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Newly Found Interview Indicates Second Gunman


Frank Caramelli
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"...At the time there seemed to be an impression...between everybody at that moment, that there was another assailant that had taken off in the direction of the main hallway..." Joe LaHive June 8, 1968

Joseph Albert LaHive was born in Boston, Massachusetts, November 17, 1921.

He fought in World War II as an Army navigator and bombadier, and by the end of the war was involved in the construction of warships. Though associated with both the Air Force and Navy, he was enlisted Army.

Returning to the Boston area, he graduated from Boston College and began work for Seagrams, the beverage company. By the fifties he had relocated to Southern California, and became active in Democratic politics, eventually heading the Van Nuys Democratic Club. He ran for United States Congress and placed second in a five person race. He suffered a 'Dewey defeats Truman' night, when the then Valley Greensheet declared him the winner. The final vote tabulation showed that was not to be. It was 1966.

Joe continued working for the Seagrams Company, raising a family with two sons. His first marriage ended in divorce and he became engaged to longtime friend Esty Duffy. Both active in Democratic politics, they went together to the Ambassador Hotel; to celebrate the California Primary victory of Bobby Kennedy. He was interviewed about his experience three days later, June 8, 1968, as the train carrying Bobby moved from New York toward Washington D.C.

The interviewer is Gary Smith.

MIC CHECK

GS I'm talking to Mr. Joe LaHive, who unfortunately was at campaign headquarters, the evening or the early morning of June 5th.

INTERVIEW BEGINS

GS "This is Gary Smith, It's the afternoon of June 8th, three days after the fatal shooting of Senator Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel, here in Los Angeles. Four men subdued Sirhan Sirhan, after the shooting in the hallway outside the Grand Ballroom, of the Ambassador Hotel. Here with his live account of what happened that evening, is Joe LaHive. Joe, exactly where were you when you heard the first shot and then what happened after that?

JL "Well the shooting took place in a corridor leading to the kitchen behind the Embassy Ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel. I was standing at the foot of the stairs, behind the stage, waiting for the Senator and his party to descend, and make his way to his elevator, to the elevator, to the ballroom below, where another crowd was waiting to hear his victory speech."

"The Senator turned in a different direction, and came through the back of the stage to my left instead of to my right. I was standing with my companion, Esty Duffy, and Cap Hardy, a friend of mine, in the back of the stage, and he passed to our left with his entourage, which included Roosevelt Greer, Rafer Johnson, George Plimpton, Jesse Unruh. I spoke very briefly, to the party, Tony Bielenson was in front of the Senator, and I had just complemented him on his race for Senator. They proceeded through the double doors in front of us, and as I turned to speak to my friend, Mrs. Duffy; a surge of shots rang out... and a few screams; at that moment... I instantly seemed to sense that this was not firecrackers or balloons. And I pushed myself forward through the crowd past the television camera, held by an ABC man, and taking a quick look at the first person I saw lying on the floor, which proved later to be Paul Schrade, it seemed to me it was Steve Smith, the girl who was injured came running past me, being assisted as she subsequently proved to be Mrs. Evans... and her... was screaming myself 'Oh, God...no, no please don't let it be...' something of that nature. Looking at the next person on the floor, sprawled, just as he seemed to strike the floor, I noted immediately that it was... the Senator.

His eyes were staring, straight at the ceiling. His mouth was open, but not as though he was about to speak. It was at that moment, almost total immobility; the blood was spurting into a pool behind his right ear. The moment was stark, and... what seemed to be eerie lighting, 'cause darkness was around us except for bright lights from the photographers, television cameras, picking up the light blueness of the Senator's eyes. Giving it a ghastly white, ghostlike look; which conveyed to me a feeling of death immediately.

I didn't hesitate at the Senator, because a struggle was ensuing ahead of me with the assailant. First person I noted beside me was Rosie Greer, and another man that I later have had identified as George Plimpton. The assistant maitre'd of the hotel was also in the rush toward the assailant, and at that moment our concentration was on the gun which was being pushed toward the metal serving table. And about six of us had our hands clamped on that gun one way or the other."

