Senator Robert Kennedy is shot dead at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California presidential primary. Immediately after announcing to his acclaimed supporters that the country was ready to end its stormy divisions, Kennedy was shot dead several times by the 22-year-old Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan. He was pronounced dead the next day, June 6, 1968.
The summer of 1968 was a tumultuous period in American history. The Vietnam War and the anti-war movement were at their peak. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been murdered in the spring, setting off riots across the country. Faced with these unrest, President Lyndon B. Johnson decided not to run for a second term in the next presidential election. Robert Kennedy, John’s younger brother and former Attorney General of the United States, intervened in this breach and experienced a wave of support.
READ MORE: Was America’s Bloodiest Year in Politics in 1968?
Kennedy was seen by many as the only person in American politics capable of uniting the people. He was loved by the minority community for his integrity and dedication to the cause of civil rights. After winning the California primary, Kennedy was able to receive the Democratic nomination and face Richard Nixon in the general election.
As star athletes Rafer Johnson and Roosevelt Grier accompanied Kennedy to the rear exit of the Ambassador Hotel, Sirhan Sirhan stepped forward with a rolled up campaign poster, hiding his .22 revolver. He was only a foot away from him when he fired several shots at Kennedy. Grier and Johnson put Sirhan to the ground, but not before five passers-by were injured. Grier was subsequently distraught and blamed himself for allowing Kennedy to be shot.
Sirhan, born in Palestine, confessed to the crime at his trial and was sentenced to death on March 3, 1969. However, since the California State Supreme Court overturned all death sentences in 1972, Sirhan has spent the rest of his life in prison. According to the New York Times, he has since declared that he believes Kennedy was “instrumental” in the oppression of the Palestinians. Hubert Humphrey ended up running for the Democrats in 1968, but lost by a small margin against Nixon.