six backfires."

"What did you do when you heard this noise?"

"I just looked around for a car ... and then about half a minute later, this girl comes tearing down the stairs saying ... 'We shot him, we shot him.'''

The audiotapes of these interviews make it very clear that Serrano heard backfires from a car, which she later logically associated with shots because of the girl's statement. But the investigators seized their chance -- if they could prove it was impossible to hear gunshots from the stairway, by a certain twisted logic, they could say Serrano was lying.

They proceeded to lead Serrano from the pantry, across the Embassy Ballroom to the doors leading out onto the fire escape "she claimed to be sitting on at the time Senator Kennedy was shot." It was impossible, they said, for the girl and her accomplice to run 170 feet across a crowded ballroom within thirty seconds of the shooting. Did she still feel she heard shots?

"I've never heard a gunshot in my life," Serrano said. "I never said I heard shots. I heard six backfires of a car and four or five of them were close together." She then interpreted them as shots, but the investigators weren't listening.

As Serrano again stuck to her remarkably consistent story, Special Agent Burris began to pick holes where he could.

"Why did you not say anything about the woman and the two men going up the stairs in your television interview?" he asked. "The fact you claimed one of the men was Sirhan Sirhan was the most significant part of your story."

"I don't know why," said Serrano. "She then accused those present of lying to her and trying to trick her," reads the FBI report.

She was right. It was a trick question. Serrano appeared on television before any pictures of Sirhan were released. The second man, who didn't come down, was the least significant part of the story when she was interviewed by NBC. Although Sirhan's mug shot was shown on television within hours of the shooting, the police didn't show it to her in her initial interviews, so the connection with Sirhan wasn't made until her June 6 interview with the FBI.

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The dresses Serrano and Di Pierro picked out as the closest to the one the girl was wearing.[/i]

Burris must have known this, and it merely fueled Serrano's rightful paranoia that she was being bullied into retracting her story.

Deputy DA John Howard then asked Serrano if he could videotape the reenactment on the stairs to avoid future misunderstandings. Serrano agreed, but only if two of the hotel kitchen staff would act as witnesses. She didn't trust the "damn cops."

***

By now, the investigation was clearly taking its toll on Sandra. A surviving audiotape of the interview on the stairway, clearly indicates she has been crying, and the FBI report concludes, "Following the video tape interview, Serrano stated she was very upset, could not continue, and requested to be taken home."

Later that day, Sandra told her supervisor at the United Insurance Company of America that she had become so nervous, she would have to quit her job as a keypunch operator and return to her parents in Ohio. Her aunt Celilia, who was taking care of her throughout the ordeal, was admitted to a hospital with "a nervous condition."

Late the following afternoon, Serrano called the FBI to say she now had two attorneys who were to be contacted before she would talk any further. She had just changed her phone number after several crank calls, and somebody had tried to break into her house. The LAPD decided to ease off. They advised the FBI that "no effort was being made by the D.A.'s office" to give Serrano a polygraph test "for at least three or four days."

The LAPD used this time to work on more ways of shooting Serrano down.

On June 19, they interviewed Captain Cecil Lynch of the Los Angeles Fire Department, who had been assigned to enforce fire regulations at the Ambassador that night. During Kennedy's speech, Lynch began checking various stairways and exits for possible violations and "checked the stairs Serrano was alleged to have been seated on moments before Senator Kennedy was shot .... No one was seated on the stairs."

But Captain Lynch had a vested interest in saying the stairs were clear -- he was to blame if they weren't -- and Serrano had already talked about a guard chasing people off the fire escape who hadn't seen her sit down. The fact that the police kept digging up such weak counterclaims shows how desperate they were to make Serrano's story disappear.

On the morning of June 20, the LAPD took the "shots-backfires" nonsense to its inevitable conclusion by bringing in prize troubleshooter DeWayne Wolfer to conduct sound-level tests in the pantry. These proved, as if it had any relevance, that "it would have been impossible for Serrano to have heard the shots" from the outside stairway. And, if we believe Captain Lynch, she wasn't even on the fire escape.