GS "Had all the shots been fired, that, that ... no more shots had been fired after that..."

JL "We had, they had all been fired, we found out that this gun was empty.

GS "But you didn't know it at the time..."

JL "No, we had no way of knowing it, at the time. In fact the reporter beside me was screaming that it was pointing at his stomach, the finger I could see was still in the triggerguard, and on the trigger, and somebody was shouting that it was frozen there, but I doubt thtat it was really frozen, and I think that all of us were holding such a clamp on it that he would have been unable to move even the barrel of the revolver itself ...uh."

GS "Excuse me for interrupting but, I believe you mentioned once before when I was discussing this with you, that at that time, there wasn't any assurance that there might be more than one person with a gun in that hallway."

JL "I was about to say that, at that time there seemed to be an impression we, between everybody at that moment that there was another assailant that had taken off in the direction of the main hallway of the hotel. And we all felt that later, because of the number of shots that seemed to ring out that it was more than could have come from the revolver that we had our hands on. At the time we realized it was small caliber, but were unaware that small caliber pistols would have more than six shots. And, as we all know now, eight shots had rung out, giving us the impression that there must have been more than one revolver involved."

"We had no way of knowing that there wasn't any more shells in this revolver except for what I could see of the barrel, that barrel was nothing but emptiness there. We couldn't get the gun away until we had the assurance that it wouldn't fall into the hands of somebody that might want to kill the assailant, because it seemed to be the prime concern of all of the aides of Senator Kennedy, that they keep the man alive. I remember I, screaming, 'we have to keep this sob alive'... we'we have to keep him alive.' Some onlookers or spectators or supporters of the Senator, that are unknown to us, were lashing away viciously at the assailant.

GS "Joe, I was going to mention that, I saw you the next evening, and uh, you didn't recall, but you had a bruise on your face, and you said that there were people that were kicking and clawing, of course we've seen the news reports of Sirhan Sirhan being led out of the hotel, and into the police cars, and of course, he was, they almost got him at that time and I'm sure that possibly they could have really torn him limb for limb. However, but at the time in the hallway, in all this hysteria then what you're saying is that the, amazingly enough that the Kennedy people, and Rosie Greer as you told me in particularly, uh, rather than maybe sitting on him so he wouldn't get away, you were really protecting him from a mob that uh, in the old westerns would say was a lynch mob.

JL "Let me clarify to you, it wasn't the hallway, it was the chamber, or corridor leading to the kitchen. But again on the fact that they were a lynch mob. They were distraught people. They were furious that they had this happen to their Senator. There was anger lashing out in all directions. I subsequently found a man swabbing my face with ice; wondering why he did this, and I found that the ice had come from Mrs. Duffy, who was bringing ice to all of the people, cleaning the faces of the Senator and Paul Schrade. That, I was, in fact bleeding myself from the face and I had no knowledge of it at the time in the excitement. The body of Rosie Greer was in fact, thoroughly protecting the assailant. Jesse Unruh jumped upon the table and screamed that we had to keep the man alive, he kept his presence to make sure that we did just this. In every sense there was pandemonium everywhere we could look. Everything that we could hear, and all of the activity around the Senator was being blotted out by screaming and shouting, and the Senator's wife Ethyl was, herself lashing out at people that were coming near the Senator.

GS "You were then actually, again, the most of us, I am sure by now, have seen some newsreel or television or replay of the incident. They did not show Sirhan Sirhan, most of the footage was directed towards the Senator. But I understand that you actually were not that far away from him.

JL "The footage that I've seen of the activity in that room which accompanied Andy West's report, focused through the corridor from the direction from which the Senator had come. Past Cap Hardy who was fanning and protecting Paul Schrade from the reporters who were trying get in for pictures of Senator Kennedy, and they only show a very slight picture of the scuffle ensuing past the Senator. Consequently there wasn't any pictures being taken from the other direction and the scuffle itself did not appear to show in any of the television coverage.

