Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Busboy Juan Romero, 17, comforts Sen. Robert F. Kennedy moments after Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times

Juan Romero and his daughter, Elda Romero, walk through Arlington National Cemetery on their way to visit the grave of Robert F. Kennedy. Saturday would have been the slain senator's 85th birthday.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Juan Romero spends time with himself before visiting RFK's grave. Getting up the courage to visit Arlington National Cemetery was not easy for Romero, a construction worker from San Jose who has been haunted for decades by the events of June 5, 1968.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Romero holds himself at least partly responsible for KennedyÕs death, and in his private moment with RFK now, he wanted to ask forgiveness.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

For years, Romero had avoided talking about his small part in a national tragedy, but he came to believe it was his duty to speak up about his own take on Kennedy's legacy, in part because hatred and small-mindedness often pollute the national conversation.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Juan Romero in 1968 during an interview after Kennedy's slaying. Juan's family moved to California from Mexico when he was 10. He might have gotten caught up in the gang life except that his stepfather yanked him out of that world and helped get him a job at the Ambassador Hotel.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times / Los Angeles Times

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Busboy in Kennedy assassination photo asks for forgiveness

Immortalized forever in an iconic image of the mortally wounded Robert F. Kennedy moments after being shot by an assassin’s bullet was a 17-year-old busboy. That busboy, Juan Romero, has lived the last 42 years trying to honor the memory of the man he admired.

In the photo, Romero is kneeling at the senator’s side, comforting him. He was shot while shaking Romero’s hand. Ever since, he has felt partly responsible for his death. He believed that if he had not been so determined to congratulate Kennedy after winning the California primary, he might have seen and stopped assassin Sirhan Sirhan.

On what would have been Kennedy’s 85th birthday, Romero visited his grave at Arlington National Cemetery to ask for forgiveness.

Read Steve Lopez’s full column “Kneeling Again Next to RFK” and the story behind the photo by retired Times photographer Boris Yaro, “The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.” Photographs by Carolyn Cole of Romero’s visit to Arlington can be seen in the photo gallery above. The site of the shooting, Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel, has since become a learning complex named after RFK. See and tour the school in photos and panoramas, “New Schools Rise From Ambassador Hotel Site.”

12 Comments

  1. November 22, 2010, 11:22 am

    Why am I supposed to believe this picture is real? It’s a fake.

    By: Hero
  2. November 22, 2010, 12:33 pm

    How does one spell as·sassi·nation?

    By: ger
  3. November 22, 2010, 4:29 pm

    Why am I supposed to believe this picture is fake? It's real.

    By: thecornucopia
  4. November 22, 2010, 7:05 pm

    to juan r.- your'e the hero, it's not your fault that someone wanted to murder. GOD bless, you did what you could do

    By: bogie7
  5. November 22, 2010, 8:01 pm

    Thane Eugene Cesar probably murdered RFK – Rhomas Noguchi said the powder burns on RFK's neck indicate the gun was no more than 3 inches away, Romero should testify in a new trial that Sirhan's gun never got closer than 3 feet from the front of RFK as Karl Eucker did in Ted Charach's Golden Globe nominated movie "The Second Gun".

    By: tedted
  6. November 23, 2010, 2:57 am

  7. November 23, 2010, 1:43 pm

    juan is indeed a hero for trying to comfort bobby after he was shot. no forgiveness needed juan.

    By: sam
  8. November 24, 2010, 5:22 am

    It was a sad for the whole world. I still wonder about the real assins and believe there shpild be a fresh trial. There were CIA Agents in the Hotel?

    By: bmcmahon@lawyer.com
  9. November 24, 2010, 9:47 am

    Way I see it, there's nothing to forgive. Romero brought comfort to RFK during the last minutes of his life, and that to me is heroic.

    By: Sabrina
  10. September 17, 2012, 10:32 am

    Juan is my uncle and i can tell u that he truly feels guilty about what happened, he doesnt like to talk about that day, hes starting to be more open about it though.

    By: Santiago
  11. October 13, 2012, 12:17 pm

    Hey Boris…WHERE IS HIS HAND? his hand Boris…why is it MISSING?

    By: JOSEPHVELDER
  12. October 30, 2013, 4:22 am

    Hello, I am a cameraman in Australia. I would love to get in touch with your uncle if that's possible. My email is mjessop@nine.com.au. Warm regards Mark Jessop.

    By: mjessop@nine.com.au

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