These were the only flaws the police could find in Serrano's story. After two weeks of aggressive questioning, this was the best they could come up with. Unfortunately for Serrano, things would get even worse.

***

Serrano's story bears uncanny similarities to that of the elderly Jewish couple who ran up to Sergeant Paul Sharaga in the rear parking lot within minutes of the shooting.

The couple were in their late fifties or early sixties and clearly distraught. Sharaga thought they were Jewish and vaguely recalled their name as "the Bernsteins."

The woman did most of the talking and said she and her husband were "just outside the Embassy Room, on the balcony" when a young couple in their early twenties ran by them from the direction of the Embassy Ballroom shouting, "We shot him! We shot him!" in a state of glee.

"Shot who?" Mrs. Bernstein asked.

"Kennedy; we shot him! We killed him!" replied the young woman.

The Bernsteins were too excited to give detailed descriptions, but said the young couple were in their late teens or early twenties, Caucasian, and the girl had blond or light hair and was wearing a polka-dot dress. To Sharaga, "they were excited but their statements were rational ... not hysterical. They just didn't have time to dream up a story .... It was too spontaneous."

Sharaga took the information down in his notepad, tore out the page, and gave it to a field courier to give to Bill Jordan at Rampart Detectives.

As Sharaga set up a command post in the rear parking lot, he recalled radioing the suspects' descriptions to Communications, asking them to broadcast them every fifteen minutes.

At 12:28 a.m., twelve minutes after the shooting, the tape of police transmissions recorded an out-of-breath Sharaga broadcasting the following:

"2L30, roger -- Description suspect, the shooting at thirty-four hundred Wilshire Boulevard, male Caucasian, twenty to twenty-two, six foot to six foot two, very thin build, blond curly hair, wearing brown pants, light tan shirt, direction taken unknown."

There was no mention of a girl. At this point, Sharaga didn't know Sirhan was in custody. Presumably, he gave the male suspect priority because the crowd was talking about "the guy who shot Kennedy," and this might have been the guy.

***

So, an hour before Serrano appeared on television, this couple provided a second independent sighting of a girl in a polka-dot dress fleeing the scene, shouting "We shot him! We killed him!" The parking lot where Sharaga met the Bernsteins was directly below the stairway Sandra Serrano was sitting on, and the girl and her companion ran past the Bernsteins "just outside the Embassy Room, on the balcony."

It's not clear whether this was a balcony inside the hotel or the small terrace directly above Sandra Serrano, but either way, the Bernsteins may have seen this girl just before Serrano did. Radio cross-talk indicates that confusion swirled about possible suspects in the wake of Sharaga's report:

"Is the suspect in custody or what's the story?"

"He left there approximately five minutes ago ... in a police car, and there was another suspect being held within the building."

"2A68, regarding the shooting at the Ambassador, witness stated the suspect is a male Latin, twenty-five to twenty-six, five-five, light build, dark bushy hair and dark eyes. Wearing blue Levis, blue jacket, blue tennis shoes. It is unknown whether this suspect is in custody."

Sirhan, the man described by Officer Blishak (unit 2A68) here, was the man in custody. The suspect being held in the building was memorabilia collector Michael Wayne. But stuck out in the parking lot at his command post, Sharaga was out of the loop. At 1:13, he was contacted by Communications: "2L30, the description we have is a male Latin, twenty-five to twenty-six, five-five, bush hair, dark eyes, light build, wearing a blue jacket and blue Levis and blue tennis shoes. Do you have anything to add?"

"2L30, that's not the description that I put out."

Sharaga repeated his description, and the dispatcher contacted Rampart Detectives to check if the second suspect was in custody. As Bill Jordan was preparing to transfer John Doe to Parker Center, he was handed Sharaga's description. This didn't sound like the man he'd been questioning.

