ZAC STUART-PONTIER: Hey everybody, Zac here. Today on the show I’m taking a backseat and I’m letting Bill take the wheel. He’s been working with the RFK tapes team on this episode with no input from me. By design. Even though we may disagree, I wanted Bill to get a chance to say what he wanted to say in the way that he wanted to say it. And so, this is his episode. And it represents his views. I’ll be back next week with another new bonus, and I also wanted to give you a heads up that Crimetown Season 2 has just launched. The first two episodes are available right now on Spotify. Thanks.
ZAC: When was the last time you guys saw each other?
BILL KLABER: I think it was when we were visiting Sirhan, I think was the last time.
DAN MOLDEA: Bill and I first visited Sirhan...
BILL: It’s eight in the evening and I’m on stage at the Bell House in Gowanus, Brooklyn, having a debate with journalist Dan Moldea, over who killed Robert Kennedy.
MOLDEA: It was when I was still in the two-guns thing.
BILL: Yeah I know, I remember.
BILL: Dan and I hadn’t seen each other since 1994. Back then, we were both writing books on the case. And we both believed that a second gun had fired the fatal bullets. But now, Dan thinks Sirhan acted alone.
MOLDEA: The police solved the murder, I solved the case because I showed how the police errors led to people like us believing that there were two guns in that room.
BILL: So Dan and I are on opposite sides of the case. I think something much darker happened that night in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel. And today, I’m going to present some additional evidence that supports that belief. I’m Bill Klaber, and this is the RFK Tapes.
The most important evidence is that of extra bullets. Sirhan’s gun could only hold eight. You’ve heard it said by now: if there were extra bullets in the pantry, then another gun was firing. I’ll start with the account of Robert Wiedrich, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He arrived at the Ambassador the morning after the murder, and went straight to the kitchen.
ROBERT WIEDRICH: So I walked back there cold and I ran into an LA detective sergeant named MacArthur. He showed me where the Senator had come through the doors into the kitchen, where he had stopped and shaken hands with some of the help. He said, “Do you see that piece of wood?” It was a piece of molding about 8 feet long. He said it came from the center partition of the two double doors that led from the ballroom into the kitchen. I could see where it had been taken off. And it was lying on a low table and he showed me the two bullet holes in the thing, and you could see where an evidence technician’s probe had dug into the wood to extract the two expended slugs.
BILL: Other witnesses said they had also seen bullet holes, including the coroner, hotel carpenters, amateur photographers, and hotel waiters. And there were the accounts of 16 law enforcement officers. Like some you heard in Episode 8.
ZAC: Patrolman Al Lamoreaux told Moldea, “I do recall seeing one or two holes in the door, around where he had shot at him. It was just obvious, just being a dumb cop you look and see where the bullets went.”
LAPD photographer Charles Collier told Moldea, “A bullet hole looks like a bullet hole if you’ve photographed enough of them.”
Sgt. James R. MacArthur told Moldea that he had seen “quite a few bullet holes.”
Lieutenant Albin S. Hegge said, “I know that there were some because they took out door panels.”
Sgt. Raymond M. Roland told Moldea that during a tour of the pantry one of the investigators pointed to a hole in the doorframe and said, “We just pulled a bullet out of here.”
BILL: Police photographer Charles Collier also described police detectives running strings from the holes in the center divider back to where Sirhan had fired his shots, to illustrate the bullet flight paths. Seems like a strange thing to do if the holes in the door frame were not indeed bullet holes. Then there is what Officer David Butler told Moldea. Butler had been in the pantry working under criminalist DeWayne Wolfer.
MOLDEA: Well who would be responsible for taking two bullets out of the wall?
DAVID BUTLER: We are. Our unit.
MOLDEA: Do you recall who took the two bullets out of the wall that night?
BUTLER: DeWayne Wolfer took the two bullets out of the wall. I know there was some controversy later.
MOLDEA: So then the bullets that Wolfer took out of the wall would be just the ones in the center divider there?
MOLDEA: Were you there when he took the bullets out?
MOLDEA: What did he do? Just tear it out cause we’ve got pictures of it torn out.
BUTLER: Tear it out. We had to disassemble it to find the bullets.
