Kennedy scion Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has penned a book calling for a new investigation into father’s assassination, and into Sirhan Sirhan’s guilt—or innocence—in that crime.
By S.T. Patrick
Early in the morning on June 5, 1968, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy lay flat on his back, bleeding onto the floor of the kitchen pantry at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He had just won the California Democratic primary and was exiting the hotel after a late-night victory speech when shots were fired, leaving six wounded, including Kennedy. He was pronounced dead 26 hours later. Sirhan Sirhan was blamed for the murder and is still serving time in a California prison today. For many historians and the LAPD, the crime of the RFK assassination has been solved. That may change, however, as Kennedy scion Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calls for a reinvestigation of the murder.
In his new book, American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family, the third of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s 11 children openly calls for a reinvestigation of his father’s assassination, which occurred when RFK Jr. was 14 years old. His sister, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, concurs that the crime against their father deserves a reexamination.
In December, RFK Jr. quietly visited Sirhan for three hours at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility outside of San Diego. He had also spoken to witnesses and read the autopsy reports. If he was going to decide to call for a reinvestigation, he was not going to do so without evidence.
“I got to a place where I had to see Sirhan,” Kennedy revealed to The Washington Post.
Kennedy left Donovan Correctional even more steadfast in the view that his father had been killed by a second gunman and not by Sirhan. It is a perspective on the case that researchers such as Lisa Pease, Shane O’Sullivan, and Bill Turner have shared for decades.
Pease was mentioned twice in American Values. She had shared an internal CIA report with Kennedy. The report stated that RFK and his brother, slain president John F. Kennedy, had not known about the CIA plots on the life of Fidel Castro. Journalist Seymour Hersh, by way of CIA officer Sam Halpern, had argued that the Kennedys authorized the plots. The CIA’s own inspector general report—the last copy of which had been kept in a safe by CIA Director Richard Helms—stated that the CIA had told RFK only about the anti-Castro plots that had ended and not about the plots that were ongoing. Pease believes that one of these plots was then turned around and used on JFK.
Many in the assassination research community have lauded RFK Jr.’s book as the first Kennedy strike against the deep state. Rev. Martin Luther King’s family has spoken about conspiracy in the assassination of MLK for years and have long questioned the guilt of James Earl Ray. John Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy never publicly advocated for a reinvestigation of JFK’s murder, and, until now, the children of RFK have kept similarly quiet.
In an interview with this writer, Pease discussed RFK Jr.’s entrance into the Kennedy research community.
“It was really important that those of us who are trying to tell the truth connect to each other,” Pease said. “So it was kind of inevitable that Bobby and the community would eventually connect.”
Pease, the author of the forthcoming A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, explained to this writer that the Sirhan family suffered just as much as the Kennedys. Because RFK would have viewed every person’s life as important, she argues that RFK Jr.’s new quest is as much about justice for Sirhan as it is about finding the truth about his father’s death.
Kennedy, now 64, is not the only person close to the case to call for a reinvestigation. Paul Schrade, who was shot in the head as he followed RFK into the pantry, is also advocating for a reopening of the case, as well as Sirhan’s innocence.
RFK was shot at point-blank range behind his ear. Sirhan was standing in front of him. At least 13 shots were fired. Sirhan’s gun held eight bullets.
While visiting Sirhan in prison would seem, to some, like a difficult, emotional act, Kennedy boiled the visit down to simple terms.
“My father was the chief law enforcement officer in this country,” Kennedy explained. “I think it would have disturbed him if somebody was put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.”
Sirhan, now 74, has spent 50 years in prison for a crime he doesn’t remember. If RFK Jr. and his sister Kathleen can spur a deeper look into the case, Sirhan may finally be paroled after 30 years of failed attempts. For the son of the former attorney general, justice is what is sought.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected].