President Ronald Reagan pushed by Secret Service agents into the presidential limousine.
The United States came very close to having two presidents assassinated in 18 years, when President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. 33 years ago, who wanted to impress actress Jodie Foster, by shooting President Reagan the 40th president of the United States. President John F. Kennedy the 35th president had been assassinated only 18 years earlier in Dallas, Texas.
President Reagan had been in office only 69 days, when the assassination attempt took place on March 30, 1981.
Rohm RG 14 revolver used by John Hinckley Jr in attempt to kill the president.
The day started off as another normal busy day for the president and he entered the Washington Hilton Hotel at 1:45 PM ET. He was delivering a speech to AFL-CIO representatives. The president and his party emerged from the hotel, at 2:27 PM ET and chaos ensued as Hinckley fired six shots at the party, which took only 1.7 seconds to fire the six shots. The bullets were the Detonator type, that were supposed to explode on impact, but only the bullet hitting Brady exploded. Hospital staff had to wear bullet proof vests, when removing the bullet from Officer Delahanty’s neck, because the bullets still could explode at any time.
1st bullet – Hit White House Press Secretary James Brady in the head.
2nd bullet – Hit District of Columbia Police Officer Thomas Delahanty in back of head, as he tried to protect President Reagan.
3rd bullet – Hit window of building across the street.
4th bullet – Hit Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy in abdomen as he attempted to shield President Reagan.
5th bullet – Hit bullet resistant glass window of door of limousine.
6th bullet – Ricocheted off the armored side of the limousine and hit President Reagan in his left underarm, grazing a rib and lodging in his lung, stopping nearly 1 inch (25mm) from his heart.
Secret Service Agent Robert Wanko wields Uzi at shooting scene.
Aftermath of Shooting
Chaos ensued after the shooting as onlookers and Secret Service agents brought Hinckley to the ground and relieved him of his gun. Meanwhile, others at the scene were trying to assist the shooting victims.
The presidential limousine left the scene and Secret Service Special Agent in Charge, who had earlier pushed Reagan into the limousine had first thought Reagan was alright. Parr ordered the limousine to return to the White House, after saying Rawhide is OK, with Rawhide being the code name for the president. However, after seeing that the president was in pain he ordered the limousine, to be driven to George Washington Hospital.
The limousine arrived at hospital only four minutes later and the president attempted to walk on his own, but his knees buckled and he had to be assisted, as he entered the emergency room.
President Reagan was upset that his suit was cut off of him, since it was a $1,000 suit and had been a gift from his wife Nancy. His systolic blood pressure was only 60, while it was normally 140. It helped the president by being shot with a 22 caliber bullet, rather than a 38 caliber, which may have lessened his chance of survival.
The president’s wife Nancy had learned of his shooting and arrived at the hospital in time for the president to tell her “Honey, I forgot to duck”. He later would tell the operating room staff “I hope you are all Republicans”.
Benjamin L. Aaron the surgeon performed a thoracotomy which lasted 105 minutes. The president lost half of his blood volume during the surgery.
President Reagan was the first president to survive after an assassination attempt.
Vice President George Bush was in Fort Worth, Texas and when told the president was alright went on to Austin to make a speech. After learning the seriousness, of the president’s injuries Bush flew to Washington immediately.
Meanwhile back at the White House, Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced that he was in charge at the White House, despite being fourth in line of succession, when House speaker Tip O’Neill should have been next in line, since President Reagan was unable to govern and Vice President Bush was in Texas at the time.
President Reagan left the hospital on April 11 after 13 days in the hospital. He didn’t return to the Oval Office, until April 25 which was about 27 days after the shooting.
John Hinckley Jr. mug shot on day of assassination attempt.
Background of John Hinckley Jr.
John Hinckley Jr. was born May 29, 1955 in Ardmore, Oklahoma. He will be 59 years old next month and was 25 on the day, that he shot President Reagan 33 years ago.
Hinckley moved with his family to Evergreen, Colorado when his father moved his Hinckley Oil company headquarters from Dallas. He graduated from high school, but seemed to have little ambition. He attended Texas Tech University from 1974-1980.
The movie Taxi Driver released in 1976 had a character played by Robert DeNiro, who was planning to assassinate the president. Hinckley saw this movie many times and the movie also starred Jodie Foster. He would become obsessed with Foster and went so far as to enroll in college at Yale, when he heard she was attending there and stalked her with notes and telephone calls.
Jodie Foster stalked by John Hinckley Jr.
