John Hinckley Jr., whose attempted assassination of then-President Ronald Reagan earned him a 35-year stretch at Washington, D.C.’s St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital, was released from federal custody permanently on Saturday.
On March 30, 1981, Hinckley shot and seriously wounded Reagan and Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington, D.C., Police Officer Thomas Delahanty.
Reagan, Delahanty and McCarthy recovered; Brady experienced traumatic brain injury and was confined to a wheel chair for the remainder of his life. His death in 2014 was ruled a homicide, but prosecutors declined to press charges against Hinckley.
Hinckley’s 1981 arrest, diagnosis with schizoid personality disorders and dysthymia, and sentencing to a psychiatric facility touched off a national conversation on gun control and inspired questions over the mentally ill. Some were outraged at his confinement to the mental institution; and former First Lady Nancy Reagan campaigned tirelessly to keep Hinckley institutionalized.
After being remanded for 18 years at Saint Elizabeth hospital, Hinckley was granted supervised leaves, but had the privileges removed after it was learned his unsettling attachment to actress Jodie Foster caused officials to limit his furloughs. With leaves reinstated in 2004, Hinckley was again allowed unsupervised visits to his mother’s home, which gradually expanded until 2016 when a judge ruled in favor of Hinckley’s petition for release.
A release filled with caveats, Hinckley is barred from any contact with the Reagans, the Brady family or actress Jodie Foster. He must find employment for at least three days a week, can not drive beyond a 30-mile radius from home and must see a psychiatrist twice a month.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman, who granted Hinckley’s release, said the attempted assassin “has shown no signs of psychotic symptoms, delusional thinking, or any violent tendencies.”
On his first full day of freedom Sunday, Hinckley was spotted shopping at Target.
[CNN] [New York Daily News] [Photo courtesy AP via BBC]