Robert Kennedy is assassinated
A Palestinian gunman slays the presidential hopeful in an LA hotel
It was just after midnight on 5 June when, to the roars of his supporters, Senator Robert F Kennedy emerged into the glare of the ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. After one of the most turbulent campaigns in living memory, he seemed to have taken a decisive step towards the Democratic presidential nomination, having narrowly defeated his rival anti-war senator, Eugene McCarthy, in the California and South Dakota primaries.
For months Kennedy had hesitated to challenge President Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War, but at last the prize was within sight. Now, as the crowd pressed urgently around him, his aides propelled him towards the press room, taking a short cut through the hotel kitchen. It was there that a 24-year-old Palestinian drifter, Sirhan Sirhan, enraged by Kennedy’s support for Israel, saw his chance. As the senator pushed past him, Sirhan lifted his revolver and fired.
Even as Kennedy’s bodyguards overpowered his assassin, the senator was bleeding to death on the floor. He had been shot three times; later, photographs showed him being cradled by a kitchen assistant, who pressed a rosary into his hand. “Don’t lift me,” Kennedy said weakly when, a few minutes later, the paramedics arrived. For more than a day he clung to life, but at 2am on 6 June, his press secretary told the waiting journalists that it was all over. Less than five years after his older brother had fallen to an assassin’s bullet, American politics had claimed the life of another Kennedy.