Busboy who aided wounded Robert F. Kennedy dies at 68

Juan Romero, the busboy who helped Robert F. Kennedy when the senator was shot by an assassin in 1968 died Monday at age 68.

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Rigo Chaco, a friend of Romero's and broadcast journalist, said Romero "had a heart attack several days ago and his brain went too long without oxygen," the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Chacon said Romero had not been ill when he died. Romero's niece and brother confirmed his death to the Times, but other family members were unavailable to comment.

Chacon said Romero's experience helping Kennedy in 1968 haunted him still when the two met 30 years after the incident.

"He fell apart in recalling the fateful night and how he happened to be in the hotel pantry area where Kennedy was shot," Chacon said. "Romero told me he had met Kennedy the night before when the candidate ordered room service, and he felt honored by the way Kennedy shook his hand firmly and looked him in the eye with respect." 

Romero had recalled hearing shots fired as he shook Kennedy's hand. According to the Times, Romero said he initially thought the sound was coming from firecrackers and that Kennedy dropped to the ground in fear.

Then, the paper notes, Romero noticed blood pouring down his hand and realized what happened as he saw the assassin being apprehended. Romero recalled thrusting rosary beads he was carrying in his pocket into the senator's hand before attempting to tend to the senator.

Then a teenager, Romero knelt beside Kennedy, cradling his head and trying to help him to his feet before understanding the extent of his injuries.

As Romero crouched beside Kennedy's body, photographers snapped the famous image of the two. 

"I will never forget the handshake and the look … looking right at you with those piercing eyes that said, 'I'm one of you. We're good,'" Romero told The Associated Press earlier this year. "He wasn't looking at my skin, he wasn't looking at my age … he was looking at me as an American."