Man injured in RFK assassination who believed in 2nd shooter theory dies – NBC Boston

Paul Schrade, a labor leader who was shot in the head in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and spent decades convinced that Sirhan Sirhan was not the killer, died Wednesday of natural causes. He was 97 years old.

Schrade died at his longtime home in Los Angeles, his brother-in-law, Martin Weil, said.

Schrade was among five people injured but survived the June 1968 shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Kennedy, a senator and the slain president’s younger brother John F Kennedyhad just won the 1968 Democratic presidential primary in California.

“I got hit with the first hit,” Schrade told the Los Angeles Times. “I was right behind Bobby. It was meant for him and got me. I thought I had been electrocuted. I was shaking violently on the ground and saw lightning.

Sirhan was attacked, arrested and later convicted of Kennedy’s murder. His brother-in-law said Schrade was no friend of Sirhan but forgave him.

Sirhan testified at his trial that he had been drinking and had no recollection of the shooting.

Schrade later became convinced that the wrong man had been imprisoned and that a second attacker who was never identified was the real killer, but this was covered up by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.

Schrade spent much of his time going through official records and documents and contacting others who doubted the official conclusions about the murder. The LAPD re-examined the murder in the 1970s, but again concluded that Sirhan acted alone.

“I know what kept Paul alive was his primary goal of getting the investigation reopened,” Weil said.

“It was his only reason to continue. He was determined. He was driven,” Weil said. “He told me last week when he came home from the hospital, ‘I have to get back to my office. I have work to do.'”

In 2016, at his 15th parole hearing, Schrade faced Sirhan face to face for the first time since Schrade testified at Sirhan’s trial in 1969. Schrade’s voice occasionally cracked with emotion during of his hour of testimony which recounted his efforts to untangle questions about the Kennedy shooting.

“I forgive you for shooting me,” Schrade told Sirhan during the hearing. “I should have been here a long time ago, and that’s why I feel guilty for not being here to help you and to help me.”

Schrade has repeatedly apologized for not attending any of Sirhan’s 14 previous parole hearings.

Schrade last spoke out in favor of Sirhan’s release at his 2021 parole hearing, held over Zoom during the pandemic. Schrad told the parole board, “Sirhan was not my friend Robert Kennedy’s shooter.”

The council voted to free Sirhan, but the governor ultimately decided to leave him in jail.

Schrade was born in Saratoga Springs, New York, on December 17, 1924. He rose through the ranks of the United Automobile Workers Union and was deeply involved in other civil rights causes, including efforts to organize farm workers in California. . He introduced Kennedy to Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, two leaders in this struggle.

“He spent his life fighting for the underserved,” his brother-in-law said.

Schrade was also involved in efforts to create a public school complex on the site of the Ambassador Hotel, which was purchased in 1989 by a partnership affiliated with donald trump which planned to erect a 125-story building on the site. What followed were years of legal battles and public controversy involving the Trump group, the Los Angeles Unified School District – which wanted to buy the land under eminent domain – and environmental activists.

Eventually, the hotel site became the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools campus. The library there is named in honor of Schrade.

“Paul Schrade was a fierce warrior for humanity and justice,” school board member Mónica García said in a statement.

Schrade is survived by one sister, Louise “Weezie” Duff. His wife, Monica Weil, died in 2019.

Sharon D. Cole