John W. Hinckley, Jr. does not want to talk about the day he attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan outside the Washington, DC, Hilton in 1981.
He doesn’t want to talk about how one of the six bullets he fired left James Brady, Reagan’s press secretary, permanently brain damaged and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. life.
He doesn’t want to talk about Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, whose diaphragm and liver were punctured by Hinckley’s fourth shot.
Or about Tom Delahanty, the DC Metro cop who was shot in the neck that day.
The only thing Hinckley really wants to talk about is himself.
In a 30-minute interview with The Daily Beast on Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after Hinckley was fully released from court supervision after more than four decades, he refused to discuss anything other than his musical career. he is now trying to get off the ground. . He did not answer specific questions about the assassination attempt, current events or the rudimentary gun control measures enacted in the United States largely because of his actions outside the Hilton.
“Only… my music and my art,” Hinckley demanded.
The year after shooting Reagan, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the next 34 years in a government-run mental hospital in Washington, DC. His first days in detention were difficult and Hinckley was caught writing letters to convicted serial killers Charles Manson and Ted Bundy. In 2016, Hinckley was allowed to live full-time with his sick mother in Williamsburg, Virginia. There he started selling “antiques, little trinkets, records, things like that”, to make ends meet. under strict conditions.
This meant “no contact” with the families or descendants of Reagan, Foster, Brady, Delahanty and McCarthy, or with hospital pharmacist Jeanette Wick, who in 1997 accused Hinckley of threatening her.
Hinckley “successfully” participated in music, individual and group therapy, and “did not exhibit any violent, disruptive, or problematic behavior.” according to a 2021 court filing that included a report from one of his therapists. He started dating a woman he met in group therapy, but ended things when she became too demanding of his time, according to the filing. Hinckley was required to hold a job or volunteer, but was turned down by four different organizations who apparently didn’t want the baggage and bad publicity that would surely have accompanied his hiring.
So Hinckley rented a booth at an antique mall in Williamsburg, where he worked between four and nine hours a day before the COVID pandemic. The court limited his travels to a 75-mile radius around his home, and Hinckley sourced his inventory from flea markets, estate sales and consignment stores in the approved area. He brought home about $1,000 a month, a source of income that faltered when the antiques mall closed in April 2020 due to COVID.
At the same time, Hinckley struggled to get her music career off the ground. All of his internet posts had to be approved by his treatment team, and in 2019, Hinckley’s music therapist Nicole Drozd made his songs publicly available on Soundcloud. However, very few people have actually listened to Hinckley’s music on the platform. Drozd then suggested trying YouTube and posted Hinckley’s songs there under an anonymous band name. Still, views remained low, and Hinckley “expressed disappointment at the lack of feedback he was receiving,” according to the filing.
Hinckley doesn’t appear to have had a particular passion for antiques, telling The Daily Beast that he didn’t specialize in any particular thing, but was simply looking for “something I liked, and could buy it cheap, and sell it, and try to make a profit.
After a federal judge ruled last fall that Hinckley, now 67, had been fully rehabilitated, Hinckley was granted an absolute discharge which took effect on Wednesday.
“I just try to focus on the present, and I don’t want to dive back into the past, 30 or 40 years ago,” Hinckley said Thursday. “I’m not trying to draw attention to myself at all. I try to live a quiet life and get along with everyone.
But Hinckley’s words don’t exactly match his actions, as he’s worked hard to raise his public profile by forming a band, posting videos to his YouTube channel, selling his paintings online and speaking to reporters about his modest rental apartment in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Hinckley, no longer confined to a 75-mile radius of his home, is also extremely disappointed that a concert tour he had booked for the summer, with sold-out dates in Chicago, Brooklyn and Hamden, Connecticut, has been canceled. The rug was “ripped out” from under him, Hinckley told The Daily Beast.
“I had three shows canceled,” he said. “I had a show hosted in Chicago, where we were selling tickets, everything was going well. And then they canceled that show. And then I hosted a show in Connecticut, where they were selling tickets. And that show was cancelled. So this Brooklyn cancellation is my third cancellation… I just guess it’s something like a local backlash or something. They didn’t really send me an official reason.