I'd like to point out at this time though, that Cap Brown (sic) was doing a fantastic job of keeping Paul Schrade alive, because reporters in their anxiety to get to the scene of the Senator himself were stepping across this man rather, I think, callously.

GS "There are reports that Sirhan Sirhan yelled something to the effect: 'I did it for my country' and did you hear that?

JL "None of us that were involved, from subsequent interrogation. at least at the police station, I talked to Rosie Greer, George Plimpton momentarily and none of us seemed to have heard any comment what so ever from the assailant."

GS "It is now, as we said, June 8th, three days, after the shots, we're sitting watching the happenings of the day which is the funeral train making it's way from New York City to Washington, looking back at this time, do you feel your actions or your thoughts, or your feelings might be different now than they were at that moment, do you feel that you might have done something then that you, um, had you not been suddenly thrown into this emergency, might have done something differently than actually did take place?

JL "No, I haven't given any thought to alternative courses with the possible exception, would I have stopped at the victim, and have seen whether or not I could have offered any assistance to him. At that time it occurred to me that the shooting may not be over and that the assault was still in action, uh, believe that I would probably follow the same course again under similar circumstances.

GS "Mr LaHive, thank you very very much; this is Gary Smith returning you to our studios."

Gary Smith is unknown at this time and a search of Los Angeles area radio announcers of the period has not brought an identity. Though the tape sounds to be a live radio interview, on the tape there is no radio station ID, no introduction, and the "tossback'" does not reveal a second announcer's voice. It is possible the tape was not recorded live, but done on tape to be used later in an "as live" situation; keeping in mind, as live was not common in those days, and is now more associated with television than radio. Another possibility is that this is a field recording made for a college radio station; perhaps Los Angeles City College, or Cal State Northridge; at that time (San Fernando) Valley State College. It is also possible that Joe LaHive wanted to have his interview recorded for future use by a radio station. Gary Smith may have been a media connected friend.

Joe LaHive's statement, "...there was another assailant that had taken off in the direction of the main hallway..", must be taken as accurate insofar as his use of the word "hallway". It would seem he was saying the main ballroom, or the Embassy Ballroom, but he used the word "hallway". Joe was intimately familiar with the grounds and layout of the Ambassador, as the hotel; it's bars and restaurants, were Joe's steady clients in his employ with Seagrams. Esty LaHive told me that with the crush of people in attendance that night, Joe's knowledge of the back corridors and stairways was what got them in close proximity in their quest to congratulate Senator Kennedy.

Frank Caramelli

April, 2008

Edited by Frank Caramelli
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Thanks, Frank. Very interesting. Besides the possibility that someone got away, I found Sirhan's not saying anything quite interesting. In recent years, no thanks to Forum member Mel Ayton, there's been a growing movement to depict Sirhan as a proto-Palestinian terrorist. Outside of a few lines in his notebook, and a few statements he supposedly said when captured, there doesn't seem to be much to this. Certainly, in the many years since the shooting, Sirhan has had numerous opportunities to promote his "cause" if he had one, and he hasn't taken the opportunity. Or am I missing something?

Edited by Pat Speer
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Did George Plimpton ever give an account of the assassination? After all, he was one of America's most famous journalists at the time.

Journalist and CIA-er. Presumably the latter silenced the former.

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Thanks, Frank. Very interesting. Besides the possibility that someone got away, I found Sirhan's not saying anything quite interesting. In recent years, no thanks to Forum member Mel Ayton, there's been a growing movement to depict Sirhan as a proto-Palestinian terrorist. Outside of a few lines in his notebook, and a few statements he supposedly said when captured, there doesn't seem to be much to this. Certainly, in the many years since the shooting, Sirhan has had numerous opportunities to promote his "cause" if he had one, and he hasn't taken the opportunity. Or am I missing something?

