Jerusalem-born Assassin of Robert F. Kennedy in Stable Condition After Prison Stabbing

Motive for the attack on the 75-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan remains unknown

Sirhan Sirhan at a parole hearing at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, CA, February 10, 2016
Gregory Bull,AP

Sirhan Sirhan, imprisoned for more than 50 years for the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was hospitalized Friday after being stabbed by a fellow inmate at a San Diego prison.

A statement from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the stabbing, which was first reported by TMZ, occurred Friday afternoon at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego.

"Officers responded quickly, and found an inmate with stab wound injuries. He was transported to an outside hospital for medical care, and is currently in stable condition," the statement said.

The statement did not name Sirhan, but a government source with direct knowledge confirmed to The Associated Press that he was the victim. The source spoke under condition of anonymity, citing prison privacy regulations.

Corrections officials reported that the alleged attacker has been identified and has been segregated from the rest of the prison population pending an investigation.

75-year-old Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian, was born in 1944 in Jerusalem’s Musrara neighborhood, opposite the Old City.

Sirhan Sirhan, right, assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy with his attorney Russell E. Parsons in Los Angeles, 1968.
AP

He was convicted of fatally shooting Kennedy on June 6, 1968, immediately after the New York senator declared victory in the California Democratic presidential primary.

Although there have been multiple theories about what pushed Sirhan Sirhan to kill the younger Kennedy, from nationalism to madness, or even hypnosis, there is no doubt his actions drastically altered the face of U.S. politics. 

The assassination of RFK shattered the chances of the Democratic party in the upcoming elections, and, according to some, left it reeling for decades.

Kennedy had just finished delivering his victory speech to cheering supporters at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel when he decided to walk through the hotel kitchen.

He had stopped to shake hands with a busboy who had delivered food to his room the day before when he was shot in the head. He died the next day.

Sirhan was originally sentenced to death. But when California briefly outlawed capital punishment, his sentence was reduced to life in prison. He has been denied parole several times.

Five bystanders were wounded during the shooting. In the chaos, Los Angeles Rams football great Rosey Grier, Olympic champion Rafer Johnson and others wrestled the murder weapon away.

Over the years, Sirhan has claimed to have no recollection of the shooting or his initial confession.

As a high-profile prisoner, Sirhan had once been kept in a protective housing unit at Corcoran State Prison in Northern California. After he told authorities several years ago that he would prefer being housed with the general prison population, he was moved to the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.