MOLDEA: So you disassembled it and found the bullets?
BILL: Sure seems like David Butler was there and saw Wolfer recover two bullets. But David Butler would revise his story. You may have heard it in episode 9, where Butler meets with Moldea again to tell him that he actually didn’t see the bullets being removed. But what Moldea wrote in his book shows that he didn’t think much of Butler’s reversal: quote “Butler changed his story about having seen bullets removed from the center divider after he finally realized that I was accounting for more bullets than Sirhan’s gun could hold.”
BURNETT: Hello, is Mr. Bailey there?
WILLIAM BAILEY: Speaking.
BURNETT: Mr. Bailey this is investigator Burnett...
BILL: Yet another bullet hole witness was FBI agent William Bailey. In 1977, Bailey was contacted by the Los Angeles DA’s office to go over an affidavit he’d given the year before.
BURNETT: What I want to talk to you about, first I want to read this affidavit to you. Okay. “On or about June 5-6, I, William Bailey, was present in the preparation room of the Ambassador Hotel approximately four to six hours after the attempt on Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s life. I and several other agents noticed at least two small caliber bullet holes in the center post on the two doors leading from the preparation room. There was no question in any of our minds as to the fact that they were bullet holes and not caused by food carts or other equipment in the preparation room. Recall that paragraph? You saw two holes in the center doorjamb that were not nail holes but appeared to be bullet holes.
BAILEY: That’s correct.
BURNETT: And that was based upon your observation of the area.
BILL: I’m particularly fond of this conversation, because it’s essentially two cops talking to each other with a shared respect. Had Bailey been a civilian, it might not have been so friendly. Maybe he would have been invited to have lunch with Hank Hernandez. Burnett knew enough to not try to convince Bailey that he didn’t know what he was looking at. But that’s exactly what Dan Moldea tried to do at the live show, when I brought up Bailey as someone who had seen the extra bullets.
BILL: But they were identified as bullet holes by William Bailey.
MOLDEA: William Bailey has had conflicting versions of this from the beginning. The first person he went to was Vince Bugliosi. Vince Bugliosi never mentioned- he said that Bailey never mentioned a word about the bullet holes.
BILL: So Bill Bailey didn’t know what he was talking about?
MOLDEA: Bill Bailey did not know what he was talking about.
BILL: But in his book Moldea goes on about the “great respect“ he has for William Bailey. He says Bailey’s story about observing bullet holes is near impossible to discredit. That didn’t stop him from trying to do it at the live show, sliding around with oddly changing ideas: Bailey gave conflicting accounts; Bailey never mentioned bullet holes to Bugliosi; Bailey didn’t know what he was talking about. None of these assertions is true. There’s one more piece of bullet hole evidence I’d like to talk about. A photograph that shows two police officers inspecting a hole in the pantry door frame. We posted it to our website after the live show. The two officers in the photo are Sgts Robert Rozzi and Charles Wright. Former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi spoke to Rozzi in 1975, who told him he saw what he believed to be a bullet in the hole. Bugliosi then spoke to Officer Wright. Quote: “I told him that Sgt Rozzi had informed me that he was pretty sure that the bullet was removed from the hole. Sgt Wright replied, “There is no pretty sure about it, it definitely was removed from the hole, but I don’t know who did it.” Years later, Dan Moldea found Officer Wright and asked him, on a scale of one to ten, how certain he was that there was a bullet in that hole. “As close to a ten as I’d ever want to go without pulling it out,” answered Wright. If there is a bullet in that hole, as both officers said, then there is, without question, a second gun firing. Perhaps even more significant, Rozzi and Wright’s required written account of their activities the night of the murder would appear to have been removed from the police files and replaced by a third person account of their movements that never mentions a bullet in a door frame. This is a clue. Because if Rozzi and Wright’s original reports were taken and replaced by phony reports, it would be a serious crime. And, of course, they wouldn’t know that had been done, because the police files were kept secret.
