John Hinckley Jr., the only person ever freed after shooting an American president, apologized in a TV interview for his shocking crime 41 years ago.
Less than a month after his unconditional release, Hinckley expressed his remorse to CBS News’ Major Garrett in an interview broadcast Tuesday. It was March 30, 1981, when the 25-year-old would-be assassin fired six shots from a .22 caliber revolver at the new U.S. president.
Ronald Reagan was struck in the chest as he left the Washington Hilton after speaking to a union gathering. The president underwent emergency surgery, and three others with him were also struck. A Secret Service agent and police officer were hit by Hinckley’s gunfire.
White House press secretary James Brady, who became a gun control advocate, was paralyzed and died years later from his wounds.
Hinckley said he was trying to let people see he is an “ordinary guy” trying to live day-to-day and is not “some crazy person” anymore. He expressed his “true remorse” and said he was “sorry” for what he did in 1981.
He told Garrett that he did not think the Reagan or Brady families wanted to hear from him and will likely not forgive him. He said the same about actress Jodie Foster, who he was obsessed with and felt would admire him if he assassinated Reagan.
Hinckley told CBS that Reagan was a “nice man” and a “good president,” and added that his serious mental illness in 1981 prevented him from knowing right from wrong.
He was ruled unfit to stand trial due to mental illness and was kept at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C. for over three decades. Hinckley was granted conditional release from the institution in 2016, and last year received unconditional release that was set for June.
Hinckley is an aspiring musician and had three performances scheduled upon his release. All were canceled, however, due to security concerns.
The trauma he inflicted and nearly inflicted on the nation is impossible to overstate. American history changes if his bullet was a mere inch away from where it hit Reagan that day. The U.S. revival of the 1980s and even the end of the Cold War become far less certain had he succeeded.