What Are the Facts Surrounding MLK's Death?


Quick Answer

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated shortly after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968 while standing on the second-floor balcony of room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Prior to his death, King had received death threats because of his involvement in the civil rights movement.

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Full Answer

According to the National Archives, the gunshot that killed Martin Luther King, Jr. was fired from the bathroom window of Bessie Brewer's roominghouse at 422 1/2 S. Main St. King was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. at St. Joseph Hospital, then transported to Gaston Hospital for autopsy.

According to King’s autopsy panel, the single shot was fired from the front, above King and to his right. The bullet entered his right cheek below the mouth, breaking his jaw. The bullet exited the face and re-entered the body through the neck where it severed numerous vital arteries, fracturing the cervical and thoracic spines before coming to rest at the left side of the back.

James Earl Ray, King’s assassin, purchased a .30-06 caliber Remington Game-master slide action rifle and Redfield variable telescopic sight on March 30, 1968. This rifle, with his fingerprints on it, was found on the sidewalk at 424 S. Main St., near Bessie Brewer's roominghouse, where Ray had rented room 5-B using the alias John Willard. Immediately after King’s assassination, Ray was seen fleeing with a bundle that may have contained a rifle. Ray was captured two months later at London’s Heathrow Airport and extradited to Tennessee.

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