It’s time once again to address the lingering questions about one of the most infamous political deaths in modern American history: The Kennedy Assassination. Was there a second gunman after all, and is there reason to question the available evidence?
To be clear, we’re not addressing (or contesting) Lee Harvey Oswald’s role in the plot that killed JFK… in fact, it’s the other, far less often scrutinized Kennedy assassination we’re addressing here: that of his younger brother, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy.
And while some may debate whether there is really need for questioning the official narrative of the latter incident–one where Sirhan Sirhan was confirmed to be the sole shooter–it’s noteworthy to take into consideration that Kennedy’s son, Robert Kennedy Jr., now ranks among those who are questioning that narrative.
According to the SF Gate, a recent meeting took place between Robert Kennedy Jr. and his father’s presumed killer, Sirhan Sirhan. “Robert Kennedy Jr. met with Sirhan for three hours,” the Gate reported, commenting on an earlier Washington Post article. “It was the culmination of months of research by Kennedy into the assassination, including speaking with witnesses and reading the autopsy and police reports.”
Apparently, Kennedy came away from the meeting with Sirhan with renewed questions about the circumstances that resulted in his father’s death in the early morning hours of June 6, 1968.
It would be difficult to make any sort of case that Sirhan had not been present with the intention of killing the Senator on the night in question. At his trial, Sirhan confessed to the assassination (he says this was at the advice of his attorney). He had attended another public appearance by Kennedy only two days earlier, and the following day spent several hours target practicing with the weapon he brought with him to the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. There were the scribblings of “RFK must die” in his personal journal at home, and the newspaper clipping found in his pocket with an article taking jabs at Kennedy. The night of the shooting, Sirhan had been lingering around in the kitchen of the hotel, where Kennedy would meet his fate later that night.
Yet there are numerous counter-arguments that have arisen over the years, chief among them an autopsy report that appeared midway through Sirhan’s trial that showed forensic evidence that Kennedy was shot from behind, whereas Sirhan had been standing in front of the Senator. Other points of interest, which included descriptions of other possible shooters–both male and female–were outlined in a recent Netflix documentary series on Kennedy’s 1968 presidential bid.
Paul Schrade, a former union executive who now 93 years old, was with Kennedy at the Ambassador on the night of his assassination and was also injured when a bullet bounced off of his skull near his forehead. He recalls feeling a shock–unaware that he had been shot–and thought that he had been electrocuted.
“I was very depressed,” Schrade said, describing that he felt very angry about the death of his friend Bobby Kennedy. However, an anti-Vietnam war activist, Schrade continued to remain politically active and even campaigned against measures to demolish the Ambassador Hotel many decades later. However, among his chief projects over the years has been the crusade to prove the real circumstances that led to Kennedy’s death, and whether Sirhan had truly been the only shooter; evidence for which was initially brought to his attention by Allard Lowenstein (seen below, discussing the RFK assassination on William F. Buckley’s Firing Line television program in April 1975).
“Here is a man of justice, who has not had justice,” Schrade says of Kennedy, “because we don’t know who shot Robert Kennedy. Sirhan did not.”
Many others have raised doubts over the years about whether Sirhan acting alone could explain all of the factors surrounding Kennedy’s death. Again, Sirhan claims to have only confessed to killing RFK at the advice of his lawyer, maintaining to this day that he has no memory of the events that transpired at the Ambassador. The additional implications of Sirhan’s professed memory loss have bolstered ideas of a real-life “Manchurian candidate” in the minds of many proponents of a deeper conspiracy; however, even if this aspect of the incident held no water (as it remains difficult to prove), it does not rule out the possibility that there could have been other actors involved on the night in question.
Fifty years after Robert Kennedy’s assassination, several of those close to him–and now one of his children–feel that it is important to reevaluate the circumstances that led to his death. Did the concern over quickly resolving Sirhan’s trial before conspiracy theories could begin to circulate (as they had done just years earlier following JFK’s assassination) actually hinder the investigative process?
Despite the passage of time, it could be that there is more to Robert Kennedy story yet to emerge, which many–lawmakers and historians alike–have not actively sought to address. If so, now is the time to reexamine the evidence, and to give fair consideration to any new details that might emerge.