Taxi Driver Film Inspires Assassination Attempt


Hinkley nearly kills the President

John Hinkley was obsessed.  Obsessed with a 5-year-old film and the underage actress that was the protagonist.  Hinkley had seen Taxi Driver over 15 times, and had developed an unhealthy relationship with Jodie Foster.

When Foster entered Yale University, Hinckley moved nearby to stalk her.  He sent Foster love letters and romantic poems, and repeatedly called and left her messages.  His missives were largely ignored.  Hinkley needed something bigger to get her attention.  The deranged man began to plan an aircraft hijacking or a public suicide to get her attention.  He decided against those options.  Then an idea struck him. He would assassinate a politician just like the character Travis Bickle tried to do in the film.  If Bickle tried to kill a Senator, Hinkley would take it up a notch and try to kill a President.  

Hinkley began to follow President Carter but was picked up with an illegal handgun and his plans were interrupted.  A new President in 1981 bought a new plan.  Ronald Regan would be his new target. 

On March 30, 1981, Ronald Regan was leaving a union event at the Washington Hilton.  As he waved to the crown on the way to his limo shots rang out.  Hinkley was in the crowd and had produced a Röhm’s RG-14 .22 caliber revolver. (a total piece of crap gun) and let off all six rounds in the cylinder.  Merely feet away from Regan, Hinkley managed to miss every shot. 

One round went into the head of Press Secretary James Brady, causing a catastrophic brain injury.  The second shot struck Washington Police Officer Thomas Delahanty in the neck.  The third shot struck a building across the street.  The fourth shot hit Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy in the stomach.  The fifth shot struck the window of the president’s limo.  The final shot also hit the limo but struck the armored side of the car and ricocheted off.  Off the car and directly into Regan’s chest as he was being pushed into the back seat.  

Hinkley was immediately apprehended.  Regan was rushed to George Washington Hospital after agents realized that he was hit.  Regan very nearly died from the small caliber, ricocheted, round that entered his lung.  Hours of surgery and massive blood transfusions were needed to save the President.  

At Hinkley’s trial in 1982, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.  He was placed in a psychiatric facility where he remained until his supervised release in 2016.   Soon after his trial, Hinckley wrote that the shooting was “the greatest love offering in the history of the world” and was disappointed that Foster did not reciprocate his love.  Sounds like the jury came to the right decision.  

Christopher Flanagan


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