John Hinckley Jr.’s obsession with Jodie Foster led him to also stalk President Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential campaign. He was in shooting distance of President Carter once, but had left his guns at the hotel that day. He posed for a photograph in front of Ford Theatre, where President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. Incidentally, President Reagan had visited Ford Theatre only 9 days, before the assassination attempt and mentioned, that if anyone really wanted to assassinate a president, that they would be successful.
This poem written by Hinckley shows how troubled of a mind he possessed:
Guns Are Fun
See that living legend over there?
With one little squeeze of this trigger
I can put that person at my feet
moaning and groaning and pleading with God.
This gun gives me pornographic power.
If I wish, the president will fall
and the world will look at me in disbelief,
all because I own an inexpensive gun.
Guns are lovable, Guns are fun
Are you lucky enough to own one?
Back to Hinckley and Foster, he called her and wrote notes and letters to her many times. This is the letter that Hinckley wrote to Foster on the day of his assassination attempt, but it was never mailed:
There is a definite possibility that I will be killed in my attempt to get Reagan. It is for this very reason that I am writing you this letter now.
As you well know by now I love you very much. Over the past seven months I've left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself. Besides my shyness, I honestly did not wish to bother you with my constant presence. I know the many messages left at your door and in your mailbox were a nuisance, but I felt that it was the most painless way for me to express my love for you.
I feel very good about the fact that you at least know my name and know how I feel about you. And by hanging around your dormitory, I've come to realize that I'm the topic of more than a little conversation, however full of ridicule it may be. At least you know that I'll always love you.
Jodie, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you, whether it be in total obscurity or whatever.
I will admit to you that the reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you. I've got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I am doing all of this for your sake! By sacrificing my freedom and possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me. This letter is being written only an hour before I leave for the Hilton Hotel. Jodie, I'm asking you to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your respect and love.
I love you forever,
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/hinckley/hinckleytrial.html is a website with much more information about John Hinckley Jr. and excellent source of trial information.
The above letter shows just how deranged of a mind Hinckley had, at the time of the assassination attempt. This letter was written less than two hours, before his assassination attempt to kill President Reagan. The timing of the assassination attempt may have been influenced by the ultimatum by his parents, to move out of their home by the end of March.
This is strictly my opinion, but I think if John Hinckley Jr. had not seen Taxi Driver he would not have had the motivation, to attempt to kill President Reagan and his obsession with and stalking of Jodie Foster would never have happened.
John Hinckley Jr. went on trial in 1982 and the trial ended on June 21, 1982, when the jury rendered a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. If he had been found to be sane, then he would have probably would have been sentenced to life without parole, but instead he was sent to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC, where he still resides 33 years later.
The prosecution insisted that Hinckley was legally sane, while the defense said he was insane. Jodie Foster was distraught to know that Hinckley had been found not guilty. She may have not been shot on March 30, 1981, but her life was forever changed, by Hinckley stalking her on the Yale campus and then finding out, that John Hinckley Jr. had attempted to kill President Reagan to impress her.
Hinckley was able to book several flights in various places, during October of 1980. He was in New Haven, Connecticut at least three times in that October, and he flew there at least twice that month. Just my opinion, but I don’t think an insane person is capable of booking flights and being on the plane in time for takeoff. That brings to the mind, that Hinckley was not working, yet was able to fly around the country many times, while being bankrolled by the wealth of his parents.
The not guilty by reason of insanity verdict for Hinckley has brought about changes in some states. Those changes have made it more difficult in those states, to receive a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict.
It was ironic that all four shooting victims were Irish with surnames of Reagan, Delahanty, McCarthy and Brady.
John Hinckley, Jr. is now permitted to spend 17 days a month, which is 204 days a year at home in Virginia with his mother Jo Ann who is now 86. Hinckley is now 58 and is even allowed to drive a car and likes to buy cheeseburgers at Wendy’s. James Brady will be in a wheel chair the rest of his life, while Hinckley can drive his Toyota Camry around and walk wherever he wants.
Hinckley still was obsessed with Jodie Foster as late as 1987, when he still had a collection of Jodie Foster photographs.
It is being requested by Hinckley to have 24 days of freedom a month, but so far that request has been denied. That would give him 288 days of freedom a year, if allowed in the coming months or years.
George Bush I would have been president 7 years sooner, if President Reagan had died on that day in 1981.
The Daily Mail from Great Britain has an article in today’s edition about John Hinckley and shows several photographs of him today at 58 and a photo of his 86-year-old mom Jo Ann.