As the man who gunned down their father took a step toward freedom, several children of the late Robert F. Kennedy criticized the California parole board for its recommendation of parole for Sirhan Sirhan.

On June 5, 1968, Sirhan shot Kennedy to death in a Los Angeles hotel after the then-senator from New York had won California’s Democratic primary and seemed on track to win the Democratic nomination for president.

On Friday, Sirhan, 77, made his 16th appearance before the parole board. He had been denied the first 15 times before winning parole board support this time, according to CNN.

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, in the midst of a recall election, will make the final decision on whether Sirhan will end his 53 years in prison.

The process could take a few months, CNN reported.

Newsom’s recall election will be Sept. 14.

A statement from six of Kennedy’s surviving children criticized the parole board’s action.

“As children of Robert F. Kennedy, we are devastated that the man who murdered our father has been recommended for parole. Our father’s death is a very difficult matter for us to discuss publicly and for the past many decades we have declined to engage directly in the parole process,” said the statement from Kennedy’s children Joseph P., Courtney, Kerry, Christopher, Maxwell and Rory.

“Given today’s unexpected recommendation by the California parole board after 15 previous decisions to deny release, we feel compelled to make our position clear. We adamantly oppose the parole and release of Sirhan Sirhan and are shocked by a ruling that we believe ignores the standards for parole of a confessed, first-degree murderer in the state of California.”

“We are in disbelief that this man would be recommended for release. We urge the Parole Board staff, the full Board, and ultimately, Governor Newsom, to reverse this initial recommendation. It is a recommendation we intend to challenge every step of the way, and we hope that those who also hold the memory of our father in their hearts will stand with us,” the statement said.

Two of Kennedy’s sons — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Douglas Kennedy — support Sirhan’s release.

Sirhan initially was sentenced to death on charges of first-degree murder and assault with intent to murder, but when California stopped executions in 1972, that was changed to life in prison.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón did not oppose parole, marking the first time his office had not opposed that action for Sirhan.

Alex Bastian, a spokesman for Gascón, said in a statement that the prosecutor’s appearance was not necessary.

“If someone is the same person that committed an atrocious crime, that person will correctly not be found suitable for release. However, if someone is no longer a threat to public safety after having served more than 50 years in prison, then the parole board may recommend release based on an objective determination,” Bastian said, according to CNN.

“Our office policies take these principles into account and as such, our prosecutors stay out of the parole board hearing process.”

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