Palestine is about 3% Christian, and Sirhan was raised Christian. His mother worked for Pasadena Presbyterian Church for something like thirty years. I agree; Sirhan did mouth a few anti-Christian statements, but before and certainly after, he has not presented himself as part of any cause. The recent books about him, and other books that site him as "America's first terrorist" don't make a good case for his act being politically motivated. His trial seemed to bring that up on various occasions, but never solidly claimed that as part of (or the main component of) a defense. Ultimately his defense relied on his not remembering the crime, and his being "confused by the mirrors". Many people saw Sirhan firing away, his guilt (of at least attempted murder) was a given. LAPD helped to make sure it was the only given.

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Joe was intimately familiar with the grounds and layout of the Ambassador, as the hotel; it's bars and restaurants, were Joe's steady clients in his employ with Seagrams. Esty LaHive told me that with the crush of people in attendance that night, Joe's knowledge of the back corridors and stairways was what got them in close proximity in their quest to congratulate Senator Kennedy.

Frank Caramelli

April, 2008

So Joe was intimately familiar with the layout of the Ambassador hotel. Hmm...

And he worked for Seagram's, the distillery bought out by the Bronfman family in 1928. The same Bronfman family who were major shareholders in General Dynamics and were closely linked to Meyer Lansky's bootlegging activities and, like Lansky, generous and devoted supporters of Israel.

Permindex, BCI, Tibor Rosenbaum, Clay Shaw, Bloomfield, Bronfman, Lansky, Sonneborn Institute and Montreal. Put them together and what do you get?

Oh that's right---a crazed and devoted supporter of Palestine determined to prevent RFK from swinging towards Israel. After all, the Palestinians were getting such a great deal from America in 1968, weren't they. Sirhan just had to intervene to protect it.

Edited by Mark Stapleton
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  • 3 weeks later...

"And we all felt that later, because of the number of shots that seemed to ring out that it was more than could have come from the revolver that we had our hands on." Here, on June 8th, a couple of days after the shooting, LaHive suggests a general impression among witnesses that more than eight shots were fired.

In his new book, Who Killed Bobby, Shane O'Sullivan quotes LaHive in a way that seems to confirm another of the recent audio- analysis findings of the recently discovered tape:the sequence of shots was such that it could not have come from only one gun:"LaHive said the shots 'went off with a staccato burst and it was almost like rapid-fire. The guy must have just squeezed them off as fast as he possibly could, and if there were two people, that would account for the seeming sequence of shots" (p. 342-343, Who Killed Bobby).

This interview was from the night of the shooting.

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  • 3 weeks later...
GS "This is Gary Smith, It's the afternoon of June 8th, three days after the fatal shooting of Senator Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel, here in Los Angeles. Four men subdued Sirhan Sirhan, after the shooting in the hallway outside the Grand Ballroom, of the Ambassador Hotel. Here with his live account of what happened that evening, is Joe LaHive. Joe, exactly where were you when you heard the first shot and then what happened after that?

JL "Well the shooting took place in a corridor leading to the kitchen behind the Embassy Ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel. I was standing at the foot of the stairs, behind the stage, waiting for the Senator and his party to descend, and make his way to his elevator, to the elevator, to the ballroom below, where another crowd was waiting to hear his victory speech."

"The Senator turned in a different direction, and came through the back of the stage to my left instead of to my right. I was standing with my companion, Esty Duffy, and Cap Hardy, a friend of mine, in the back of the stage, and he passed to our left with his entourage, which included Roosevelt Greer, Rafer Johnson, George Plimpton, Jesse Unruh. I spoke very briefly, to the party, Tony Bielenson was in front of the Senator, and I had just complemented him on his race for Senator. They proceeded through the double doors in front of us, and as I turned to speak to my friend, Mrs. Duffy; a surge of shots rang out... and a few screams; at that moment... I instantly seemed to sense that this was not firecrackers or balloons. And I pushed myself forward through the crowd past the television camera, held by an ABC man, and taking a quick look at the first person I saw lying on the floor, which proved later to be Paul Schrade, it seemed to me it was Steve Smith, the girl who was injured came running past me, being assisted as she subsequently proved to be Mrs. Evans... and her... was screaming myself 'Oh, God...no, no please don't let it be...' something of that nature. Looking at the next person on the floor, sprawled, just as he seemed to strike the floor, I noted immediately that it was... the Senator.

