A conversation with Shane O’Sullivan. The portrait of an excellent researcher giving us an astonishing scoop: RFK Jr. is writing a book on both Kennedy assassinations
NOTE: This is the translation of an Italian article by Michele Metta. Original here
Today, I am going to interview Shane O’Sullivan. He is an Irish talented writer and filmmaker. He is in fact the author of a very important documentary, The Real Manchurian Candidate, on the assassination of Robert Kennedy. This movie received an endorsement by RFK Jr., son of RFK. O’Sullivan also wrote a very well-made book, Who Killed Bobby? The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy. So, I am deeply honored he accepted to answer some questions. Let’s start.
When and why did you decide to investigate the assassination of RFK?
I first heard about the case in 2004 and intended to adapt the story of two guns, a mysterious girl in a polka dress and a Manchurian Candidate assassin into a screenplay for a film. While researching the story, I discovered new evidence that led me to write a book and make a documentary instead.
Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian, was the man caught in the afterwards of RFK’s killing, and the one declared guilty of the assassination. Anyway, if we do examine all the evidence, we realize facts are very different from what they seem. Which was Sirhan’s position at the moment of the shooting?
Witnesses placed the barrel of Sirhan’s gun between one and a half to five feet in front of Kennedy.
And which was Sirhan arm position? I mean: its angle, its elevation.
Most witnesses, like Frank Burns, who was standing between Sirhan and Kennedy, described it as level with the ground.
After how much time was Sirhan blocked?
Ambassador Hotel maître d’ Karl Uecker said he diverted Sirhan’s gun hand away from Kennedy after the second shot. Sirhan continued firing as Uecker slammed his gun hand against the steam table, trying to disarm him.
The kind of gun used to kill RFK is so little it can easily disappear in a palm. Is this important, and why?
It may explain why the second gunman, with a similar small-gauge model to Sirhan’s Iver Johnson .22-caliber Cadet, could fire the fatal shot and escape, relatively undetected.
What about the kind of bullets used that fatal night?
They were CCI Mini-Mag Hollow Point .22-caliber bullets. These hollow points were high-velocity bullets, which mushroomed on impact, expanding to cause maximum damage, explaining the devastation in the senator’s brain.
What does the autopsy on RFK exactly establish?
The fatal shot was fired from an inch behind Kennedy’s right ear. Three other shots were fired from the same firing position. Two penetrated Kennedy’s right armpit. One of these lodged in his neck, the other exited his body and was lost in the ceiling interspace. A fourth shot entered and exited through the shoulder-pad of his coat without entering his body. All four shots were from a sharp upward angle, back-to-front, from behind and to the right.
What can you tell us about Thane Eugene Cesar?
He was an Ace security guard hired to supplement the hotel security team that evening. He was behind Kennedy and to his right, holding the senator by the right elbow as he made his way through the pantry to a late-night press conference. At the time of the shots, he was in the firing position of the fatal shot described in the autopsy. He ducked, lost his balance, and fell back against the ice machines. He looked up to see the senator lying on his back right in front of him. During his fall, he lost his bow-tie, which can be seen beside Kennedy as he lies bleeding on the pantry floor. Cesar scrambled to his feet, pulled his gun, and moved to Kennedy’s side “to protect him from further attack.” Cesar claimed he was carrying a .38, not a .22, that night but his gun was never checked by the police. He had racist views and hated the Kennedys.
Cesar stated that he sold his .22 you just talk about in your answer. A gun that we can all in all describe as an exact copy of Sirhan’s gun. There are various problems about his statement, are there not?
Cesar owned a H&R .22 caliber revolver that was a different model to Sirhan’s but was a similar size and had the same “rifling characteristics,” which means it was compatible with the key victim bullets in the case. Cesar said he sold this gun three months before the Kennedy shooting. In fact, he sold it three months after and told the buyer it had “been involved in a police shooting.”
Witnesses exist stating that a security guard fired; that there was a “second gun” involved that night.
Don Schulman is the main witness to this. Ten minutes after the shooting, he gave his witness account to Jeff Brent, a friend of his, who was just outside the pantry when the shooting happened, reporting for Continental News Service.
When you listen to it at first, Schulman actually seems to say that the security guard hit Kennedy all three times, but later he stated that the Caucasian man who stepped out fired three times at Kennedy, hitting Kennedy all three times, and then the security guards fired back. This is how the “second gun” theory whose first father was a researcher called Ted Charach, was born: from this ninety-second recording.
Who talked about a girl in a polka dot dress, and why this does matter?
Around eleven thirty, young Mexican American campaign worker Sandra Serrano went to sit outside on a fire escape to escape the heat of the lower ballroom. While she was out there, a man resembling Sirhan climbed the stairs past her with a pretty girl in a polka-dot dress and a Mexican American man in a gold sweater. “Excuse us,” the girl said, and Sandra made way as the three went up the stairs to the Embassy Ballroom. Shortly after the shooting, Serrano was still sitting on the fire escape below the southwest corner of the Embassy Ballroom. She heard what she thought was a car backfire six times; then the girl in the polka-dot dress and the Mexican American man in the gold sweater burst out onto the hotel fire escape and ran down the stairs, almost stepping on her.
