June 5 marks the 50th anniversary of a dark day in American history. On June 5, 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy was shot after a campaign event in Los Angeles. At the time, Kennedy was running for president.
The beloved Democrat died the following day.
A lone gunman, Sirhan Sirhan, was convicted of the murder, but questions persist in the case.
The I-Team’s George Knapp spoke with two Nevadans who were affected in different ways by the assassination.
“That’s what I remember. It felt like the atmosphere, you could cut it with a knife,” said Bob Miller, the former governor of Nevada.
In 1968, Miller was a 23-year-old Army Reserve Sergeant, living in Los Angeles.
He found himself across the street from the Bobby Kennedy campaign event at the Ambassador Hotel. Kennedy had just won the California primary. Jubilant supporters hoped he might become the Democratic presidential nominee.
“I ran into a fellow who was in the Army Reserve unit with me that was taking photographs of the event,” Miller said. “We went in together. It was relatively close to the stage during Bobby Kennedy’s speech.”
When the victory speech ended, Miller headed to the lounge. Minutes later, his army buddy came to get him.
“The emotion of the moment: It was more like, they shot him, I think he’s dead,” said Miller. “Other people were shot. It’s terrible, it’s terrible. He pulled me. He was half my size; pulled me right out of the room.”
panic and confusion dominated the scene as the terrible news spread through the campaign crowd.
“Mostly it was pandemonium, Miller said. “They were trying to figure out where to go. What do you do? I was having a hard time grasping what I was being told.”
Miller said he realized it was real when a bloody, bloody victim was wheeled past him on a gurney. Five people, including the senator, had been shot in a cramped pantry.
Robert Kennedy died the following day. The confused gunman, Sirhan Sirhan, was convicted and sent to prison in what appeared to be an open and shut case.
Comedian and writer John Barbour was booked to appear on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson when he heard the terrible news. And in a flash, everything changed.
“I was in my hotel room, writing jokes for the Tonight Show,” said John Barbour. “June 6, 1968, is the day the federal government and the CIA pounded the final nail into the coffin of hope and peace and democracy in America. There is no question about that.”
As a tv host and producer, Barbour became intrigued by New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrsion, the only man to bring a prosecution in the murder of President John F. Kennedy.
He produced two films based on interviews with Garrison and came to believe that both Kennedy’s were in conspiracies involving government operatives.
Bobby Kennedy kept his suspicions about his brother’s murder to himself. Barbour says Garrison sent a warning to the senator.
“Jim Garrison said ‘you tell your friend to make his suspicions public because it will save his life,'” Barbour said. “If he keeps it to himself, they’re going to murder him too, and indeed they did.”
Late last year, Robert Kennedy Junior announced that he had met with Sirhan Sirhan in prison and called for a new investigation into his father’s murder, in part because the original autopsy shows the fatal shot came from a mere 3-inches behind Kennedy, while Sirhan had been in front of the senator, just 6-feet away.
In the confusion, did a second gunman get away? That is the question.
George Knapp, I-Team Reporter: “How did no one notice?”
Barbour: “It was a perfectly planned hit. Robert Kennedy was led by the arm into that pantry.”
While some members of the Kennedy family want to re-open the investigation, others say what’s done is done.
Bobby Kennedy was not a popular figure among Las Vegas casino owners because, as attorney general, he authorized intense investigations into organized crime influence in the Nevada gambling industry.
For the original autopsy report on Bobby Kennedy, go here.
You can also view another copy of his autopsy here.