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The Mexican busboy who cradled RFK as he lay dying

by Conrad Sanor (2020-03-31)


The busboy who cradled a dying Robert F. Kennedy after he was shot has revealed his struggle to get over the assassination. 

Juan Romero from San Jose, California, was only 17 at when the Senator was shot dead in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles 47 years ago.

The 65 year concrete and asphalt paver old told the LA Times he has battled with the memory of the events for decades, insisting he feels responsible for what happened.

The deadly shooting unfolded just after midnight on June 5, 1968 after he had won the California presidential primary and made his victory speech in the ballroom to adoring supporters.

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Juan Romero from San Jose, California, was only 17 at when the Senator was shot dead in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles 47 years ago. He comforted the politician as he lay dying 


The Mexican, who had moved to the United States at the age of 10, wanted to congratulate the man who many believe represented social justice and understood the plight of immigrants.

So he reached out his hand as he made his way through the kitchen, but as Kennedy returned the gesture, he fell to the floor.



Romero has told himself over the years that his actions led to his death.

He described Kennedy's character after he delivered room service during his stay in the build-up to his death.

'He made me feel like a regular citizen. He made me feel like a human being. He didn't look at my color, he didn't look at my position ... and like I tell everybody, he shook my hand. I didn't ask him.'

A staggering black and white photo taken just after the fatal shooting shows Romero clinging to Kennedy while others stood back in a bid to shield themselves. 

He told the LA Times the politician spoke after being shot, as one eye blinked and his leg twitched.






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Romero told himself for decades he was responsible for Kennedy's death, but now he says he is no longer crippled by the regret 







The shooting happened just after midnight on June 5, 1968 after he had won the California presidential primary and made his victory speech in the ballroom to adoring supporters

















Sirhan Bishara Sirhan (left) is detained after firing the fatal shot. Kennedy was taken away on a stretcher but died a short time later


'First he asked, "Is everybody OK?' and I told him, 'Yes, everybody's OK." And then he turned away from me and said, "Everything's going to be OK".'

He was trying to protect his head from the cold concrete and admitted going to school the next with the blood still under his fingernails.

Palestinian Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was found guilty of the murder and told David Frost in a 1989 interview his 'connection' to Kennedy was that he supported Israel. 





Romero began to get over his depression when a woman from Germany, who was interested in Kennedy's life and career, reached out to him.

Claudia Zwiener, 45, wrote to Romero after she came across a story in the LA Times about Romero's visit to Kennedy's grave in Arlington. 

He told the newspaper: 'She really wanted to see how I was doing, and to find out if she could do anything to make it easier on my conscience.'








Romero began to get over his depression when Claudia Zwiener, who was interested in Kennedy's life and career, reached out to him. She wrote him a letter and she helped him get over some of the mental obstacles he faced


Romero traveled to Germany to meet her after a number of conversations over the phone and decided to return to the site of the assassination last year. 



The hotel has since been demolished and a memorial now stands in its place.

After years of avoiding the photo that had spread around the world in the aftermath of Kennedy's death, Zweiner showed him a book containing an image.

When he looked at it, she asked what he saw. 'I saw a person in need and another person trying to help him,' he said. 

He still thinks about Kennedy, he said, but insists he is not overcome bu regret. 



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The busboy who cradled a dying RFK has finally stepped out of the past - LA Times