Man who attempted to kill Ronal Reagan is freed from court oversight

John Hinckley Jr., 67, is freed from court oversight more than 40 years after he shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan

  • ‘After 41 years 2 months and 15 days, FREEDOM AT LAST!!!,’ he wrote on Twitter
  • A D.C. judge made the ruling after he said in September that he would free Hinckley Jr. from restrictions on June 15 as long as he would continue to do well 
  • Hinckley had been in a mental hospital for more than two decades after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in shooting Reagan
  • In 2003, Hinckley was allowed to visit his parents once a week with certain requirements such as attending therapy
  • He has lived in Virginia since 2016, though with certain restrictions until now
  • Last year, Hinckley announced that he would be giving a concert in Brooklyn, New York
  • Appearances in Connecticut and Chicago for what he has called the ‘John Hinckley Redemption Tour’ have been cancelled
  • The shooting paralyzed Reagan press secretary James Brady, who died in 2014. 
  • It also injured Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty – who each took a bullet to save Reagan’s life
  • Reagan was badly injured himself, as he was hit in the lungs and right next to the heart 

John Hinckley Jr., who shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was freed from court oversight on Wednesday, officially concluding four decades of intense supervision by legal and mental health professionals.

‘After 41 years 2 months and 15 days, FREEDOM AT LAST!!!,’ he wrote on Twitter shortly after 12 p.m.

The lifting of all restrictions had been expected since late September. U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman in Washington said he’d free Hinckley on June 15 if he continued to remain mentally stable in the community in Virginia where he has lived since 2016.

Hinckley, who was acquitted by reason of insanity in 1982, spent two decades before that in a Washington mental hospital. Judge Friedman let Hinckley go live with his mom in Virginia in 2016 before gradually easing restrictions on him and finally allowing him to live alone in 2018.

Freedom for Hinckley will include giving a concert – he plays guitar and sings – in Brooklyn, New York, that’s scheduled for July. He’s already gained nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter and YouTube in recent months as the judge loosened Hinckley’s restrictions before fully lifting all of them.

But the graying 67-year-old is far from being the household name that he became after shooting and wounding the 40th U.S. president – and several others – outside a Washington hotel. Today, historians say Hinckley is at best a question on a quiz show and someone who unintentionally helped build the Reagan legend and inspire a push for stricter gun control.

John Hinckley Jr., 67 the man who attempted to assassinate former President Ronald Reagan in 1981 when he was 24-years-old, tweeted ‘FEEDOM AT LAST!!!’ after a little more than 41 years in jail

John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Reagan, was initially granted an unconditional release and be free of court restrictions on June 15. Pictured: Hinckley Jr spotted out and about in Williamsburg, Virginia on June 7th

U.S. Marshalls escort John Hinckley Jr. as he returns to a marine base via helicopter in Quantico, Virginia, August 8, 1981. Hinckley Jr., who shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was freed from court oversight Wednesday, June 15, 2022 officially concluding decades of supervision by legal and mental health professionals

‘If Hinckley had succeeded in killing Reagan, then he would have been a pivotal historical figure,’ H.W. Brands, a historian and Reagan biographer, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. ‘As it is, he is a misguided soul whom history has already forgotten.’

Barbara A. Perry, a professor and director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, said that Hinckley ‘would be maybe a Jeopardy question.’

But his impact remains tangible in Reagan’s legacy.

‘For the president himself to have been so seriously wounded, and to come back from that – that actually made Ronald Reagan the legend that he became … like the movie hero that he was,’ Perry said.

Friedman, the federal judge overseeing Hinckley’s case, said on June 1 that Hinckley has shown no signs of active mental illness since the mid-1980s and has exhibited no violent behavior or interest in weapons.

‘I am confident that Mr. Hinckley will do well in the years remaining to him,’ the judge said during the hearing earlier this month.

He noted that lawyers for the government and Hinckley have fought for years over whether Hinckley should be given increasing amounts of freedom.

