Romero held the mortally wounded Kennedy as he lay on the ground,
struggling to keep the senator's bleeding head from hitting the floor.
The moment captured on film haunted Romero because
Kennedy stopped to shake Romero's hand
and was shot seconds after that.

listen Busboy who cradled a dying RFK recalls those final moments, NPR, June 1, 2018

Romero rarely granted interviews but recently made himself available for the Netflix documentary Bobby Kennedy for President, NPR's StoryCorps and others to talk about the hope Kennedy inspired that remained with him 50 years later. "I still get emotional, tears come out", he told StoryCorps. But I went to visit his grave in 2010, I felt like I needed to ask Kennedy to forgive me for not being able to stop those bullets from harming him...."

Busboy who came to RFK's aid dies at 68
National Post, October 5, 2018

The hotel busboy who cradled a dying Robert F Kennedy in his arms after the New York senator was shot in Los Angeles, has died. He was 68. Juan Romero died Monday of a heart attack, longtrime family friend Rigo Chacon said Thursday. Romero was a teenager in June 1968 when Kennedy was shot in the head while walking through the Ambassador Hotel kitchen. Romero held the mortally wounded Kennedy, struggling to kekep the senator's head from hitting the floor. He placed Rosary beads in Kennedy's hand. "Is everybody OK?" Kennedy asked. "Yes", Romero said. "Everything will be OK", Kennedy said before losing consiousness. TGhe moment, captured on film, became an iconic image that haunted Romero for most of his life because Kennedy had stopped to shake his hand moments before he was shot.

The busboy who tried to help a wounded Robert F Kennedy in 1968 dies
His life was haunted by the violence

by Steve Lopez, MSN, Oct 4, 2018

Juan Romero struggled for decades with a memory he could not escape. He left Los Angeles and moved to Wyoming, later came back west and settled in San Jose, raised a family and devoted himself to construction work. But still he was haunted by what happened just after midnight on June 5, 1968, when he was on duty as a busboy at the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard near Koreatown. That was the night an assassin took aim at Robert F Kennedy, a candidate for president of the United States. Romero, just 17 at the time, squatted next to the fallen USA attorney general, cradled Kennedy's head, and tried to help him up before realizing how gravely wounded Kennedy was.

The photos of that moment, with confusion and despair in Romero's young, dark eyes, made for searing portraits of 1960s upheaval and followed by two months the assassination of the Rev Martin Luther King Jr and by five years the assassination of RFK's brother, President John F Kennedy. It was only in recent years that Romero began to let go, and in my visits with him three years ago and again this past June, he seemed to have been revived. Finally, he said, he was able to mark his birthday after years of refusing to celebrate because it was in the same month as RFK's assassination. That only made the news of Romero's death this week in Modesto, at age 68, seem all the more tragic.

"He had a heart attack several days ago and his brain went too long without oxygen", said his longtime friend, TV newsman Rigo Chacon of San Jose. "He passed away on Monday morning". A niece and a brother confirmed Romero's death, but family members were unavailable for comment. Romero had not been ill, according to Chacon. When I met with Romero in June, on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's death, he told me he loved the hard, sweaty work of paving driveways and roads, and he had no intention of retiring. His marriage had failed many years earlier, but he said he was in regular contact with his children from that marriage, and he was giddy about a new romance with a Modesto woman.


That day, we met at a downtown San Jose park, near a monument to Kennedy. The candidate had spoken there not long before his death and told throngs of supporters that poverty and illiteracy were indecent, and he warned of "an erosion of a sense of national decency". Romero was in the habit of leaving flowers at that monument each year to mark RFK's death. In our many conversations over the years, he said he often felt we were moving further politically from what he saw as a Kennedy legacy of tolerance and compassion.

When I met Romero in 1998, just prior to the 30th anniversary of the assassination, he fell apart in recalling the fateful night and how he happened to be in the hotel pantry area where Kennedy was shot. Romero told me he had met Kennedy the night before when the candidate ordered room service, and he felt honored by the way Kennedy shook his hand firmly and looked him in the eye with respect. "I remember walking out of that room - feeling 10 feet tall, feeling like an American", said Romero, who had moved to Los Angeles from Mexico seven years earlier. He became an Ambassador busboy on the advice of his strict stepfather, who worked at the hotel and wanted Romero to be sure to stay out of trouble on the streets of East Los Angeles.

