Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sirhan Sirhan and the Death of Robert F. Kennedy

Recently, two forensic experts, Robert Joling and Philip Van Praag, reported at the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science on their study of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. They analyzed the Pruszynski tape, which recorded sounds in the pantry where Kennedy was shot in 1968. Independent journalist Stanislaw Pruszynski, who covered the campaign for the Montreal Gazette, had inadvertently left his recorder running that day. They found that 14 rather than 8 shots were fired from two guns. The fatal shot came from a gun that was behind the senator. Van Praag also offered his findings at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Science, of which he is past president.

Robert Francis Kennedy was shot in the kitchen of Los Angeles’s Ambassador Hotel after winning the California Democratic primary on June 15, 1968. It was about a quarter past midnight. He was hit three times from the rear, all of the shots coming from a sharply upward angle. The first shot was in the back of the right ear and probably fired at the distance of three inches. A fourth shot went into his suite but did not penetrate his body. He expired the next day.

Few have questioned that there was a lone gunman, Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian gunman. A careful examination of all of the facts involved raises questions about what actually happened, but there is not enough information to construct a coherent alternative to the official story. This means that Sirhan Sirhan did not kill RFK.

People who observed Sirhan-Sirhan noted that he held his 22 pistol almost absolutely parallel to the floor. All witnesses said Sirhan’s gun was anywhere from 18 inches to 3 feet away from Kennedy. The four bullets that hit Kennedy and his clothes came from six inches away or less. They were point blank shots. The fatal shot to the head came from two inches away. No witness placed Sirhan’s gun any closer than 18 inches away.
Some critics of the official story insist that Kennedy was facing Sirhan and there is abundant witness testimony to support their view. If that is true, the bullets the Palestinian fired had to miss hitting Kennedy in the front, so they might have ricochet and somehow entered Kennedy from below and behind.

Kennedy did not turn his head enough for Sirhan to somehow hit the back of his ear. Five other people were wounded. One of those people was Paul Schrade, who was standing behind Kennedy and was somehow hit in the head by a bullet that had hit the senator, which was coming back to front and upward at about a 80 degree angle. Witnesses said Schrade was standing behind Kennedy. Another person was hit twice. Elizabeth Evans was bending over to find her shoe and was hit in the forehead by a bullet that somehow went through the ceiling tile, hit something hard, and bounced back into the room to hit her.

Oddly, Kennedy aide Rafer Johnson grabbed Sirhan’s gun and put in his pocket and did not realize he had it until the next morning, according to an interview he gave Tom Brokaw. Johnson was the Olympic gymnast who wrestled Sirhan to the ground. This small story sheds some light on the thoroughness of the on-site investigation.

People saw Sirhan firing and Kennedy fall. They cannot be blamed for putting the two events together. But if the coroner is right about the bullets coming from behind Kennedy, there is a problem understanding what happened.

People heard two shots and then a lot of pops, like balloon pops. A LA photographer described the scene.

There was either one or two shots fired. O.K. And then, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. There was a pregnant pause between those two because my initial impression was some jackass has set off firecrackers in here; because I got hit in the face with debris...And then it hit me. Oh, my God, it’s happened again.

The LAPD said eight shots were fired, all by Sirhan Sirhan. He must have gotten off all eight shots in his weapon, an Iver Johnson pistol. He did not have the opportunity to reload. The door jam in the room had two bullets and there were bullet holes in the ceiling tiles. Witnesses saw two policemen each removing at least one bullet from the door. That means at lest nine bullets were fired, before the ceiling is considered.

The LAPD said it removed 5 or 6 tiles but photographs show more tiles than that missing. The LAPD subsequently destroyed the tiles and door jam because they could not be conveniently saved in filing cabinets. The investigation was operated by Special Squad Senator, led by Lt. Manual Pena and Enrique Hernandez. Both had served on detached duty with the C.I.A. in Central America. Pena was brought out of retirement for the investigation and had been working for the C.I.A. in the interim. The unit had a way of losing documents.