BILL: As we heard in episode 9, Dan Moldea went to see his editor after his interview with security guard Gene Cesar. Moldea wanted to change the ending of his book, and say that Sirhan had acted alone, that there was no second gun. His editor was fine with the change, so long as something was done about those pesky extra bullets. After all, you can’t have extra bullets and only one gunman. So Moldea said he would go back to take a closer look. It’s all very dramatic. You heard it. He takes out a magnifying glass and looks at a photo of the bullet holes. He sees a badge number and wants to know: Who was this criminalist? Who was this firearms expert? It turns out, the badge belonged to a man from the sheriff’s office named Walter Tew, who had died the year before. So Moldea says he calls Tew’s widow and asks, “How long was your husband a criminalist?” “Oh,” answers Vivian Tew, “my husband was not a criminalist, he was a motorcycle cop.” Moldea is stunned. Now it all becomes clear. All those cops with extra bullet evidence had been fooled by this motorcycle cop who drew circles on the wall. There was no second gun. But Moldea’s reinvestigation is a big fairy tale. A gimmick. Moldea can get away with telling people this story now, because most people haven’t read his book. But I have. Here’s the truth. Moldea didn’t talk to Vivian Tew in 1994 during his dramatic so-called “reinvestigation.” He talked to her in 1990 when he was starting to interview the cops who were at the Ambassador Hotel that night. I’m sure Vivian Tew told Moldea that her husband was a motorcycle cop, but if Mrs. Tew’s revelation greatly disturbed Moldea, there is no evidence of it in his book, or in his actions after their conversation. On he charged, doing great work getting police officers to talk about what they saw that night. But when Moldea needed to make it all go away, he said that all those police accounts of extra bullets couldn’t be credible, because Walter Tew rode a motorcycle. If you want to believe that, go ahead. I don’t. But I do believe that Walter Tew is a key to understanding the Robert Kennedy murder. Let’s follow it out a little. After he talked to Tew’s widow, Moldea got ahold of Tew’s supervisor. The supervisor said that he vaguely remembered that Tew had found some bullet holes and he said that circling the holes with his badge number was the way they did it back then. Tew would then have filed an evidence report. But there is no evidence report from Walter Tew in the police files. As a required part of their investigation, the LAPD conducted interviews of all the officers from the sheriff’s office who were at the hotel that night. 23 such interviews, but there is no record of an interview with Walter Tew. Beyond that, Walter Tew is not even on the LAPD’s supposedly comprehensive list of law enforcement officers who were at the Ambassador Hotel, though his badge number is on the wall in the room where Kennedy was murdered. Walter Tew’s evidence report may have described the bullet holes in embarrassing detail. He may have refused to change his story when interviewed by the LAPD. Didn’t matter. They had an easy way out. I believe they made him disappear. And again, they would be able to do this without fear, because no one, including Walter Tew, would be able to see their files. Follow the lies.
BILL: Early on Moldea had become convinced that security guard Gene Cesar was the one who put the bullets into Robert Kennedy’s back. All the evidence seemed to point that way. But when Moldea finally caught up with Cesar, he just didn’t act guilty or sound guilty. And then Cesar took and passed a polygraph test. So Dan didn’t know what to think. I kept reminding him that the work he had already done and published pretty much proved a second gun was firing and that didn’t change just because he thought Cesar wasn’t the guy who fired those shots.
BILL: You start with the near certainty of extra bullets in the room and a second gun firing.
MOLDEA: I don’t have any doubts about that.
BILL: But if you start there you have an investigation that you can’t rely on and you have extra bullets and you have bullets coming from a separate direction and you have a guy who can’t explain himself and appears to be sincere.
MOLDEA: And you can say the same thing about Cesar.
BILL: Well you know, you made a convincing case for Cesar. You know I’ve got to say.
MOLDEA: For him that he did it, or for him that he didn’t?
BILL: That he didn’t in terms of how his personality is now, and that’s always been a puzzle for me.
BILL: Even in the 1973 documentary The Second Gun, where Cesar talks about hating Kennedy, he seems unselfconscious. Not careful with his words as one who was guilty might be. That was a problem for me. On the other hand, there was the story of Don Schulman, who the night of the assassination gave a breathless account of the murder and said quite clearly that he saw the security guard fire his gun.
REPORTER: I’m talking to Don Schulman, Don can you give us a halfway detailed report on what happened in all this chaos?