His eyes were staring, straight at the ceiling. His mouth was open, but not as though he was about to speak. It was at that moment, almost total immobility; the blood was spurting into a pool behind his right ear. The moment was stark, and... what seemed to be eerie lighting, 'cause darkness was around us except for bright lights from the photographers, television cameras, picking up the light blueness of the Senator's eyes. Giving it a ghastly white, ghostlike look; which conveyed to me a feeling of death immediately.

I didn't hesitate at the Senator, because a struggle was ensuing ahead of me with the assailant. First person I noted beside me was Rosie Greer, and another man that I later have had identified as George Plimpton. The assistant maitre'd of the hotel was also in the rush toward the assailant, and at that moment our concentration was on the gun which was being pushed toward the metal serving table. And about six of us had our hands clamped on that gun one way or the other."

Frank,

The newly released photograph taken by LAFD's Burba shows only the hands of Plimpton and Uecker on Sirhan Sirhan. Uecker seems to grasping Sirhan's hand and pistol. Perhaps the others arrived moments.

Peter Fokes,

Toronto

Gary Smith is unknown at this time and a search of Los Angeles area radio announcers of the period has not brought an identity. Though the tape sounds to be a live radio interview, on the tape there is no radio station ID, no introduction, and the "tossback'" does not reveal a second announcer's voice. It is possible the tape was not recorded live, but done on tape to be used later in an "as live" situation; keeping in mind, as live was not common in those days, and is now more associated with television than radio. Another possibility is that this is a field recording made for a college radio station; perhaps Los Angeles City College, or Cal State Northridge; at that time (San Fernando) Valley State College. It is also possible that Joe LaHive wanted to have his interview recorded for future use by a radio station. Gary Smith may have been a media connected friend.

Joe LaHive's statement, "...there was another assailant that had taken off in the direction of the main hallway..", must be taken as accurate insofar as his use of the word "hallway". It would seem he was saying the main ballroom, or the Embassy Ballroom, but he used the word "hallway". Joe was intimately familiar with the grounds and layout of the Ambassador, as the hotel; it's bars and restaurants, were Joe's steady clients in his employ with Seagrams. Esty LaHive told me that with the crush of people in attendance that night, Joe's knowledge of the back corridors and stairways was what got them in close proximity in their quest to congratulate Senator Kennedy.

Frank Caramelli

April, 2008

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GS "This is Gary Smith, It's the afternoon of June 8th, three days after the fatal shooting of Senator Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel, here in Los Angeles. Four men subdued Sirhan Sirhan, after the shooting in the hallway outside the Grand Ballroom, of the Ambassador Hotel. Here with his live account of what happened that evening, is Joe LaHive. Joe, exactly where were you when you heard the first shot and then what happened after that?

JL "Well the shooting took place in a corridor leading to the kitchen behind the Embassy Ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel. I was standing at the foot of the stairs, behind the stage, waiting for the Senator and his party to descend, and make his way to his elevator, to the elevator, to the ballroom below, where another crowd was waiting to hear his victory speech."

