(6 of 10)
Silent at first, the suspect later repeated over and over: "I wish to remain incommunicado." He did not seem particularly nervous. Reddin described him as "very cool, very calm, very stable and quite lucid." John Doe demanded the details of a sexy Los Angeles murder case. "I want to ask the questions now," he remarked. "Why don't you answer my questions?" He talked about the stock market, an article on Hawaii that he had read recently, his liking for gardening, his belief that criminal justice discriminates against the underdog. When he felt that the investigators were talking down to him, he snapped: "I am not a mendicant." About the only things he would not discuss were his identity and the events at the Ambassador Hotel. After a few hours, the police fed him a predawn breakfast of sausage and eggs and gave up the interrogation.
Someone Named Joe. By then the snub-nosed Iver Johnson eight-shot revolver, model 55 SA—a relatively cheap weapon that retails for $31.95—was yielding information. The serial number had been registered with the State Criminal Identification and Investigation Bureau. Within minutes, the bureau's computer system came up with the pistol's original purchaser: Albert L. Hertz of Alhambra. He had bought the gun for protection in August 1965, after the Watts riot. He informed police that he had subsequently given it to his daughter, Mrs. Robert Westlake, then a resident of Pasadena. Mrs. Westlake became uneasy about having a gun in the same house with her small children. She gave it to a Pasadena neighbor, George Erhard, 18. Last December, Erhard sold it to someone named Joe—"a bushy-haired guy who worked in a department store."
With that lead, the police quickly found Munir ("Joe") Sirhan, 20, in Nash's Department Store. Joe, said Chief Reddin, was "very cooperative." He and Adel Sirhan, 29, identified the prisoner as their brother, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, 24, who goes by the nickname Sol. The identification was confirmed by a check of fingerprints taken when Sirhan applied for a state racetrack job in 1965.
All at once, from Washington, Pasadena, Beirut, the Jordanian village of Taiyiba and the loose tongue of Mayor Yorty, the life and bad times of the accused assassin,* Sol Sirhan, came into view. The middle-class Christian Arab family had lived in Jerusalem while Palestine was under British mandate, and the father, Bishara Salameh Sirhan, now 52, was a waterworks employee. The first Arab-Israeli war cost the elder Sirhan his job. Family life was contentious, but young Sirhan Sirhan did well at the Lutheran Evangelical School. (The family was Greek Orthodox, but also associated with other religious groups.)
The family, which had Jordanian nationality, qualified nonetheless for expense-free passage to the U.S. under a limited refugee-admission program sponsored by the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency and the World Council of Churches. Soon after reaching the U.S. in January 1957, the parents separated. The father returned to Jordan, settled alone in his ancestral village of Taiyiba and became prosperous enough from his olive groves to revisit the U.S. twice. His five sons and their mother Mary all live now in the Los Angeles area.