By MICHELLE MARCHANTE
The man who shot President Ronald Reagan during an assassination attempt 35 years ago is expected to be released next month at the age of 61.
John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate Reagan 35 years ago outside the Washington Hilton hotel in Washington, D.C. on March 1981, when he shot Reagan and three others as they were exiting the building.
One of the bullets punctured Reagan’s lungs and another hit his White House press secretary, James Brady, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Reagan survived the attack after having emergency surgery but Hinckley, according to The Wall Street Journal, wasn’t found guilty by “reason of insanity” in his 1982 court case and was instead placed in Washington, DC’s St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where he has lived in for the past 12 years.
When Brady died in 2014, the coroner ruled his death was a homicide, claiming that he died because of the injuries Hinckley left him but no farther charges were pursued.
Hinckley claimed that the reason why he attempted to assassinate Reagan was to impress Jodie Foster, an actress he became obsessed with after seeing her in the 1976 film “Taxi Driver” that tells the story of a man who plans to assassinate a presidential candidate to win the affections of Foster’s character.
According to CBSNews, Hinckley sent a letter to Foster before the shooting to explain his motive.
“The reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you,” he wrote. “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 the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your love and respect.”
Wednesday, July 27 a federal judge granted Hinckley “conditional freedom,” allowing him to live full-time at home with his 90-year old mother in Williamsburg, Virginia but with a number of restrictions such as being prohibited from speaking to the press, contacting or attempting to contact Reagan’s daughter or any other people involved in the case and is required to stay in a 50-mile radius from his mother’s house.
According to The Atlantic, the judge made his decision based on Hinckley’s good behavior and the hospital’s claim that he hasn’t shown any signs of illness anymore.
“Since 1983, when he last attempted suicide, he has displayed no symptoms of active mental illness, exhibited no violent behavior, shown no interest in weapons, and demonstrated no suicidal ideation,” the court order read. “The government and the Hospital both agree that Mr. Hinckley’s primary diagnoses of psychotic disorder not otherwise specified and major depression have been in full and sustained remission for well over twenty years, perhaps more than 27 years.”
While the hospital may think that Hinckley is ready to take this step, Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis and The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute think otherwise.
“John Hinckley is responsible for the shooting of President Reagan and three other brave men…,” the foundation released in a statement. “Contrary to the judge’s decision, we believe John Hinckley is still a threat to others and we strongly oppose his release.”
Davis also wrote on her website that she is “forever haunted” by the assassination attempt and while she does believe in forgiveness, forgiving someone and letting them “loose in Virginia to pursue whatever dark agendas they may still hold dear,” is another story.
She also notes that Dan Rather once said on his nightly broadcast that if Hinckley “has the will and the way, he will probably down the road ask to be released from Saint Elizabeth’s on the grounds that he is no longer dangerous. And sooner or later, a panel of experts may nod and say yes.”
While Hinckley’s attorney, Barry Levine, says that Hinckley is haunted by his actions, Davis believes that if he’s haunted by anything it’s that “he didn’t succeed in his mission to assassinate the President.”
Hinckley is expected to be released no sooner than Aug. 5th.
Michelle Marchante is a guest contributor at The Buzz Insider and the Assistant Opinion Director at FIUSM. She is a writer, reader and filmmaking enthusiast. Currently, she is studying to get her degree in Broadcast Journalism and is also working on her second novel. Connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
Image retrieved from Flickr.