5 key details about the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt

Ronald Reagan before his attempted assassination (Image via @GarfieldNPS/Twitter)
Ronald Reagan before his attempted assassination (Image via @GarfieldNPS/Twitter)

On March 30, 1981, the entire country was shaken by an attempt at the life of newly elected president Ronald Reagan. He was shot at while leaving the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. after addressing an AFL–CIO conference.

The assassin was John Hinckley Jr., who allegedly did this to impress Jodie Foster, the popular actress from Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

Though he failed to hit his target completely, a bullet ricocheted off the side of the presidential limousine and hit Ronald Reagan in the chest, fracturing a rib and causing internal bleeding. It also left three others injured, including one person who was critically wounded.

The upcoming episode of Dateline: Secrets Uncovered is all set to look at this case with an added focus on Hinckley's diary on October 19, 2022.

Five quick facts about Ronald Reagan's attempted assassination

1) John Hinckley Jr. was obsessed with Taxi Driver and perhaps drew the idea from there

Hinckley had mental and emotional issues from a young age. When he saw Scorsese's 1976 masterpiece Taxi Driver, he became obsessed with it. The film has a similar plotline where Travis Bickle (Robert de Niro) goes on to assassinate a presidential candidate.

Hinckley was also fixated on Jodie Foster after seeing her in the film.

2) His assassination attempt was a bid to win over Foster

John Hinckley Jr. allegedly stalked and tried to contact Jodie Foster for a long time, often going to great lengths for the same. When he realized that he had no chance to win over the actress, he decided to do something to grab her attention.

His wild fantasies spanned from airplane hijacking to public suicide. He decided to take Bickle's path and attempt to kill newly elected President Ronald Reagan.

3) John Hinckley Jr. wrote a letter to Jodie Foster before he set out to assassinate Ronald Reagan

In a letter to Jodie Foster, John Hinckley Jr. wrote about his plans to assassinate the president and impress her. He wrote:

"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. ... The reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you."

4) Hinckley wounded three others alongside Ronald Reagan

John Hinckley Jr. fired six times at the President, missing all his attempts. He ended up injuring Ronald Reagan and three others. Others include police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, and press secretary James Brady.

Brady was critically wounded and was paralyzed for the rest of his life. He died in 2014, and his death was eventually ruled a homicide.

5) Hinckley did not get a prison term for the assassination attempt on Reagan

Despite the tremendous repercussions of the attack, Hinckley was found not guilty by the court on the grounds of insanity. Instead, he was sentenced to psychiatric care in St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. This led to widespread protests and changes in the insanity law.

The upcoming Dateline: Secrets Uncovered is slated to be released on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, and will look at Hinckley's assassination attempt.

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Edited by Madhur Dave
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