On the evening of 4th June 1968, Kennedy was upstairs in his room at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, awaiting the official outcome of the Californian ballot, which he was confidently expected to win, once counting was completed. At 11.30 pm, when it appeared that victory was imminent, he moved down into the hotel ballroom with his entourage, where he was greeted by rapturous applause. He made a speech, which referenced the recent assassination of Martin Luther King, and again called for racial tolerance, as well as emphasising the need to withdraw US forces from Vietnam.
Having completed his victory speech by 12.15 am, in the early hours of 5th June, he made his way to a press conference in a different part of the hotel, along with his entourage, which took him through a narrow corridor containing an assortment of catering equipment that formed part of the hotel kitchens.
“A diminutive man approached Kennedy’s entourage head-on, and fired repeated shots from a .22 calibre weapon.”
Security within the hotel was minimal. Secret Service agent protection was only extended to the president at that time - following Kennedy’s assassination, all Presidential candidates became entitled to Secret Service protection for the duration of their campaigns - and he was ushered between venues by a single guard, Thane Cesar, from a private security firm, who steered Kennedy through the congratulatory crowds packing the narrow corridor.
A diminutive man approached Kennedy’s entourage head-on, and fired repeated shots from a .22 calibre weapon. Kennedy was hit three times; once in the back of the head, and two further body shots; an additional shot tore his clothing but failed to penetrate. He fell to the floor, bleeding, as did five other individuals who received less serious wounds, either as a result of direct hits or ricochets. The gunman was subdued by a number of men within the entourage, but not before the 8-shot cylinder had been emptied. Kennedy, in obvious pain, enquired whether anyone else had been injured, and was attended by Dr Stanley Abo, who discovered the bullet hole behind Kennedy’s right ear. Recognising the risk of a blood clot, he made attempts to keep the wound clear, and Kennedy was rushed by ambulance to Central Receiving Hospital. When the severity of his head wound was discovered, and it became clear that Kennedy would require extensive neurosurgery, he was transferred again, this time to the Good Samaritan Hospital.
Meanwhile, the diminutive gunman was handed over to the police: he had seemed strangely calm throughout the entire chaotic episode, and offered no resistance to the arresting officers. He appeared incapable of providing his name, but was cooperative in all other respects.
Back at the Good Samaritan Hospital, Kennedy underwent three hours of surgery to remove a blood clot behind his brain, as well as bullet and bone fragments. Despite the surgery, his condition worsened steadily throughout the day, and he was finally pronounced dead at 1.44 am on the morning of 6th June 1968, having never recovered consciousness after the surgery. He was 42-years-old.