The Shooting of the President:1981

Secret Service agents help the wounded President into his car—taking him directly to GW Hospital saved his life.

Thirty-six years ago, Ronald Reagan, 69 days into his presidency, was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel after speaking to the Building and Construction Workers Union of the AFL-CIO when John Hinckley Jr., standing 10 feet from the President and armed with a .22 revolver, began shooting. Hinckley’s first shot hit press secretary James Brady and other shots wounded a DC police officer, Thomas Delahanty,  and a Secret Service agent, Timothy McCarthy. The final shot hit Reagan’s car and ricocheted into the President’s chest.

Here are pictures of the shooting taken by AP photographer Ron Edmonds. His pictures won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography.

And John Pekkanen’s story in the August 1981 Washingtonian: “A minute-by-minute, inside-the-hospital account of what happened to President Reagan after he was shot: the critical decisions that saved his life, the human drama, the heroes, the entire untold story.” It won the 1982 National Magazine Award for Reporting.

Reagan died on June 5, 2004, at the age of 93. Here’s an August 2004 Washingtonian story,  also by John Pekkanen, that looks back on the shooting: “It was one of the most dramatic stories in the city’s history. Here is what really happened—plus what doctors and nurses remember from that fateful day.”

As for the fate of John Hinckley Jr., here’s a May 12, 2015 story by Timothy M. Phelps of the Los Angeles Times:  “John Hinckley Jr. is on the verge of pulling off a feat no other American has: shooting a U.S. president and going home a free man.” Hinckley now lives at home in Williamsburg, Virginia, 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. Here’s a March 21 New York magazine story on his life now.

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