Nationwide Trending Now

Juan Romero, Busboy Who Cradled Dying RFK Remembered

Juan Romero, Busboy Who Cradled Dying RFK Remembered for Hispanic Heritage Month

Juan Romero earlier this year at his home in Modesto, Calif., holding a photo of himself and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Juan Romero at his home in Modesto, Calif., holding a photo of himself and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy

Juan Romero at his home in Modesto, Calif., holding a photo of himself and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy

Romero died in 2018 at age 68.

On June 5, 1968, hotel busboy Juan Romero raced to congratulate Sen. Robert Kennedy moments after his victory in the California presidential primary. He had met the candidate the day before, bringing him room service at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

As Kennedy briefly paused to shake the hand of the 17-year-old, a man named Sirhan Sirhan gunned down Kennedy in front of Romero. A remarkable photograph captured the scene: young Romero, an immigrant from Mexico, cradling the glassy-eyed Kennedy, member of an American political dynasty.

Juan Romero, Busboy Who Cradled Dying RFK

Juan Romero, Busboy Who Cradled Dying RFK

Romero died on Monday at age 68. A friend, Rigo Chacon, told the Los Angeles Times that Romero had died following a heart attack he suffered a few days earlier.

Romero spoke to StoryCorps earlier this year and recounted the events of that night — a night that would haunt him for decades.

“I kneeled down to him and I could see his lips moving, so I put my ear next to his lips and I heard him say, ‘Is everybody OK?’ I said, ‘Yes, everybody’s OK.’ I put my hand between the cold concrete and his head just to make him comfortable.”

“I could feel a steady stream of blood coming through my fingers,” Romero said. “I remember I had a rosary in my shirt pocket and I took it out, thinking that he would need it a lot more than me. I wrapped it around his right hand and then they wheeled him away.”

The photo of that moment — light illuminating the fallen senator’s face, the young man crouched at his side — locked Romero into the public memory of RFK’s assassination. And it left him with an uncomfortable legacy.

Letters addressed to “the busboy” began arriving at the Ambassador Hotel — including a couple of angry ones.

“One of them even went as far as to say that ‘If he hadn’t stopped to shake your hand, the senator would have been alive,’ so I should be ashamed of myself for being so selfish,” he told StoryCorps.

He said it had been “a long 50 years.”

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez met with Romero a number of times over the years. Romero lived near San Jose and worked paving roads and driveways.

Romero told Lopez that he wasn’t perfect, but had tried to work hard and live according to the values that Kennedy had advocated.

“Maybe I don’t have the tools to become a politician and change the laws,” Romero said. “But maybe I can help everyone understand there were people who tried to correct injustice.”

He told Lopez in 2015 that after many years of trying not to look at the photos of that night, he was finally able to face them once more.

“I saw a person in need,” he wrote to Lopez, “and another person trying to help him.”

Romero traveled to Arlington National Cemetery in 2010 to visit Kennedy’s grave.

“I felt like I needed to ask Kennedy to forgive me for not being able to stop those bullets from harming him,” he told StoryCorps.

He bought his first-ever suit before the visit.

“When I wore the suit and I stood in front of his grave, I felt a little bit like that first day that I met him. I felt important. I felt American. And I felt good.”

NOTICE: All persons depicted are presumed to be innocent unless proven to be guilty in a court of law. The fugitive.com and fugitivewatch.com notations appearing on this are TRADEMARKS and NOT an expression of fact or opinion.

AVISO: Todas las personas representadas son presumidas de ser inocente a menos que resultara culpable en un tribunal de justicia. Fugitive.com y fugitivewatch.com anotaciones que aparecen en este sitio son MARCAS REGISTRADAS y NO una expresión de hecho o de opinión.

COMMENT ADVISEMENT: We welcome your thoughts, but for the sake of all readers, please refrain from the use of obscenities, personal attacks or racial slurs. All comments are subject to our terms of service and may be removed. Repeat offenders may lose commenting privileges.

AVISO DE COMENTARIO: Damos la bienvenida a tus pensamientos, pero por el bien de todos los lectores, por favor abstenerse de la utilización de obscenidades, ataques personales o insultos racistas. Todos los comentarios están sujetos a nuestros términos y condiciones del servicio, y podrá ser retirado. Reincidentes pueden perder privilegios comentar.

__________________________________________________________________________

Fugitive Watch was founded in 1992 by two San Jose police officers, Steve Ferdin and Scott Castruita. Fugitive Watch is a reality-based television show, newspaper and website, fugitive.com. We can also be found on social media such as InstagramFacebook, and Twitter. The mission of Fugitive Watch is to make Your community safer by helping law enforcement fight crime. Fugitive Watch brings the community, local business, and law enforcement together to solve crimes, apprehend wanted fugitives and provide education and crime prevention information to the community.

Business and private sponsorship help Fugitive Watch empower the community to strike back at crime from the safety of their living rooms. Fugitive Watch has been credited by law enforcement with over several 1000 crimes solved or fugitives apprehended. Fugitive Watch also helps improve the safety of police officers by locating fugitives for law enforcement so they can more safely arrest them rather than unexpectedly running across them through extremely dangerous routine “chance encounters”. As law enforcement officers know all too well, These “chance encounters” have resulted in countless officer injuries and deaths.

Leave a Comment