Standing behind and to the side of Kennedy was Thane Eugene Cesar, brought in from the Ace Security Service at the last minute. He was a security guard at Lockeed and seemed to spend most of his time in an area operated by the C.I.A. Retired engineer Jim Yoder told an FBI agent that Cesar often had a floating assignment working in an off lkimits area known to be under the control of the CIA.

Thane said that when he heard a shot, he got on one knee and drew his gun. He had been holding the senator’s elbow. It was not standard practice for Ace employees to carry guns, but the LAPD did not pursue this. Because it was known that he was an outspoken Kennedy hater, the police subjected him to a polygraph test, which he passed. He was a George Wallace supporter. The LA Police did not examine his weapon to see if it had been fired.

Witnesses saw a blond haired man in a gray suit who was putting a weapon in his holster. A tall dark haired man in a black suit was seen fleeing. One witness saw a security guard fire a weapon. Police later told people who thought they saw a gunman in a suit that he was with the Secret Service.

A Youth for Kennedy volunteer, Sandy Serrano , told Sergeant Paul Schraga that he heard a young man and women say “We shot him.@ When asked who, they said “Senator Kennedy.@ She was a reasonably good looking woman in a polka-dot dress. . The same Youth for Kennedy volunteer told an NBC correspondent:

She practically stepped on me, and she said, "We’ve shot him. We’ve shot him." Then I said, "Who did you shoot?" And she said, "We shot Senator Kennedy." And I says, "Oh, sure." She came running down the stairs, very fast, and then the boy in the gold sweater came running down after her, and I walked down the stairs."

An older Jewish couple confirmed the young volunteer’s story. The tape of her questioning and lie detector test reveals that the police were trying to pressure her into abandoning her story. Years later, Serrano said she was no longer so sure of what she saw, and the authorities produced a fire inspector who said he did not see her where she was supposed to have been.

Lisa Pease , who has studied all the photographs of people in that pantry, believes the girl was the daughter of Khaiber Khan, an Iranian exile and espionage expert with ties to the C.I.A. who was working for RFK. He said he was not at the hotel, and he was not found on the pictures.

There was a Hungarian refugee there named Gabor Kadar. To get in, he stole a waiters uniform. He helped wrestle Sirhan. There is no way of knowing if he was a Kennedy fan or if he was there to help create a scuffle around Sirhan while conspirators escaped and or cover their tracks.

Schraga put out an All Points Bulletin, but his superiors asked him to cancel it. He declined, and they withdrew it for him, saying the comments of the young couple must have been misunderstood .

Within minutes of the shooting, the LAPD said there was a lone assassin. A department criminologist, De Wayne Wolfer , said it was “unbelievable how many holes there are in the ceiling.” Yet the single shooter theory was to depend upon the claim that there were only eight shots fired. Ex- F.B.I. agent William Bailey also said there were a large number of bullet shells, far more than eight. LAPD criminologist Larry Baggett analyzed the bullet that entered the senator’s neck and found that it was not fired from Shirhan’s gun. He concluded that the other bullets that hit Kennedy and William Weisel did not cvome from that weapon. Moreover, they did not all come from the same gun.

BBC investigator/film-maker Shane O’Sullivan has studied the film of the crime and found three former C.I.A. employees there. They were David Sanchez Morales, a veteran agent who worked for David Atlee Phillips. Before the shooting, David Rabern, a sometime C.I.A. contract worker saw saw Morales and Campbell and thought they were part of the security detail. Two are seen exiting the pantry after the shooting. They were David Sanchez Morales, a veteran agent who worked for David Atlee Phillips. Gordon Campbell, number two man in the huge Miami station (JM-Wave); and George Joannides. Morales was a deadly assassin and explosives man active in Central America.

At a late night party in 1973 he reportedly said, "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard." Joannides , who would become chief of psychological operations, was connected with Cuban exiles in the early sixties, and there was an unsuccessful effort to access his records through the JFK Records Act. He was the C.I.A. liaison with the House Select Committee on Assassinations 1978 but never told them he was involved with the Cuban exiles. The latter two are now deceased. Morales was known to hate the Kennedys. After the murder of Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover told his friend John Meier that he knew that the C.I.A. took out Bobby and that Robert Mahue was involved. Hoover said he was powerless to do anything about it. Meier was a Howard Hughes employee. Who knows how reliable Meier’s comment is by itself. No living man has more reason to detest the C.I.A.

