“My partner and I went through his pockets. He had a $100 bill, a set of Chrysler keys…and an unexpended 22 long bullet,” remembered Arthur Placencia, the retired Los Angeles (CA) Police Officer who arrested Sirhan Sirhan after he shot Robert F. Kennedy 44 years ago. “I call him the First Terrorist, because he was going to do what he had to do and then take his life.”
Or was he? Did he act alone? Was he framed? Could it have been a conspiracy?
To commemorate the anniversary of RFK’s death, the National Law Enforcement Museum presented the fourth impressive installment of its Witness to History series: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, with a panel to include Placencia, Evan Thomas, author of Robert Kennedy: His Life, and Steve Hughes of the Secret Service.
Recalling the event and answering questions from the audience, the panel shared their thoughts on theories surrounding the specifics of that day and their significance.
“Everyone was pointing to a pantry table [in the kitchen]… One person had him in a head lock — that turned out to be Rosey Grier — someone was laying on top and someone was holding his legs,” said Placencia, who had just turned 21, was just three weeks out of the Police Acadamy, and happened to be the first on the scene at the Ambassador Hotel responding to the shooting on that fateful day.
“They were saying ‘That’s him! He did it!’ and in the background I kept hearing, ‘We don’t want another Dallas.'”
Showing the set of handcuffs he used on Sirhan (which Placencia has donated to the Law Enforcement Museum), he talked through every detail of moving him out of the crowded hotel and securing him — subdued — in the squad car.
“He looked right at me and said, ‘I’ll remember 3909.’ That was my badge number… and that’s what I remember best, ‘I’ll remember 3909.'”
*For future NLEOMF Witness to History events, check here.