When bullets started flying around inside the kitchen of Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968, not only was presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy struck, but so were five bystanders – including a man who once lived in the Bedford County borough of Everett.

William Weisel was struck in the abdomen by a stray bullet as Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Kennedy – one of the many tumultuous events that are part of the historic fabric of the year 1968. At the time, Weisel, then 30, was an associate news director with ABC Television.

The bullet ended up a 30th of an inch from Weisel’s spine. Surgery left a 13-inch scar on his torso, but he survived.

A picture of Weisel in a hospital bed, being comforted by his mother, Edna Weisel, of Greenbelt, Maryland, appeared in The Tribune-Democrat shortly after the tragic event. Information included in a caption for another photo of Weisel stated that his family had left Everett about 15 years before the assassination.

Weisel was behind Kennedy when he heard sounds that he thought were caused by falling balloons popping on hot water pipes.

“I dropped my stopwatch out of my coat pocket, so I opened my jacket, and my shirt was all red. And I said, ‘I’ve been shot,’ ” Weisel said during a 2011 interview with Los Angeles-based television station KCBS/KCAL on the occasion of a parole hearing for Sirhan.

As Weisel laid on the ground, somebody stepped on his leg, to which he responded, “If you don’t mind, I’ve been shot.” The comment was recounted in Time magazine.

During the KCBS/KCAL interview, Weisel said he would be open to the idea of Sirhan being paroled after having already served more than four decades in prison.

“I’ve never held it against him,” Weisel said. “I was a news-person, and I was just in the kitchen and was shot while I was working. I don’t blame him for that. We were covering the California primary, and Bobby had won.”

Weisel testified at Sirhan’s 2011 parole hearing, a recording of which is available on YouTube, telling the panel: “I’ve always believed that the bullet which hit me must have come from the pistol being discharged by Mr. Sirhan.”

During his journalism career, Weisel covered seven presidents.

He was locked down inside the White House following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, according to a Sonoma West Times & News profile piece written about Weisel in 2003. 

That article pointed out other career highlights, including meeting civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. – who also was assassinated in 1968, on April 4 – and being on the USS Hornet when the aircraft carrier was used to recover astronauts from the first moon landing after they splashed down.

“It was no big deal,” said Weisel, summing up his career in the Times & News article, written by Nathan Wright.

But he became best-known for being shot during the Robert Kennedy assassination.

“I was invited to parties where I didn’t even know the people,” he once told the Los Angeles Times. “I’d notice people over in the corner looking at me, whispering: ‘You see that guy? He took the second bullet.’ ”

Weisel eventually went into the restaurant business in California’s Napa Valley.

In 2015, Weisel was sentenced to time served and given three years of probation for an incident involving child harassment charges, according to The Press Democrat, a newspaper in Santa Rosa, California. He was also ordered to seek treatment for dementia-related health problems.

“Under the circumstances, the District Attorney’s Office resolved the matter in a way where the public is protected and where Mr. Weisel will get back to his unblemished life,” his attorney, Richard Scott, said in the paper at the time.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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