DON SCHULMAN: Ok I was standing behind Kennedy as he was taking his assigned route into the kitchen. A caucasian gentleman stepped out and fired three times. The security guard hit Kennedy all three times. Mr Kennedy slumped to the floor, as they carried him away the security guards fired back. I heard about six or seven shots in succession.
REPORTER: Now is this the security guard firing back?
SCHULMAN: Yes, the man was stepped out fired three times at Kennedy, hit him all three times. And the security guards then fired back.
BILL: The standard argument against Cesar being the guy who shot Kennedy was that Cesar was supposedly carrying a .38 caliber pistol, while the bullets in Kennedy’s back were from a .22. But Cesar did own a .22. And although he was interviewed the night of the murder, there is no record of anyone inspecting his gun to see what caliber it was, or if it had been fired. But maybe someone did.
DANIEL JENSEN: And the next night at roll call, now remember this is just a bunch of cops sitting around talking, that’s when the discussion came up of the second gun.
BILL: In Zac’s interview with officer Daniel Jensen, Jensen said that he heard other cops talking about extra bullets and about a security guard who had carried a .22.
JENSEN: I don’t remember exactly they found one or two many bullet holes. The guy had a .22, it was a 7 shot or a 9 shot, but there were too many bullet holes.
ZAC: Sirhan’s gun held 8 shots.
JENSEN: So that means if he had 8, they found 10 the way I recall. There were two, too many bullet holes. But remember, I’m hearing all this stuff, locker room talk, and one of the officers was saying that the security guard had a .22 which is an unusual gun to carry and the cops started speculating. You know what, I bet he capped off some rounds.
BILL: This is an extraordinary conversation. Of course, it’s not proof of anything, it’s just, as Jensen says, “locker room talk.” But if this is true, it greatly strengthens the case against Cesar. And if Cesar did it, I can’t tell you why he sounds innocent. Some people are just wired that way. Or maybe someone messed with his mind. The evidence of a second gun is not limited to extra bullets in the door frames, or the suspicions around Gene Cesar. There are wounds in Robert Kennedy that are seriously inconsistent with his position relative to Sirhan. According to the autopsy, the four bullets that struck Kennedy were all fired an inch or two away. Three of them were fired at a steep upward angle. Most reliable witnesses put Sirhan’s gun in front of Kennedy and a foot and a half to three feet away when the shooting started. It is possible that Kennedy turned at the last moment, and it is possible that Sirhan lunged, closing the distance to create a contact shot. But given the existing evidence, I believe it’s near impossible for Sirhan to get four shots into Kennedy’s back at contact range and at a steep upward angle.
Maitre d’ Karl Uecker has said repeatedly that he grabbed Sirhan’s wrist after the first two shots, then wrestled him down to the steam table, where Sirhan began to fire again. Nine other witnesses said they pretty much heard the same thing: two shots, a pause, and then a volley of shots. If all that’s true, where in that sequence can Sirhan fire four shots into the back of Kennedy at a steep upward angle? This one goes right by the police, so I want to credit Dan Moldea for recognizing this problem and trying to deal with it. I just don’t agree with how he solves it.
MOLDEA: It was a small area, a very small area. Everyone was pushing forward, forward. Kennedy was pushed up against the steam table. Sirhan had a clear opportunity to get him four times at point blank range.