‘It took us a long time to get here,’ he said, adding that there is now unanimous agreement: ‘This is the time to let John Hinckley move on with his life, so we will.’

Police and Secret Service agents diving to protect American President Ronald Reagan amid a panicked crowd during an assassination attempt by John Hinckley Junior outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington, DC on March 30, 1981

In this Nov. 18, 2003 file photo, John Hinckley Jr. arrives at U.S. District Court in Washington. In 2018, a D.C. judge had ruled that the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan could move out of his mother’s house

Hinckley was confined to a mental hospital in Washington for more than two decades after a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity in shooting Reagan.

But starting in 2003 Friedman began allowing Hinckley to live for longer stretches in the community with requirements like attending therapy and restrictions on where he can travel. He’s been living full-time in Virginia since 2016, though still under restrictions.

Those include: allowing officials access to his electronic devices, email and online accounts; being barred from traveling to places where he knows there will be someone protected by the Secret Service, and giving three days´ notice if he wants to travel more than 75 miles from his home in Virginia.

Previously, Hinckley could not legally own a gun, or use alcohol or drugs.

He was also legally barred from reaching out to Reagan´s children, or other victims of the heinous 1981 attack, or their families – as well as Foster, who Hinckley was then obsessed with, crediting the assassination attempt as a bid to gain the ‘Taxi Driver’ star’s affection.

Twenty-five years old and acting alone, Hinckley was declared ‘not guilty’ in the attempt and ruled to be suffering from acute psychosis – with the attack being a misguided bid by the man to gain the affection of Foster.

Hinckley’s attorneys have argued that their client had been ‘ravaged by mental illness at the time,’ and that he has since received ‘world class mental health treatment’ and benefitted from a support system set in place by family and health professionals.

‘There is no evidence of danger whatsoever,’ Hinckley’s attorney, Barry Levine, asserted, adding that Hinckley has been given an ‘excellent’ prognosis by his doctors and therapists.

Some of the evidence in the trial of John W. Hinckley was made available after his guilty verdict was announced. This is a note written to actress Jodie Foster on March 6, 1981, just over three weeks before President Reagan was shot

President Reagan’s would-be assassin said he was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he had an obsession

In July, Hinckley – who plays guitar and sings and has shared his music on a YouTube channel – plans to give a concert in Brooklyn, New York. Appearances in Connecticut and Chicago for what he has called the ‘John Hinckley Redemption Tour’ have been cancelled.

The judge has said that Hinckley, who turned 67 Sunday, has displayed no symptoms of active mental illness, no violent behavior and no interest in weapons since 1983.

In a status report filed ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors wrote that health officials who have overseen Hinckley’s treatment for years believe he ‘has recovered his sanity such that he does not present a danger to himself or others because of mental illness if unconditionally released’ as planned.

Prosecutors had previously opposed ending restrictions, but they changed their position last year, saying they would agree to Hinckley’s release from conditions if he continued to show mental stability and follow restrictions.

Kacie Weston wrote in a court filing ahead of the hearing that ‘the Government has found no evidence to suggest that Mr. Hinckley´s unconditional release should not be granted’ as the judge previously said he would.

The shooting paralyzed Reagan press secretary James Brady, who died in 2014. It also injured Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty – who each took a bullet for the president, likely saving his life.

The then-president was also wounded in the attack, with a bullet piercing the head of state’s lung, and ending up lodged near his heart

President Ronald Reagan, center, is shown being shoved into the President’s limousine by secret service agents after being shot on March 30, 1981

Since his 2016 release from mental hospital, Hinckley has created a YouTube and often posts videos of himself playing guitar and singing

In July, Hinckley plans to give a concert in Brooklyn, New York. Appearances in Connecticut and Chicago for what he has called the ‘John Hinckley Redemption Tour’ have been cancelled

In the 2000s, Hinckley began, with the judge’s approval, making visits to his parents´ home in Williamsburg, Virginia. His father died in 2008, but in 2016 he was given permission to live with his mother full time.