Dr. Thomas Noguchi said in the autopsy report that Kennedy had been hit by three bullets. A fourth damaged his suit coat and came upward at about an 80 degree angle. Norguchi and LAPD criminologist DeWayne Wolfer both conducted powder tests and concluded that the three body shots came from about an inch away. Later,Noguchi pointed out that he had refrained from saying whether there could have been a second shooter. What survived from the police file was not released until 1988. The LAPD destroyed a large number of photographs it considered redundant.

Pierre Finck, JFK autopsyist, was consulted in the autopsy. Also involved was Russell Fisher, a Maryland coroner who had ruled that a bound, gagged, and weighted C.I.A. officer had committed suicide.

Evidence clearly shows that there were serious problems labeling bullet fragments and that two of the Kennedy bullets were “cleaned.” The most important fragments were booked under one set of numbers, placed in evidence with a different set of related numbers. They had also been taken into F.B.I. custody for eight days. The official blow-ups of the fragments can be questioned. A year before, in the Jack Kirschke case, criminalist Wolfer presented photographic evidence that a subsequent DA said in 1971 “ combined with his very esoteric photographic manipulations label his work in this instance nothing but perjury.” Pasadena criminologist William H. Harper found problem with Wolfer’s presentation of the evidence at the Sirhan Sirhan trial.

"My examinations disclosed no individual characteristics establishing that Exhibit 47 [the Kennedy neck bullet] and Exhibit 54 [the Weisel bullet] had been fired by the same gun. In fact, my examinations disclosed that bullet Exhibit 47 has a rifling angle of approximately 23 minutes (14%) greater than the rifling angle of bullet Exhibit 54. It is, therefore, my opinion that bullets 47 and 54 could not have been fired from the same gun."

There was also a problem with gun registration numbers. The test bullets were fired from a gun with the serial number H18602. The number on Sirhan’s gun was H53725. Maybe all this just points to sloppy record keeping. The confusion over the numbers was not resolved, and Wolfer said that at one point during the tests he did not have custody of gun # Hi8602 during the tests, but the records showed otherwise. Even when the case was finished, the bullet fragments were labeled in such a confusing way that they are probably of no value to anyone who would reopen the case. Several years later, tests showed that the prosecution contention that all the shells came from the same manufacturer was incorrect.

Sirhan’s first lawyer stipulated his guilt, hoping to cut a deal. This attorney had just finished defending an of Johnny Roselli. Witness Juan Romero said at the trial he saw the shooter and it was not Sirhan. The defense did not have access to the autopsy report until after the trial began. In other words, the prosecution sat on the autopsy report for almost six months. Sirhan was condemned to death, a sentence later commuted to live in prison.

When what was left of the Kennedy file was released in 1988, it turned out that over 2400 photographs had been burned. Without the door jam and tiles, the nearly obvious conclusion could not be proven—there were more bullets than Sirhan’s weapon would hold. Originally it was said there were no bullets in the door jam. After the trial, photographs turned up that showed bullet holes circled. If only one of those was really a bullet, it means there were at least 9 shots, even accepting the somewhat plausible LAPD theory advanced to explain how 8 could do so much damage.

Lawrence Teeter, Sirhan's second attorney, and Professor Philip Melanson think Sirhan was under some form of hypnosis, but that he also used his revolver. They also believe there was at least one more shooter. The first attorney had hired a psychiatrist whose questions seemed aimed more at implanting memories than learning anything useful. His diary contained strange “automatic writing” about it being necessary for Bobby Kennedy to die. He kept repeating statements that RFK must die, suggesting he had been programmed. Before the shooting, he spent some time at the ranch of fundamentalist preacher Jerry “The Walking bible” Owen, who said that Sirhan kept saying Kennedy must die because he would stop the Vietnam war, and God would not like that.

