After 35 years, the man who shot Ronald Reagan is walking free

John Hinckley Jr., photographed in 2003.
John Hinckley Jr., photographed in 2003.
Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
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On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan, shooting the US president and three other people outside the Hilton hotel in Washington, DC. Today, a federal judge ordered Hinckley’s release from the government psychiatric hospital where he has spent most of the last four decades.

Hinckley was 25 years old when he shot and wounded Reagan, press secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and DC policeman Thomas Delahanty. Brady was left paralyzed, and advocated for gun control for decades until his death in 2014.

Hinckley claimed he was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster, after developing an obsession with her role in the movie “Taxi Driver.” He was found not guilty by reason of insanity—a controversial decision that prompted lawmakers to raise the standard of proof in such cases.

According to The Washington Post, district court judge Paul Friedman ruled that Hinckley, 61, no longer poses a danger to himself or others, and will be freed to live with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, as early next month.

“Mr. Hinckley recognizes that what he did was horrific. But it’s crucial to understand that what he did was not an act of evil. It was an act caused by mental illness,” his lawyer told the Post. “He is profoundly sorry and he wishes he could take back that day, but he can’t. And he has lived for decades recognizing the pain he caused his victims, their families, and the nation.”

Hinckley will continue to receive psychiatric treatment and be monitored by authorities. But if he abides by all court-mandated measures, those restrictions could be lifted after 12 to 18 months, placing him outside judicial control since for the first time since 1981. If he violates the terms of his release, he will be returned to a psychiatric facility.