Still, he was required to attend individual and group therapy sessions, was barred from talking to the media and could only travel within a limited area. Secret Service would also periodically follow him.

Hinckley’s mother died in 2021. He has since moved out of her home. In recent years, Hinckley has made money by selling items at an antique mall and by selling books online.

Hinckley has said on his YouTube channel that he has started a record label, Emporia Records, and that his first release will be a 14-song CD of his music. He also promotes his music on Twitter.

Entries from Hinckley Jr.’s diary reveal he occasionally ‘regretted’ his 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan, but he felt ‘accomplished and satisfied’ that he tried.

A president almost died because an obsessed loser wanted Jodie Foster to notice him

Ronald Reagan was shot on March 30, 1981 outside the Washington Hilton Hotel after making a speech at an AFL-CIO meeting.

Shooter John Hinckley Jr. fired a .22 Long Rifle bullet that ricocheted off the presidential limousine and struck Reagan in the torso, puncturing a lung and causing serious internal bleeding. 

Hinckley fired six shots as Reagan exited the hotel. James Brady, the White House press secretary; Timothy McCarthy, a Secret Service agent; and Thomas Delahanty, a police officer, were also injured.

Ronald Reagan was seriously wounded on March 30, 1981 when Hinckley attempted to assassinate him

Chaos surrounds shooting victims immediately after the assassination attempt on President Reagan, March 30, 1981, by John Hinkley Jr. outside the Hilton Hotel in DC

The assassination attempt was a desperate and misguided bid by Hinckley to ‘impress’ actress Jodie Foster

Hinckley was desperate to impress actress Jodie Foster after seeing her in the 1976 movie Taxi Driver.

Hinckley came from a well-off family. His father Jack Hinckley, who died in 2008, was chairman and president of the Vanderbilt Energy Corporation. 

He moved to LA to become a songwriter and wrote letters to his parents talking about how he had found love with a woman called Lynn Collins – who turned out to be a figment of his imagination. 

After Foster enrolled at Yale in 1980, Hinckley moved to New Haven, Connecticut. He enrolled in writing classes to be near her, and pushed notes under her dorm door.

When she failed to reciprocate, he decided on a grand gesture, either commit suicide in front of her, hijack a plane, or kill the president. 

He decided on the latter and started to see how he could get close enough to Jimmy Carter to carry out his deadly attack.

He trailed the Democrat across country, getting arrested on firearms charges in Nashville, but he never got the chance to act. 

By the time he had a plan, Carter was out of the White House and Republican Reagan was in.

Shortly before he shot the president, he sent Foster a note. 

It read: ‘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. — John Hinckley Jr.’

Injured in the attempted assassination of Reagan were Press Secretary James Brady and Agent Timothy McCarthy. The aftermath of the shooting is seen above

Would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr is seen in 1981 after his arrest. He carried out the attack to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he had become obsessed

Reagan was rushed to George Washington University Hospital, which was just over a mile away, and had been routinely screened by the Secret Service as a potential emergency treatment site for the president.

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where presidents routinely receive medical care, is about nine miles from downtown DC.

Reagan underwent emergency surgery. 

Despite the severity of his injuries, Reagan was eager to show that he was on the mend, and met visitors and signed a piece of legislation the morning after the shooting.

He remained hospitalized at GWU Hospital for 12 days, and returned to the White House on April 11, 1981.

Attorneys for Hinckley argued that he was  ‘no longer a threat’, and that he should not be held to a series of court-imposed restrictions that were put in place after he was released from a 35-year stint in a Washington mental hospital in 2016.

Hinckley was allowed to move to a gated community in Virginia with his elderly mother while adhering to a series of stipulations set in place by the court and being subjected to constant supervision by doctors and therapists.

But on July 15 he will become a completely free man. 

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