BILL: For Dan’s steam table theory to work, Kennedy would have to now be on his knees, facing away from the table but with his head pressed up against it. That would be a memorable image - and nobody saw that. Nobody saw anything like that. And if Kennedy had taken a shot to the head in that position, he would likely have been found face down in front of the steam table and not on his back 10 feet away. What’s more, at times the LAPD’s accounting of shots, defies what you learned in high school physics. They said that the bullet that went through Kennedy’s jacket and appeared to be heading for the ceiling was the same one that ended up in Paul Schrade’s head. Of course, bullets don’t change direction mid-flight, but no one worried about that, because the important thing was that each wounded person now had a bullet, and all eight bullets had been accounted for. So everything’s fine. Right? Well, not quite. There are two more bullet holes in the ceiling. So someone comes up with the idea that maybe Sirhan fired a bullet that went through a ceiling tile, bounced off the cement floor above, came back through another ceiling tile, and hit bystander Elizabeth Evans in the head. And to this day, that is the official explanation. Is it totally impossible? No. But in my opinion, it is highly unlikely. For one thing a soft, hollow-point bullet bouncing off cement would most likely shatter or be grossly deformed. But the bullet in Elizabeth Evans head was mostly intact. And her medical report said that the bullet that struck her was traveling slightly upward. No matter. The police go with this triple duty bullet and it flies, because nobody’s asking questions. So the police are unable to recreate the murder without magic tricks, and the best that can be done 50 years later by someone supporting the police version is a crime scene ballet that I can’t believe. It’s a jungle. A tangled mess. Can anyone make sense out of it? Someone did. In 1970, a private criminalist named William Harper was asked to examine the ballistics in the Kennedy murder. He looked at the evidence, and wrote a report saying the bullet pathways showed two distinct firing positions. Position A was Sirhan firing horizontally, east to west, and position B was a person behind Kennedy, firing a gun upward into his back. No magic ricochets. No bullets changing course in flight. Nobody fooled by a motorcycle cop. If we wanted to prove Harper’s report, we would just need to take a look at the door frames. But we can’t. Because in 1969, just a few weeks after a newspaper article made the first public suggestion that police had recovered more bullets than Sirhan could have fired, the LAPD secretly destroyed the door frames and the ceiling tiles. Think real hard. Why would they do that?
BILL: Ok. Let’s take a break. When we come back, we’ll get into the new audio evidence, and why I believe Phil Van Praag.
BILL: In 2005, Brad Johnson, a senior writer at CNN, contacted Phil Van Praag, an accomplished sound engineer who had written a book on recording technology. Johnson asked Van Praag to listen to an obscure audiotape that he had found in the California State Archives. The tape had been made on a cassette recorder that belonged to journalist Stanislaw Pruszynski. Pruszynski had taped Robert Kennedy’s victory speech and then followed the senator into the pantry, not realizing that his recorder was still on. You heard this recording in episode 10. I’ll play it again for you now.
BILL: Sometime after the murder, the FBI had reviewed the tape and declared it utterly worthless. Just noise. And that’s pretty much what Van Praag thought the first time he heard it, but he agreed to look further. Van Praag knew that the cassette tape produced by the archives was a low-quality copy, so he asked to make a better copy of the reel to reel version of their tape. They agreed, but gave him just one pass, Van Praag recorded that pass onto five different machines, analog and digital, to get as much perspective as he could. Then Van Praag looked at news footage of the night to to find out where exactly Pruszynski was when the shooting started, how he was moving, what kind of recorder he was using. After that, he recorded the firing of a 22 caliber pistol under a variety of noisy circumstances to see how the sound might register on the primitive recorder Pruszynski had carried. Then the hard work began, using new computer technology to tease gunshots sounds out of the noise of the tape. He worked on this for two years. On Feb 21st, 2008, Phil Van Praag stepped to the dais and presented his findings to the Academy of Forensic Sciences at their annual conference in Washington. This will not be on the quiz, but I’ll tell you the title of the paper he presented, which was, Acoustic Analysis of Gunshot Recordings Utilizing Frequency Selective Integrated Loudness Envelope Evaluation. Van Praag explained what he did, how he did it, and how this work had uncovered 13 shot sounds in the pantry when Kennedy was murdered. He located these shot sounds to a thousandth of a second, and showed how two shot pairings, the 3rd and 4th and the 7th and 8th, were too close together to be fired from a single gun. What’s more, he identified 8 shots from a single .22 caliber pistol firing in one direction, and 5 shots from another .22, firing in the opposite direction. Those findings are consistent with what I think is a fair reading of the physical evidence at the crime scene.
BILL: Hello Phil.
PHIL VAN PRAAG: How you doin?
BILL: Good, how are you?
VAN PRAAG: Feel good to get out of New York? How you doin…
VAN PRAAG: Pleased to meet you.
ZAC: Hello, I’m Zac.
BILL: I thought Van Praag’s discoveries would make for a good episode, so Zac and I went out to see him in Arizona.
VAN PRAAG: So i’ve kind of been into the study of audio since i was a little kid actually.
