Robert F. Kennedy was shot on June 5, 1968 in Los Angeles on the night he had won the California primary in his campaign for President of the United States. As a result of the win in the California Primary that night, he assumed the leadership of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party shutting out Eugene McCarthy. For nearly four years — ever since a dramatic appearance on the last night of the 1964 Democratic Convention, when a standing ovation delayed the opening of his speech by a full 16 minutes — he had been the favorite of liberal Democrats, who were deserting Lyndon Johnson because of the Vietnam War.
Elected to the Senate from the state of New York in 1964, he had also emerged as a spokesman for the urban poor, who had rioted in Harlem in 1964, in Watts in 1965 and in nearly every major city from 1966 through the spring of 1968.
His death on this date froze him in time as a symbol of that era. For many American liberals, especially after that year’s election culminated in the victory of Richard Nixon, he also became a symbol of not just a better past, but also a better future that might have been. Lost in the aftermath of his death and the tumultuous events of the rest of 1968, is the matter of just how liberal Robert Kennedy really was.
Recently his son, Robert Kennedy Jr., has raised questions about who shot his father, asserting that he believes there may have been a second shooter.
Sirhan B. Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant, was arrested and later convicted of the shooting at the Ambassador Hotel. Kennedy was mortally wounded after celebrating his victory in California’s Democratic primary as he exited the hotel through the hotel kitchen.
Although Sirhan was captured at the scene with a .22-caliber handgun in his hand and later admitted that he shot Kennedy, new evidence has emerged over the years that suggests there may have been as many as 13 shots fired that night. Sirhan’s gun held only eight bullets. There has also been disagreement among experts over the years about whether some of the recovered bullets were fired from the same gun.