"The Senator turned in a different direction, and came through the back of the stage to my left instead of to my right. I was standing with my companion, Esty Duffy, and Cap Hardy, a friend of mine, in the back of the stage, and he passed to our left with his entourage, which included Roosevelt Greer, Rafer Johnson, George Plimpton, Jesse Unruh. I spoke very briefly, to the party, Tony Bielenson was in front of the Senator, and I had just complemented him on his race for Senator. They proceeded through the double doors in front of us, and as I turned to speak to my friend, Mrs. Duffy; a surge of shots rang out... and a few screams; at that moment... I instantly seemed to sense that this was not firecrackers or balloons. And I pushed myself forward through the crowd past the television camera, held by an ABC man, and taking a quick look at the first person I saw lying on the floor, which proved later to be Paul Schrade, it seemed to me it was Steve Smith, the girl who was injured came running past me, being assisted as she subsequently proved to be Mrs. Evans... and her... was screaming myself 'Oh, God...no, no please don't let it be...' something of that nature. Looking at the next person on the floor, sprawled, just as he seemed to strike the floor, I noted immediately that it was... the Senator.

His eyes were staring, straight at the ceiling. His mouth was open, but not as though he was about to speak. It was at that moment, almost total immobility; the blood was spurting into a pool behind his right ear. The moment was stark, and... what seemed to be eerie lighting, 'cause darkness was around us except for bright lights from the photographers, television cameras, picking up the light blueness of the Senator's eyes. Giving it a ghastly white, ghostlike look; which conveyed to me a feeling of death immediately.

I didn't hesitate at the Senator, because a struggle was ensuing ahead of me with the assailant. First person I noted beside me was Rosie Greer, and another man that I later have had identified as George Plimpton. The assistant maitre'd of the hotel was also in the rush toward the assailant, and at that moment our concentration was on the gun which was being pushed toward the metal serving table. And about six of us had our hands clamped on that gun one way or the other."

Frank,

The newly released photograph taken by LAFD's Burba shows only the hands of Plimpton and Uecker on Sirhan Sirhan. Uecker seems to grasping Sirhan's hand and pistol. Perhaps the others arrived moments.

Peter Fokes,

Toronto

Gary Smith is unknown at this time and a search of Los Angeles area radio announcers of the period has not brought an identity. Though the tape sounds to be a live radio interview, on the tape there is no radio station ID, no introduction, and the "tossback'" does not reveal a second announcer's voice. It is possible the tape was not recorded live, but done on tape to be used later in an "as live" situation; keeping in mind, as live was not common in those days, and is now more associated with television than radio. Another possibility is that this is a field recording made for a college radio station; perhaps Los Angeles City College, or Cal State Northridge; at that time (San Fernando) Valley State College. It is also possible that Joe LaHive wanted to have his interview recorded for future use by a radio station. Gary Smith may have been a media connected friend.

Joe LaHive's statement, "...there was another assailant that had taken off in the direction of the main hallway..", must be taken as accurate insofar as his use of the word "hallway". It would seem he was saying the main ballroom, or the Embassy Ballroom, but he used the word "hallway". Joe was intimately familiar with the grounds and layout of the Ambassador, as the hotel; it's bars and restaurants, were Joe's steady clients in his employ with Seagrams. Esty LaHive told me that with the crush of people in attendance that night, Joe's knowledge of the back corridors and stairways was what got them in close proximity in their quest to congratulate Senator Kennedy.

Frank Caramelli

April, 2008

Hello Peter and thanks for the response. In the photograph with Plimpton and Ueker, you can see Joe LaHive just to the right of Ueker. His profile is just visible and one can see his glasses. In talking to his wife, I get the impression Joe tackled Sirhan down low around the legs, twisting one of them so Sirhan could not run away. Sirhan's first appearance in court was in a wheelchair; Mrs. LaHive told me Joe felt that was due to the twist he gave Sirhan's leg. Sirhan, it seems, nearly wiggled out of everyones grasp a few times. It stands to reason that Joe had him around the legs and Plimpton, Ueker and Greer were concentrating on the gun and upper body of Sirhan. Keep in mind the LaHive's were outside the pantry doors when the shooting began. Este LaHive told me Joe burst through the doors while the bullets were still flying; having been a military man, he knew it was gunshots. The profile of Joe matches his characteristics; tall, with thick glasses, I zeroed in on that part of the picture when first I saw it. My thought was "...yeah, there's Joe LaHive."

Edited by Frank Caramelli
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