BILL: Van Praag was personable and a little geeky in a way I found endearing. But when we walked into the studio behind his house, we discovered that his actual work station was just a small space in what otherwise was a literal museum of recorded sound.
VAN PRAAG: These are various reel to reel recorders mostly 2 channel 4 channel various amplifiers. Those two guys are from 1941 Zenith Trans Oceanic radios...
BILL: I was dazzled. Hundreds of old recording devices from Edison on forward, old console radios that families used to gather around, and the best collection of vinyl records that I’d ever seen. My favorite item was a glowing red jukebox that still worked, with forty-fives from the likes of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. On the wall near the jukebox was an old framed black and white photo of a guy on stage playing a guitar. His hair was swept back in the style of the day, and I thought I recognized him. Was it Buddy Holly? Duane Eddy? Turns out it was the young Phil Van Praag, looking really cool, like he was one of those guys who went around with his cigarette pack rolled in his sleeve. I was never that cool. After our tour we sat with Phil and he told us how he had done his work. I thought our conversation went well, but driving back to the airport I discovered that Zac had a different opinion. We had a rather animated argument in the car, and Zac presented his negative view of Van Praag’s findings in the final episode. While I don’t have the technical expertise to give you an informed opinion on trailing edge waveforms, or frequency domain spectrums, I could see the care and attention Van Praag brought to the things that I did understand, and I easily imagined that he took the same care with the more technical things that were beyond me. You can see it for yourself in a Discovery Times documentary he was featured in. Just search Conspiracy Test: The RFK Assassination on YouTube. Then there was Van Praag himself. He was a man who had devoted his life to the science of recorded sound, as evidenced by all the artifacts that had surrounded us in his workplace. He had been asked to apply this science to an old audio tape, to help answer questions about a tragic historical event. I can’t imagine that this man would betray himself and his science to perpetrate a lie. And why would he do it? If Van Praag had examined the Pruszynski tape and found just eight shots, he would have said that he found eight shots.
BILL: There’s one final topic I’d like to explore. The people who saw Sirhan with someone else the night of the assassination.
SANDRA SERRANO: “I was standing there just thinking, you know thinking about how many people there were and how wonderful it was. Then this girl came running down the stairs in the back, came running down the stairs, and said “We shot him, we shot him.” And I said, “Who did you shot?” And she said, “We shot Senator Kennedy.”
BILL: This, of course, is Sandra Serrano. She’s the Kennedy campaign worker who had a strange conversation with a woman right after Robert Kennedy had been shot. By itself, the conversation wasn’t all that important. Serrano might have misunderstood or misheard the woman. And she would have been comfortably buried in the black hole of the LAPD files, if she hadn’t told her story on TV. But she did, so she had to be… handled.
HANK HERNANDEZ: I love this man and you came in here. Right now he can’t even-
SERRANO: You’re shouting at me.
HERNANDEZ: I’m trying not to shout but this is a very emotional thing with me too you see.
BILL: This is Sgt. Hank Hernandez questioning Serrano.
HERNANDEZ: If you loved the man the least you owe him is the courtesy of letting him rest in peace. And he can’t rest. This is a very serious thing. And I don’t want to go out and tell these people. I would just rather you tell me and we keep it right here and we’ll cancel the report. I can do this, I have the authority to cancel the report. But the only way I can do it is by you telling me the truth. Yes there’s a truth to tell Sandy, there’s a truth to tell. I’m trying to do whatever I believe is best for you. It’s very easy to redeem, but it isn’t easy to redeem something that’s a deep wound that would grow with you like a disease like cancer.
BILL: At this point, Serrano has already endured two weeks of harsh treatment from the police, during which she lost her job, and it is obvious that the police don’t want to hear what she has to say. Hernandez is essentially telling Serrano that he will continue to make her life holy hell, unless she changes her story. So after an hour of bullying, Serrano gives in. In my opinion Hernandez has taken good evidence [hers] and replaced it with phony evidence [his], and if this is true, then he has committed a serious crime. The day after Serrano finally gives in, the Los Angeles Police hold a press conference and claim that the polka-dot woman never existed. That she was the fabrication of one “overwrought” Kennedy campaign worker. This is a huge lie. The truth was that between the police and the FBI there were several dozen reports of this woman.