“We’ve shot him! We’ve shot him!” the girl exclaimed. “Who did you shoot?” asked Sandra. “We’ve shot Senator Kennedy!” The girl seemed so excited about shooting Kennedy, Sandra went back inside in a state of shock.
Just over an hour later, she told her story live on NBC television and in the weeks that followed, was bullied by Hernandez, LAPD polygraph officer, into retracting her story. She never did and stands by her statement today.
And we also have Di Pierro’s words.
Yes. Teenage waiter Vincent Di Pierro was in the pantry shortly before the shooting, standing level with the ice machines, five feet to the right of Kennedy. He noticed Sirhan in a powder blue jacket, white shirt, and light blue pants at the opposite end of the ice machine, twelve to fifteen feet away. He was standing up on a tray stacker “in a kind of funny position . . . like in a crouch — like if he were trying to protect himself from something. . . . I thought he was sick.”
“When I first saw him there was a girl behind him, too; I don’t know if you need that. There were two people that I saw.”
In fact, the only reason Di Pierro noticed Sirhan in the first place “was because there was this good-looking girl in the crowd there.” The girl and Shiran were really close each other, and Sirhan turned and smiled and seemed to say something to her or flirt with her, the waiter remembered.
Di Pierro described the girl as Caucasian, between twenty and twenty-four years old, at approximately the same eye level as Sirhan on the tray stacker, with dark brown hair to just above the shoulders, a little puffed up on one side, and a short, “pug” nose.
She wore a white dress with black or dark violet polka dots on it and a bib collar made of the same material as the dress. Her face wasn’t that pretty, “but I would never forget what she looked like because she had a very good-looking figure — and the dress was kind of lousy.”
He didn’t see her after the shooting.
The accounts of Serrano and Di Pierro establish that an attractive female “handler” in a white dress with black polka dots led Sirhan to the hotel, positioned him in the pantry, triggered him to start firing and then disappeared down the fire escape and has never been found. Rather than admit that, Hank Hernandez bullied Di Pierro into retracting his statement and closed the polka-dot dress investigation.
These facts induce me to ask: how do you judge the police behavior in this case?
The LAPD desperately wanted to avoid the national embarrassment the Dallas Police Department had suffered after the deaths of JFK and Oswald in 1963. They shut down all leads suggesting a conspiracy by getting witnesses to undertake a polygraph examination with Lt. Enrique “Hank” Hernandez, who browbeat witnesses into retracting their statements. The LAPD suppressed their investigation files for twenty years and destroyed important evidence. LAPD criminalist Dewayne Wolfer was later harshly criticized for his work on the firearms evidence in the case. He claimed he matched the key victim bullets to Sirhan’s gun but this conclusion and the evidence he based it on were later found to be false.
Paul Schrade was also hit along with Robert Kennedy, but he survived. Who is Schrade, what does he say now, and why is it so important?
Paul Schrade was a close friend of Bobby Kennedy and labor chair for his 1968 campaign. Schrade was walking six to eight feet behind Robert Kennedy when he was shot in the head by the first bullet (probably by Sirhan). He fell to the floor and was knocked out as the shooting continued but from 1974 onwards, he has called for a reinvestigation of the case because he believes more bullets were fired that night than Sirhan’s gun could hold. In 2016, he attended Sirhan’s parole hearing and apologized to the man who shot him for not supporting his release sooner. He believes Sirhan did not kill Bobby Kennedy and should be released.
I recently interviewed Stephen Jaffe, a really preeminent member of Garrison’s staff, the New Orleans DA thanks whose courage in 1967 the investigation on the assassination of JFK revived. Answering to my questions, he reveled that he was the organizer of a very special secret rendezvousbetween RFK and Garrison himself, adding: “Before that meeting, I had a contact from a close friend of the Kennedy family who asked me to arrange the meeting. We also had help from another US Senator. RFK told Garrison in New York, at this very confidential meeting, that he was going to reopen the investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy but only after he was elected President. Only with that power, he explained, could he do so.” This very well pairs with a statement by RFK Jr. This one: “My father believed the Warren Report was a shoddy piece of craftsmanship. He publicly supported the Warren Commission report but privately he was dismissive of it. My father thought that somebody [else] was involved. The evidence at this point I think is very, very convincing that it was not a lone gunman.” Please, what do you think about this meeting and about this revelation by RFK Jr.?
This provides one of the motives for why he was killed.
As I said in the beginning introducing you, your documentary received an endorsement by RFK Jr., a clear demonstration of how much important your work is. Did you also have any opportunity to talk with him directly?
No, but I’m in touch with people who are close to him. He’s writing a new book on both Kennedy assassinations that I hope will keep media attention on the RFK assassination and Sirhan’s case.