RFK Assassination Witnessed By Retired Ball State Professor
MUNCIE, Ind. – Over the course of his career as a news reporter and anchor for ABC News, Steve Bell has covered many events that are now covered in history books, including the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal.
But, Bell, who is also a retired telecommunications professor at Ball State University living in Muncie, was a witness to one event that changed the course of history in 1968.
On June 5, 1968, Bell was a reporter for ABC News Radio covering the Presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy when the Democrat Senator was assassinated.
Before Kennedy appeared in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California primary, Bell jumped up onto the stage with a tape recorder and stood to the right of Robert Kennedy and his wife Ethel as the Senator thanked the crowd for their support.
After Kennedy's speech, Bell says he followed Kennedy and his entourage into the kitchen at the hotel.
"I suddenly saw two men pushing a woman ahead of them who had blood running down her face and she had been wounded. I turned my tape recorder on and I said, "Something terrible has happened." Then, I could see Bob [Kennedy] lying on the floor just ahead of me with blood beginning to pool away [from] his right temple," says Bell.
Kennedy had just been shot three times.
"[My] first reaction was, 'Oh my God, it's happened again!' because I had covered [the murder of] Martin Luther King earlier in the year," says Bell.
"[Kennedy's entourage] grabbed Ethel and pulled her back from Bob [Kennedy] for protection."
"There was another guy lying beside Bob [Kennedy] who actually looked worse," says Bell referring to Paul Schrade, a former United Auto Workers official who was Kennedy's labor advisor.
"The two of them [Kennedy and Schrade] were lying there on the floor and then the wait began for the medics to there to try to help them if possible."
Schrade survived the shooting and is 93 years old.
Kennedy died the following day after surgery.
Sirhan Sirhan was convicted of Kennedy's murder and is spending life in prison.
Having experienced such a traumatic event in covering Robert Kennedy's shooting and subsequent death and funeral, Bell says he's still trying to reconcile what he saw that early morning in 1968.
"On this fiftieth anniversary, I still am putting it together on a personal and emotional level," says Bell. Just to think back at all those events and what an enormous impact they had on the country and how different things might have been."
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