The next night, after Kennedy won California's Democratic primary and made a victory speech, he retreated through the kitchen pantry area and Romero pushed through the crowd to congratulate him. He said that just as he shook Kennedy's hand, the shots were fired. Romero thought the pops were from firecrackers and that Kennedy had fallen in fright, but Romero then saw blood spilling onto his own hand and realized what had happened as Sirhan Sirhan, the man with the gun, was apprehended. Romero said he was carrying rosary beads in his pocket and stuffed them into Kennedy's hands.


Romero was taken to the Rampart police station for questioning, then took a bus to Roosevelt High the next morning. He still had Kennedy's blood on his hand and said he chose not to wash it off. As if the experience wasn't traumatic enough, Romero said he got letters from people congratulating him for what he did. That made him uncomfortable, and so did letters from people asking him why he didn't do something to prevent the assassination. He got tired of being asked by Ambassador guests to pose for photographs, found work in Wyoming, then made his home in San Jose.

In 2010, I met up with Romero in Washington, DC, and went with him to Arlington National Cemetery, where RFK is buried. He said he wanted to pay his respects, tell Kennedy he had tried to live a life of tolerance and humility, and to apologize. His buddy Chacon and I told him he had nothing to apologize for, but Romero knelt at the grave, spoke softly and wept.

Five years later, Romero emailed me to say he was finally feeling better with the help of a friend he had met on Facebook. She told him that when she looked at the photos from the Ambassador, she saw a brave young man who tried to help someone who'd been hurt, even as others retreated. I heard from former California First Lady Maria Shriver, a niece of Bobby Kennedy, after I wrote that column. She said she wanted an address to send a thank-you note to Romero. "I always felt a great deal of empathy for him because of how difficult it was for him to move past that", Shriver told me Wednesday evening when I called her with the news of Romero's death. Shriver said she never met Romero but hoped he came to realize he did the humane thing in a tragic moment, and she hoped he had found peace in the end. "God bless him", Shriver said. "It's kind of hard to know why someone gets put into a situation that they're locked in forever. But as I see it, he was locked into an image of helping someone".

Juan Romero, busboy who aided wounded Robert Kennedy, dies
AP, October 4, 2018

When Robert F Kennedy decided to duck through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after declaring victory in the 1968 Democratic presidential primary, Juan Romero reveled at his good fortune. It meant the 18-year-old busboy might get to shake hands with his hero - the man he'd assured himself would be the next president of the United States - for the second time in two days. Romero had just grasped Kennedy's hand when gunshots rang out, one of them striking the senator in the head. Kennedy would die the next day and the teenage Mexican immigrant who had idolized him would carry the emotional burden of that encounter for most of his life. Romero died Monday in a Modesto, California, hospital following a heart attack, Rigo Chacon, a longtime family friend and former TV newsman, told The Associated Press on Thursday. He was 68.

Romero, who moved from Los Angeles decades ago, spent most of his life in the Northern California cities of San Jose and Modesto, Chacon said. He worked in construction, including concrete and asphalt paving, enjoying the often-grueling physical labor with no intention of retiring any time soon. "Juan was a big, brawny guy, a muscular guy and seemingly in good health", said Chacon, adding his death came as a shock to family and friends. "According to his daughter Elda, he was the happiest she had seen him in a while", Chacon added, noting the divorced Romero had recently met a woman who helped bring peace into his life.

For decades, each time Romero saw black-and-white news photos of himself - a baby-faced busboy gently cradling Kennedy as he lay sprawled on the hotel's concrete kitchen floor - he would wonder what more he should have done to save Kennedy. Only recently, he said during rare interviews this year, did he finally come to terms with that struggle. He said he still carried the example Kennedy had set as he campaigned for equality and civil rights. "I still have the fire burning inside of me", Romero said. Born in the small town of Mazatan, in the Mexican state of Sonora, Romero lived in Baja California until his family received permission to bring him to the USA as a 10-year-old. The family lived in blue-collar East Los Angeles and Romero was a student at Roosevelt High School in 1968, the year Chicano students started organizing walkouts to protest discrimination against Mexican-American students. As the son of a tough disciplinarian father, however, he said he was too afraid to take part.