When Inspector John Powers arrived on the scene at 1:44 a.m., he radioed Sharaga, asking where he got this second suspect.

"2L30, the second suspect came from a witness who was pushed over by this suspect. Witness and wife, we have name and address. The juvenile officers who were collecting witnesses initially have a sheet of paper with the name and address and phone number of this witness."

"What proximity to the shooting were these people?"

"2L30, they were adjacent to the room."

"2L30, disregard that broadcast. We got Rafer Johnson and Jesse Unruh, who were right next to him, and they have only one man, and don't want them to get anything started on a big conspiracy. This could be somebody that was getting out of the way so they wouldn't get shot. But the people that were right next to Kennedy say there was just one man."

"2L30 to control, disregard my broadcast. A description M/C twenty to twenty-two, six foot to six foot two, this is apparently not a correct description. Disregard and cancel."

***

Powers canceled the APB after satisfying himself it was a false lead -- a surprising move, only an hour and a half after the shooting.

After closing down his command post, Sharaga went back to Rampart station and spent nine hours dictating his initial report to Captain Floyd Phillips' secretary, then took a copy home.

Although the story of the girl in the polka-dot dress was all over the papers, Sharaga was working nights and didn't take much notice. He'd passed the lead on to the detectives and left them to follow up on it. He was a patrol sergeant, not an investigator. He didn't notice any irregularities until further down the line.

***

Irene Gizzi was chairman of Youth for Kennedy in Panorama City and arrived at the hotel with six other girls. Around nine o'clock that night, Gizzi noticed a group of three people talking in the lobby "who did not seem to fit with the exuberant crowd. Observed the female to be wearing a white dress with black polka dots; the girl was standing with a male, possibly Latin, dark sun-bleached hair, gold-colored shirt, and light-colored pants, possibly jeans. Possibly with the suspect [Sirhan] was a third party, a male with a funny nose and black greasy hair."

Two fourteen-year-old high school volunteers with Gizzi also saw this group during the evening. Jeanette Prudhomme was listening to the mariachi band downstairs in the Ambassador Ballroom just after eleven o'clock when she thought she saw Sirhan with a dark-skinned man in a gold-colored shirt and light (possibly blue) pants and a girl in a white dress with black polka dots one inch in size. The man was five-eight, twenty-six or twenty-seven years old, of medium build, with light brown hair. The woman was between twenty-eight and thirty, five-six, with brown, shoulder-length hair.

Katie Keir gave a very similar description of this group -- a man in a "gold-colored sport shirt" and blue jeans, another man of medium build with a T-shirt and jeans, both with dark brown hair, and a girl in a white dress with black polka dots. The girl was about twenty-three, five-eight and slightly heavy-set, with dark brown hair fixed in "love-locks." Immediately after the shooting, Keir was standing on the "platform" of a stairway when the girl in the polka-dot dress ran out of the Sunset Room and down the stairway, yelling "We shot Kennedy."

Sandra Serrano was sitting on an outside stairway and ran into the Sunset Room after she saw the girl, so Keir may very well be describing the same couple. All three witnesses were interviewed within days of the shooting.

Washington Post reporter Mary Ann Wiegers may have been describing Keir when she told the FBI she was in the Kennedys' fifth-floor suite after the shooting when a young girl, about fifteen years of age, was brought in by two policemen and a young woman. She saw a girl in a black dress with white polka dots rush by yelling, "We killed him; we killed him." Wiegers said this teenage girl was hysterical at the time she saw her.

During the final two years of the marriage, Griggs said her husband basically disappeared. When she finally decided to blow the whistle on her husband's activities and others surrounding him, she met privately with attorney and former CIA Director William Colby, seeking advice.

'I really thought I would get some help, but Colby was later found dead," said Griggs about Colby whose body was found eight weeks after he disappeared on April, 27, 1996, while canoeing near his Rock Point, Maryland, vacation home.

