June 5 will mark the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination in 1968. The younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, a U.S. Senator from New York and the front-runner for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination was gunned down in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, hours after winning the California primary. The shooter was Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in April 1969; the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when California overturned the death penalty in 1972.
At the time of the shooting, Sirhan Sirhan was 24 years old, a Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship. During his trial, Sirhan said he shot Kennedy because he disapproved of Kennedy's vocal support for Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. (Some historians consider RFK's assassination one of the first violent acts on American soil because of the Middle East conflict.) But is Sirhan Sirhan still alive today?
Is Sirhan Sirhan still alive?
So, is Sirhan Sirhan still alive? Yes, he is. Now 74, he is behind bars in San Diego, California. And as the anniversary of RFK's death approaches, he's back in the headlines, thanks to another Kennedy.
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RFK's son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., has been researching his father's death and has called for a new investigation.
Last weekend, Kennedy told the Washington Post that he met face-to-face with Sirhan in 2017 and came away believing Sirhan had been falsely accused. “I went there because I was curious and disturbed by what I had seen in the evidence,” said Kennedy, an environmental attorney. “I was disturbed that the wrong person might have been convicted of killing my father. My father was the chief law enforcement officer in this country. I think it would have disturbed him if somebody was put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.”
Key to Kennedy's suspicions: His father was shot point blank from behind, but Sirhan was standing in front of RFK at the time. Over the years, evidence has emerged showing that 13 shots were fired, but Sirhan's gun only held eight bullets. "There were too many bullets. You can't fire 13 shots out of an eight-shot gun," RFK Jr. told the Post. But he said he didn't know if his conclusions would lead to a new investigation.
Sirhan was first eligible for parole in 1986. He has been rejected repeatedly, most recently in 2016. In 2011, Sirhan told a parole board that he was present when RFK was shot but did not remember the actual shooting.