Charles McQuiston, a former Army intelligence officer , though Sirhan Sirhan had been programmed. “I believe Sirhan was brainwashed under hypnosis by the constant repetition of words like, 'You are nobody, you're nothing, the American dream is gone'.… Somebody implanted an idea, kill RFK, and under hypnosis the brainwashed Sirhan accepted it”

If Sirhan he was programmed, the trigger words came from a young woman who said to him "Could you pour me a cup of coffee with a lot of cream and a lot of sugar?" He claimed to remember those words and then someone wrestling him to the ground. Police Sergeant Bill Jordan said that Sirhan could remember everything that happened to him in the last year, but that he was a complete blank when it came to a twelve week period. It has been suggested that he was programmed then.

Oddly, a witness remembers a pretty girl standing next to and conversing with Sirhan. Some hypothesize that she was his controller. She was wearing a polka dot dress. Standing near here was a young man in a gold sweater. Vincent DiPierro, a waiter, said he and others noticed Sirhan because the pretty girl in the polka dot dress seemed to be sticking by him, talking to him, and at one point holding him up. The LA Police later convinced Vincent and the young volunteer, Sandy, to stop talking about the girl in the polka dot dress.

Another pantry witness, Darrell Johnson, saw the girl in the dress with dots.

"While I was waiting [for Kennedy], I saw four guys and a girl about halfway between Kennedy and where I was standing. The girl had a white dress with black polka dots. During the time that a lady yelled, "Oh, my God," they walked out. All except the one...this is the guy they grabbed [Sirhan]. The others that walked out seemed unconcerned at the events which were taking place."

For hours before the shooting, Sirhan was observed standing next to the newwire teletype machine with a vacant stare on his faith. After the shooting he could remember nothing but leaving the hotel at one point to go to his car. Many witnesses remarked on the wierd look, or stupid, sickly smile, on his face ehwne he fired his shots. The arresting officer wrote that Sirhan was "definitely under the influence of something."

Hours after the shooting, the late Dr. William Joseph Bryan, Jr, president of the American Institute of Hypnosis, was interviewed on a Los Angeles radio show and said obviously the shooter acted under post-hypnotic syggestion. Later, psychiatrists said that Bryan bragged about hypnotizing Sirhan. As a young man, he was briefly drummer for Tommy Dorsey’s band. This may have just meant he hypnotized Sirhan in jail, trying to get more information out of him. On the other had, he may have been trying to learn if Sirhan was under mind control. Bryan had a long history of work for the government and had visited Sirhan several timers. Oddly , Bryan was the grandson of William Jennings Bryan and a bishop in the Old Catholic Church, the same sect that claimed the membership of hypnotist David Ferrie. He was also technical consultant for the film, The Manchurian Candidate. Initially, Palestinian Sirhan said he did it for his country, but after his trial he denied that he shot Kennedy. He was a Palestinian zealot who grew up in the household of a zealot, yet he said at the trial that he knew nothing about the state of the Israeli-Palestinian controversy.

John Meier, a Hughes Tool employee, claims that J. Edgar Hoover told him that Robert Maheu of the C.I.A. and Hughes engineered the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Hoover added that he was powerless against the C.I.A., which might hav meant he did not regret Kennedy’s death.

Jimmy Breslin asked a group of friends if Bobby had the stuff to go all the way. John J. Lindsay answered, “Yes, of course, he has the stuff to go all the way, but he’s not going to go all the way. The reason is that somebody is going to shoot him. I know it and you know it, just as sure as we’re sitting here. He’s out there waiting for him.” Harold Weisberg discussed the possibility that RFK could be assassinated on Washington ,D.C. He said that he asked an RFK aide why the Senator accepted the Warren Commission Report, and the reply was “It’s simple, Bobby wants to live.” The aide added that there were, “too many guns between Bobby and the White House”. Harold got the impr4ession the guns belonged to the C.I.A


Lisa Pease said...

I'm not sure where this information was culled from, but for the record, I do not believe Khan's daughter was the girl in the polka dot dress, nor did I claim to have seen all the photos of people in the pantry, nor have I said anything about Khan being there at the time.

R.W. said...

"He was a Palestinian zealot who grew up in the household of a zealot, yet he said at the trial that he knew nothing about the state of the Israeli-Palestinian controversy."

Court transcripts contradict this statement and can be read here: as they are a matter of public record.