John Hinckley: The Would-Be Assassin

hinckleyJohn Hinckley. The would-be assassin. Next week will mark the 33rd anniversary of John Hinckley’s attempted assassination of President Reagan. John Hinckley fired six times in his attempt to assassinate President Reagan. But his real motivation was fame.

John Hinckley saw the move Taxi Driver, no less than 15 times. As a lifetime loner, Hinckley, strongly identifies with movie’s main character Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro. Travis Bickle, is a former marine, and Manhattan taxi driver who is slowly driven to madness by urban decay. He becomes obsessed with a presidential campaign worker named Betsy, played by Cybil Shepherd. He works up enough nerve to ask her for a date. She accepts. She ultimately rejects him after he takes her to a porno movie. To recoup Betsy’s attention, Bickle plots a plan to assassinate the presidential candidate she works for. Bickle ultimately fails as Secret Service Agents spot him. Bickle now turns his attention to a 12-year-old prostitute named Iris, played by Jodie Foster. Bickle now has found more important targets in Iris’s pimp and the shady underworld thugs who operate the brothel that she works in. He kills all of them. Iris is returned to her parents in Pittsburgh and Bickle becomes a celebrity.

The character Travis Bickle is loosely based on Arthur Bremer, the would-be assassin of presidential candidate George Wallace. The 1972 assassination attempt left Wallace paralyzed. Arthur Bremer’s dairies revealed  Bremer’s belief that political assassinations equal and equate with celebrity. The story now turns to John  Hinckley, the would-be assassin, who by 1979 had now started to amass an arsenal of weapons. He now became fixated on  Jodie Foster. He would not target Foster, but she would become his inspiration as he started his quest in 1979 to assassinate presidential candidate Jimmy Carter.

While following Jimmy Carter on his campaign stops, Hinckley was arrested for firearms possession in the Nashville airport. Hinckley was then sent to a psychiatrist by his parents. The psychiatrist had found that Hinckley’s problems were the result of emotional immaturity.

Starting in 1980, Hinckley had heard that Jodie Foster was attending Yale University. He began to follow her moves across country until he actually established contact with her on two occasions. He believed he could never establish a relationship with Jodie Foster unless he could do something grand that would draw her attention.

John Hinckley would find his infamy on March 30, 1981. Amongst onlookers and in broad daylight, Hinckley took aim and fired six shots at President Reagan. He hit President Reagan with a slug that failed to explode. He hit a police officer. He hit a Secret Service Agent. He also hit Press Secretary James Brady. Hinckley would later ask if the news from the assassination attempt on President Reagan would preempt that night’s Academy Awards. In fact, it did. The ceremony was rescheduled for the next night.

John Hinckley, the would-be assassin, would ultimately be found non-guilty by reason of insanity. Hinckley has been institutionalized at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington since his trial. He has been most recently been granted 17-day visits to see his elderly mother in Virginia.

By  John J. Poltonowicz          Twitter


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