John Warnock Hinckley, Jr., who skyrocketed to notoriety after trying to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981 (in an attempt to impress actress Jodie Foster) has been released from the Washington, D.C.-area mental hospital where he has been held for more than 35 years.
Hinckley, now 61, will be living at his mother’s house in Virginia. A federal court ruled about a month before his release that he was not a danger to himself or others.
Hinckley was described as “troubled” as a young man and had clear obsessive tendencies even before he began stalking Jodie Foster in the 1970s after watching the film Taxi Driver (in which the main character tries to assassinate the president) over and over:
In 1980, Hinckley moved back in with his parents in Colorado. He received some psychiatric treatment, but it didn’t help improve his mental state. Still enthralled with Jodie Foster, Hinckley made several attempts to contact the actress. He was able to get her on the phone twice, but she rebuffed her his efforts to make a connection. To win her over, Hinckley came up with a strange scheme—killing a president. He first wanted to shoot President Jimmy Carter, but this plan foiled before he had a chance to get near the president. Hinckley later turned his attention to the next elected president of the United States.
On 30 March 1981, Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan along with three others outside the Washington Hilton hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan was hit in the chest, but his press secretary, James Brady, was hit in the head and suffered permanent brain damage as a result. Brady (who spent the rest of his life advocating against gun violence) died more than three decades later, in 2014; his death was ruled a homicide.
(The other two men — police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent turned police chief Timothy McCarthy — were not critically injured, although Delahanty suffered nerve damage to his left arm and was forced to retire from Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department as a result.)
Hinkley will be free, but with caveats. He is not to drink or use drugs, cannot use social media or attempt to contact any of his victims, and has court-mandated therapy for at least six months. Hinckley is also forbidden from talking to the press as part of the release agreement.