Jack Merrit, a security guard, saw 2 men & a woman in a polka-dot dress run from the pantry.
Ralph Williams, was outside the pantry, saw girl run out saying “We got him, We got him.”
George Green, saw a girl in a polka dot dress run from the pantry.
Dr. Marcus McBroom, saw a man with a gun and a girl in a polka-dot dress leave the pantry, the girl shouting “We got him.”
Irene Gizzi, Kennedy volunteer, noticed girl in polka-dot dress with two Latin looking men.
Lonny Worthy, Margaret Hahn, Judith Groves, Katie Keir, Susan Locke, Richard Houston, Booker Griffin all reported seeing this woman, and the list goes on.
BILL: The most consequential witness who saw the girl in the polka dot dress was Ambassador Hotel waiter Vincent DiPierro. I don’t have time to get into his whole saga today - but you will hear all about it in next week’s episode. When I first met my Shadow Play co-author, Professor Phil Melanson, he had already spent several years combing through the newly opened police files. When it came to all these witnesses, he discovered a shocking pattern. The police didn’t collate these reports and search them for clues. Instead they did everything they could to discredit them, scatter them, hide them, alter them, and lie about them. We wrote a whole chapter on it. And, of course, no one could have known what the police said about what they saw. After all, for twenty years, the files were kept secret. It’s not the job of the police to tell the witnesses what they saw. If they try to force witnesses to change their stories, it’s not incompetence, it’s a crime. If they secretly alter their stories, it’s not bungling, it’s a crime. And if they destroy evidence, it’s not boys being boys or looking out for your buddy, it’s a crime. The work product of the police belongs to the people they work for; it is not theirs to keep secret. But keeping things secret is how crimes like this can happen. Consider all the police officers with bullet evidence who had no idea that what they saw meant a second gun was firing. And for the rest of it, listen to former LA cop Danny Jensen.
JENSEN: Got a court order within a day or two that we weren’t allowed to talk about it. We weren’t allowed to discuss it with anyone of any of the events witnessed that night. We were to give no statements to the press and that was my first and last. That never happened before. That was it, they kept everything pretty confidential. Don’t want a bunch of people like me talking about a second gun and too many bullet holes things of that nature do they? There was a real siege mentality in that police department. It was us and the rest of you assholes. We took care of each other and we didn’t make mistakes and if we did, we buried them.
BILL: The lies that the police were willing to tell are our windows into the crime. One might guess or draw inferences as to who was behind the murder, but the evidence really doesn’t show us that. And while I might think the most likely explanation for Sirhan’s lack of motive or memory is that his mind was manipulated, I don’t know that as a fact. But from looking at the evidence, I believe to a virtual certainty that another gun was firing, that other people were involved, and that the police lied about these things. All of this matters because Robert Kennedy had powerful enemies. And if a man who is near to be becoming president is murdered, and the official account of that murder is riddled with secrecy and lies, then what can we fairly conclude about the country we’re living in? Thanks for listening. Thanks for caring. For the RFK Tapes, this is Bill Klaber reporting.
Crimetown is me, Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling.
The RFK Tapes is made in partnership with Cadence 13.
This episode was produced by me, Ula Kulpa, and Kevin Shepherd.
Our senior producer is Austin Mitchell.
Fact checking by James Williamson.
This episode was mixed and sound designed by Sam Bair.
Music by Kenny Kusiak. Additional music by John Kusiak.
Our title track is Maria Tambien by Khruangbin. Our credit track this week is from Bach's Goldberg Variations, played by Kimiko Ishizaka.
Music supervision by Josh Kessler and Dylan Bostick at Heavy Duty Projects.
Archival footage courtesy of the California State Archives.
Archival research by Brennan Rees.
Our website is designed by Curt Courtenay.
Thanks to Jean Klaber, Greencard Pictures, Alessandro Santoro, Paul Schrade, Allard Lowenstein, Phil Melanson, David Mendelsohn, Bill Pepper, Laurie Dusek, Shane O’Sullivan, Brad Johnson, Phil Van Praag, Robert Kennedy Jr., and the team at Cadence 13.
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