Rafer Johnson dead: Olympic star who helped subdue Robert Kennedy’s assassin dies aged 86

Olympic star and film actor Rafer Johnson has sadly died aged 86.

The decathlete died at his home in Sherman Oaks, LA, on Wednesday and his death was confirmed by family.

Johnson was known for being a gold medal winner who helped disarm Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968.

He also co-founded the California Special Olympics to help disabled children in 1969.

According to the LA Times, Johnson once said: “It seems funny to say winning is not all-important – I always want to win, and no one likes to lose.

“But when you start out on the field, everyone is equal. That is the important idea.”

Johnson was born on August 18, 1934, in Hillsboro, Texas.

He was one of six children born to cotton picker and farmer Lewis Johnson and Alma Gibson Johnson.

In his 1998 autobiography, he wrote: “Thinking about picking cotton brings tears to my eyes to this day, just from remembering how hard my parents had to toil to earn a meager living.”

Johnson won the Pan American Games in 1955 before breaking the world record for the decathlon.

He went on to claim a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Johnson then covered the 1964 Olympics for NBC as a TV reporter and then worked as a sports anchor for KNBC in LA.

He met Kennedy, then the US attorney general, at an awards dinner in 1961 and they soon became friends.

Johnson was helping Kennedy’s presidential campaign when the candidate was shot in June 1968.

He bravely apprehended Sirhan Sirhan moments after he shot Kennedy.

Johnson said he twisted Sirhan’s fingers to get the gun and put it in his pocket before he later handed it over to police.

Johnson was left traumatised and depressed by Kennedy’s assassination but he went on to help launch the Special Olympics, the athletics event for disabled children.