3 – King Was an Easy Target
Unlike JFK, King was a relatively easy target for practically any half-decent shooter. On April 4, 1968, King was in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel, a business owned by a man named Walter Bailey. It was the civil rights leader’s favorite room in Memphis, and he stayed in it so often with his friend, Reverend Ralph Abernathy, that the latter referred to it as the King-Abernathy Suite. King spoke to a musician named Ben Branch who was due to perform at a planned event that night.
Meanwhile, Ray was in a room in a booking house directly across from the Lorraine Motel. Ray clearly knew where King was staying and waited patiently for his prey to show. At approximately 6:01 pm that evening, he got his chance when King went out to the balcony. Ray was 200 feet away and used a Remington Model 760 rifle to kill his victim. All it took was a single shot to place a dagger in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. The bullet penetrated King’s right cheek and traveled down his spinal cord. The bullet severed King’s jugular vein and major arteries; he had no chance of survival.
The entire incident passed so quickly that it would have been easy to miss Ray fleeing his room. However, several witnesses saw him leaving the scene in a hurry. The police were pointed in the direction of Ray’s room and searched it thoroughly. They also found a rifle and binoculars close to the room and both had James Earl Ray’s fingerprints on them. The rifle had been purchased with an alias just six days beforehand. Confident that Ray was their man, the police initiated a global manhunt for the suspected assassin.
Although the bullet left King close to death, he was still alive when Abernathy found him bleeding on the balcony’s deck. The reverend was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital and doctors performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation to no avail. At 7:05 pm, just over an hour after he was shot, Martin Luther King Jr. was declared dead. Although he was just 39 years old, he had the heart of a 60-year old, mainly due to the stress he endured as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Millions of people had lost their hero and were in no mood to take it lying down.