He was working at the Ambassador Hotel the day before the June 1968 California primary when Kennedy and his aides ordered room service and he was called on to help deliver it. "All I remember was that I kept staring at him with my mouth open", he would say later. Finally, Kennedy approached, grabbed Romero's hand with both of his and said, "Thank you". "I will never forget the handshake and the look - looking right at you with those piercing eyes that said, 'I'm one of you. We're good'", Romero said. "He wasn't looking at my skin, he wasn't looking at my age - he was looking at me as an American".

After Kennedy won the primary he thanked supporters in the hotel's Embassy Room then cut through the kitchen for a meeting with reporters. Romero jumped at the chance to meet him again. After gunfire rang out and Kennedy fell, Romero cradled his bleeding head. "Is everybody OK?" Kennedy asked. Romero said yes. "Everything will be OK", the senator replied shortly before losing consciousness.

As they talked, Romero pressed a set of Rosary beads into the senator's hand as news photographers frantically took pictures. Kennedy died the next day at 42. Because of the beads, his white busboy smock and the beatific look on his face, Romero was misidentified in some early news reports as a priest. "It was a really dramatic picture with the light coming in from the side, they were strong photos", Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Hume Kennerly said Thursday. "But really the heart of it", Kennerly added, "was this unknown person was there to help Senator Kennedy when he was down. That's what has always struck me about those photos".

Iconic as they were, they brought Romero a place in history he never wanted. For years he blamed himself for Kennedy's death - wondering if he could have done something to prevent the shooting or if Kennedy might have survived if he had not stopped to shake his hand. When he "visited Kennedy's grave at Arlington National Cemetery a few years ago, Romero wept as he spoke directly to the senator. He "asked him for forgiveness for the fact that he didn't think he reacted soon enough", Chacon recalled. "That perhaps if he took the bullet. Or he could have pushed him out of the way". Eventually Romero overcame his guilt, thanks in part to the support of Kennedy admirers who told him that he was an example of the type of person Kennedy embraced. Romero is survived by daughters Elda Romero, Josefina Guerra and Cynthia Medina; a son, Greg Romero; and grandson, Chris Ortiz. Funeral services will be Sunday at Chapel of Flowers in San Jose, California.

Juan Romero, busboy who aided wounded Robert Kennedy, dies, AP, October 4, 2018

The busboy who tried to help a wounded Robert F Kennedy in 1968 dies. His life was haunted by the violence, by Steve Lopez, LA Times, Oct 3, 2018

The hotel busboy who came to Robert F Kennedy's aid when the New York senator was shot in Los Angeles has died, NBC News, Oct 4, 2018

listen Juan Romero, busboy who held RFK after he was gunned down, dead at 68, CBC, Oct 4, 2018

RFKdies44yearsago Robert Kennedy dies from gunshot wounds 44 years ago, A Moment in Time, June 6, 1968-2012
He had just delivered a rousing victory speech after winning the California primary, vowing to make his presidential campaign an attempt to heal America's deep racial and economic divides. Moments later, threading through well-wishers in the ballroom kitchen of Los Angeles's Ambassador Hotel, Senator Robert Francis Kennedy, just 42 years old, was shot three times at close range by a .22-caliber Iver-Johnson Cadet revolver. His apparent assailant was Sirhan-Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant. Although various conspiracy theories still claim there was a second gunman on the scene, Sirhan confessed to the crime, calling it a protest of Kennedy's support for Israel. Kennedy died of his wounds 26 hours later at Good Samaritan Hospital. Sirhan, meanwhile, continues to serve a life sentence in a California prison.

SecondGunCover watch THE SECOND GUN on YouTube (This 1973 documentary is a "must see" for RFK assassination researchers. It proves, beyond doubt, that a contract killer -- a hired gun disguised as a security guard -- fired the fatal bullet into the back of Bobby's head from point-blank range)






Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com