"Then I started getting death threats, had my house burglarized, my car messed with and every time I would try to get the FBI or police to act, strangely nothing would be done. They would do things like steal my underwear, leave black dots on all my blouses and leave twelve screw drivers on my kitchen counter. They would do strange things like this, which if you think about it, is really hard to explain to the police without them thinking you are crazy.

--The Evil Lurking Within: Kay Griggs, Former Marine Colonel's Wife, Talks Again, by Greg Szymanski


***

Twenty-one-year-old college student Richard Houston was a few feet away from the double doors leading into the pantry when he heard the shots. Elizabeth Evans came running out, followed by another woman wearing a black-and-white polka-dot dress with "ruffles around the neck and front." As she fled, she said, '''We killed him," ... then [she] ran out onto a terrace area outside."

Houston described her as twenty-two to twenty-four years old, five-six, 120 pounds, with long blond hair, brown eyes, and a thin face. His story appeared in the Alhambra Post Advocate on June 7, but he wasn't interviewed by the police until September 22 and then never contacted again.

***

So, in four separate instances, witnesses saw a girl in a white dress with black polka dots fleeing, saying "We shot him," or "We killed him." Numerous witnesses also saw a girl in a polka-dot dress leaving the pantry right after the shooting.

Jack Merritt, a uniformed security guard working for Ace Guard Service, gave this account: "Just after the shooting, in the confusion of the struggle to disarm Sirhan, I noticed two men and a woman leaving the kitchen through the back exit. I didn't get a good look at the woman's face but she was about five-five, had light-colored hair, and wore a polka-dot dress. One of the men was about six-two ... with dark hair and a dark suit; the other was five-five or five-six and also wearing a suit. They seemed to be smiling."

Thirty-three-year-old Watts organizer George Green told the FBI that at about eleven fifteen to eleven thirty, he was in the pantry area, watching Kennedy's press secretary, Frank Mankiewicz, being interviewed. At the edge of the crowd, Green noticed a man he would later positively identify as Sirhan, standing near a tall, thin man with black hair -- about five-eleven and twenty-two years old -- and a girl in her early twenties with "long, blond, free-flowing hair." She wore a white dress with black polka dots and had a "good figure." Green accurately described Sirhan's attire but put his height at five foot eight.

Green was just outside the pantry when he heard the shots. Once inside the pantry door, he noticed the same man and woman "running with their backs toward him ... attempting to get out of the kitchen area. They seemed to be the only ones who were trying to get out of the kitchen .... Everyone else was trying to get in." Green then jumped onto the steam table to help subdue Sirhan.

***

More and more stories started appearing in the papers about the mysterious girl in the polka-dot dress. Still shaken by his experience, John Fahey read an article by Fernando Faura in the San Fernando Valley Times. He thought twice, then gave the reporter a call.

Faura took Fahey's detailed description of the girl to a police artist in Long Beach. Fahey tweaked the image with the artist until he saw a match, and they had the sketch photographed in color. Faura then showed the picture to Vincent Di Pierro.

"That's her; she's the girl in the polka-dot dress. The girl's face is a little fuller than this sketch has it, but this is the girl."

Faura, convinced he was onto something, brought Fahey before top polygraph operator Chris Gugas, and Fahey passed the lie detector test "like a champion." By now, Faura had Life magazine bureau chief Jordan Bonfante interested in running the story. Faura took Fahey to a doctor who specialized in hypnosis, hoping to improve his recall of the girl.

Fahey was skeptical and worried about side effects, but two positives emerged from the session -- his jaw no longer ached after recent oral surgery and he remembered another detail about the girl.

"She told me she was leaving LA for San Jose to visit the headquarters of some organization called the Rosalyns, or something like that."

"San Jose? The Rosicrucians?" asked Faura.

"Yeah, that's it. The Rosicrucians."
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