Vincent DiPierro, a waiter at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1968, was standing three feet away from Robert F. Kennedy when Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan. As the 40 year anniversary of the assassination approaches, DiPierro spoke with Captiol Weekly about his perspective of the event and subsequent investigation. DiPierro is currently being featured in a new documentary, "Personnel Quest for Truth-Chasing the Mystery of the RFK Assassination."
Tell me about the new documentary you are in.
This is the fourth documentary I'm in. But I think that this current one is not slanted, it does not come to any conclusions-it's really searching for the truth. The film clears up a lot of things that have always been bothering me. Sirhan was always talking about this girl (the polka dot dress girl who some believe was with Sirhan before the shooting) under hypnosis. (Shortly after the shooting Sergeant Enrique) Hernandez was interviewing me for a lie detector test to try to brow-beat me into saying "You really didn't see a girl, you didn't really see a girl," so he kept pushing it and finally I just said "To hell with him … I didn't see a girl." I mean it got to a point where this guy was really just manipulating me. You have to understand I was a 19-year-old kid and you've got this adult who I used to recognize as an authority, so I figured that I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
Do you think the initial investigation missed out on some important facts regarding the case?
Yes. I think it would be nice-since there was so much material that was destroyed-I'd love to see them take Sirhan and put him under deep hypnosis to find out if he was programmed by somebody or if he did really act on his own. If it was self-induced hypnosis, which could have possibly happened, or if he was a Manchurian Candidate- type guy-that's what I'd like to find out; I think it would just be important to know if it was a conspiracy. I'm not questioning the gun theories. I don't think there was a second gun being fired. It's really interesting how all these people that weren't there have all these interesting theories. I think it's getting to the truth that's the most important part.
Can you tell me about the conversations you had with Sergeant Hernandez about the polka dot girl?
Valerie Schulte was the girl I identified. Whether that was the same girl that Sirhan was talking about-I have no idea. But Valerie is who I saw. My description does not match the dress she was wearing, but when your 19, you're not checking out the dress, you're checking out what's underneath it and my hormones were probably getting the best of me that night to be perfectly honest. She was standing, where I saw her, not far from Sirhan. I'm not changing my story just because she's not wearing the right dress. She's the person I saw. There's no reason for me to be changing my story. This is the person that I identified and I identified her in court.
I've been told that you've been living with a guilty conscience.
You got to understand, me being 19 years old at the time, your reactions are pretty fast. I was pretty athletic, and to this day, I still blame myself-how I couldn't grab or jump or lunge or do something that could have prevented (the assassination). But at the moment, it was like everyone in the entire room was frozen, and the only one who was able to move was Sirhan. I mean I was more in shock seeing the shot come up. I thought he was a dishwasher, I thought he was Hispanic. It was like "What are you doing?" I think I was in a state of shock, more than anything else. Now, looking back, it's like, "Why couldn't I have done something?"
What were the days and weeks like after the assassination?
I had nightmares for several years. It was horrific for me. You have to understand, I was very close to (Senator Kennedy). He asked me if I wanted to go transfer to Georgetown University and my comment was to him was "Why would I transfer to Georgetown University," and he said "What, you don't want to work for the next President?" I said, "When are we leaving?" He took me totally off guard. When he was in Los Angeles, my father made me his gopher basically, and I would go everywhere with him. I remember the Sunday before he was murdered, he was playing on the putting green at the Ambassador with (LA Rams tackle) Roosevelt Grier and my father and I walked up and I handed (Kennedy} his reading glasses-they had been broken and I went to get them fixed-and he said to me, "Hey, you coming out Tuesday night?" and I said "Sure, I'll be there," and I just kind of dismissed it. If he hadn't asked me, I would never have been there.
What do you hope to accomplish by appearing in this and other films made about RFK's assassination?
I think it would be nice to know if the government can look into the conspiracy. And even though Sirhan has no recollection of the shooting, it would be nice to find out if it was self induced hypnosis or if he was acting for someone else like a Manchurian Candidate thing. And I would like to get that clarification because if it's self-induced, okay, we have an answer as to why he did it. But if it was somebody else (who hypnotized him) then there's a whole other world of investigations that should be done.