The 450-person Brooklyn venue, the Market Hotel, said in an Instagram post that it wasn’t worth betting on the safety of our vulnerable communities to give a microphone and a salary from his art to a guy who didn’t have to earn it, who we don’t care about from a point of view artistic, and which upsets people. »
Hinckley billed it as the “Redemption Tour” and planned to play 14 original songs. He told the Daily Beast that the purpose of the aborted tour was to “show everyone that I’m a different person than I was in 1981…I’m just trying to redeem myself through music. and the art… I don’t recognize myself from the time I’m a totally, totally different person.
On Thursday, Hinckley said he was bored of being asked “the same questions” all the time.
When asked if he wanted to apologize to the families of the people he shot, Hinckley sullenly replied, “I’ve already apologized.”
In response to a question about his alleged desire to live out his days in anonymity while working to increase his public profile, Hinckley dithered, saying, “In Williamsburg, where I live, I try to be under the radar. . I also try to have a musical career, so I try to do both.
Has Hinckley ever tried to contact one of his victims to ask for forgiveness? What, if anything, does he do to repair his crime?
“Okay, enough is enough,” Hinckley said.
When Hinckley, the son of an affluent oil and gas executive, made the unfortunate attempt on Reagan’s life, the former president had just finished delivering a speech to members of the AFL-CIO at the DC Hilton. As Reagan walked to a waiting limo, Hinckley, who had become obsessed with the film Taxi driver and later said he tried to kill Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster, fired six shots from a .22 caliber revolver. In 1982, Hinckley oddly called the shoot “the greatest offering of love in the history of the world.”
Hinckley’s therapists believe he has now been fully rehabilitated, according to court documents. Last September, a forensic psychologist who treated Hinckley said he was “doing extremely well” and “operating at a high level”, arguing that June 2022 would be a suitable target date for his release.
The psychologist, Samantha M. Benesh, said in the filing that she was satisfied that Hinckley’s diagnoses of major depression, narcissistic personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, schizophrenia spectrum disorder and psychotic disorder – which, according to Benesh, were the “keystone of… manifestations of violence in the past” – had “been in complete and sustained remission for more than twenty-five years, and possibly more than thirty-two years “.
C. Danny Spriggs, the Secret Service agent who handcuffed Hinckley the day he shot Reagan, just hopes medical professionals get it right.
“It could be very devastating if they didn’t,” Spriggs told The Daily Beast.
Spriggs, who retired in 2004joined the Secret Service in 1976. After spending his first five years working at the agency’s field office in Albuquerque, Spriggs was selected to serve in the Reagan Protection Task Force.
Speaking by phone on Thursday evening, Spriggs said he remembered March 30, 1981, “like it was yesterday”, describing it as “something you don’t forget”.
“As you very well know, our justice system allows people to rehabilitate,” Spriggs continued. “In this particular case, it happened that way. The decision makers decided it was time. I don’t agree with that, but it’s our justice system.
As an arresting officer, Spriggs is the one who transported Hinckley from the crime scene to jail. In the car, Hinckley was “pretty stoic and didn’t say much,” according to Spriggs. And while it was “obvious” to Spriggs that Hinckley had serious issues, he said doctors later described a level of mental illness he had not personally witnessed.
In a statement provided to The Daily Beast, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute said it was “both saddened and concerned” by Hinckley’s unconditional release and considered pursuing “a for-profit music career.”
“Mr. Hinckley is the man responsible for the attempted assassination of President Reagan and the assassination of three other brave men, one of whom ultimately died of his injuries years later,” the statement said. organization.”We strongly oppose his release into society where he apparently seeks to cash in on his infamy.”
Reagan’s daughter – and sometimes Daily Beast contributor – Patti Davis said in an email that she had “no intention of giving John Hinckley any more publicity”. A representative for Ron Reagan, Jr. said the former first son was “not interested in talking about Hinckley.”
Jodie Foster’s publicist and agent did not respond to requests for comment.
Spriggs is interested to see how Hinckley’s release unfolds now that court restrictions have been lifted. But even if Hinckley is no longer overseen by a judge, that doesn’t necessarily mean the feds aren’t watching him anymore.
As Spriggs said, “I’m not so sure his file was purged from the Secret Service indexes, if you will.”