John Hinckley Jr attempted to assassinate president Reagan President Ronald Reagan outside a Hilton Hotel in 1981. His motive? To try and impress actress Jodie Foster, who he became obsessed with after watching the Martin Scoresese film Taxi Driver; modelling himself on troubled protagonist Travis Bickle.
Hinckley’s infatuation with the actress spiralled out of control due to his struggles with mental health and isolation and he became a paranoid and compulsive stalker. He constantly sent Foster letters with messages and poems contained therein, enrolled in a nearby college to be closer to her and left dozens of voicemails a day on her answering machine.
When Foster quite rightfully ignored his attempts to woo her, Hinckley turned to extreme measures and attempted to execute the president during live television news coverage in order to prove his devotion.
Hickley’s attack occurred at 2.27 pm outside the Hilton Hotel in D.C. when a “colossal mistake” by the secret service allowed bystanders to come within 15ft of the president, which is usually prohibited. Although Hinckley’s assassination attempt failed, his shooting did wound one secret serviceman, Timothy McCarthy, who took a bullet in order to protect Reagan’s life.
Police officer Thomas Delahanty and press secretary James Brady were critically injured and Brady remained paralysed on the left side of his body until his death in 2014. Reagan himself was also badly wounded in the attack, when a ricocheting bullet struck him in the chest. You can see the attack below:
During his trial, Hinckley wrote that the shooting was “the greatest love offering in the history of the world,” and was upset that Foster did not reciprocate his love. He was declared not guilty by reason of insanity.
The verdict sparked outrage from the American public and provoked congress into revising laws governing when the insanity defence may be used by the defendant in a criminal prosecution. Three states ditched the insanity defense altogether. Hinckley is now to be released next month after thirty-five years of incarceration.
Hinckley’s confinement in the St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C. has been fraught with controversy over the last three decades. He remained fixated on Jodie Foster for a number of years and at one point was in communication with Ted Bundy and Charles Manson. Hinckley has been given unprecedented access to his mother, under strict supervision, spending 17 days out of each month with her. But now it has been announced that Hinckley is to live with her full-time in her home in Virginia
A judge ruled that Hinckley, now 61 years old, could reside there on convalescent leave. Although it has been formally ruled that Hinckley poses no further danger to society, his bloody act of attempted murder may have inspired numerous other individuals to commit violence.
Only time will inform whether or not he truly has been reformed. Nowadays the president travels under far more stringent security measures, as evidenced by president Obama’s cavalcade of guards holding umbrellas for him in the rain. At least we can be sure this won’t happen again.