DALLAS — A Dallas native who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981 is “no longer a danger to himself or others” and will be freed from court oversight this month as planned, a federal judge announced this week.
Sixty-seven-year-old John Hinckley Jr. – who has navigated the legal and mental health systems for 40 years – will get full freedom from court oversight this month.
In 2016, Hinckley moved to Williamsburg, Va., from a Washington psychiatric facility, but court-imposed restrictions required doctors and therapists to oversee his psychiatric medication and therapy. He was barred from having a gun and ordered not to contact Reagan’s children, other victims or their families, or actress Jodie Foster, who he was obsessed with at the time of the 1981 shooting (more on this in a minute).
U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman had freed Hinckley in September from all of the remaining restrictions but said his order wouldn’t take effect until June 15. Wednesday’s final hearing was scheduled to ensure Hinckley was continuing to do well in the community in Virginia where he has lived for years.
“He’s been scrutinized. He’s passed every test. He’s no longer a danger to himself or others,” Friedman said at a hearing that lasted about an hour. Friedman devoted much of the hearing to talking about the “long road” of the case, which he was randomly assigned two decades ago, the third judge to be involved in the case.
Since being released from his restrictions, Hinckley thanked those who had a hand in winning his freedom from court oversight. He was not at the hearing but wrote a brief thank you Wednesday evening on Twitter.
“A big thank you to everyone who helped me get my unconditional release," he wrote. “What a long strange trip it has been. Now it’s time to rock and roll.”
Hinckley is an aspiring musician, who has, in fact, sold out a concert this summer in Brooklyn.
If you're wondering, "who the heck is this guy?" here's a little background into the Jodie Foster obsession that led to the assassination attempt of a president -- and his ties to Dallas.
Who is John Hinckley Jr.? A love lust leads to Reagan's attempted assassination
According to previous WFAA stories about Hinckley, he was born in Ardmore, Okla., and then raised in Dallas, beginning when he was 4 years old. He grew up in University Park in North Dallas and attended Highland Park High School, where he graduated in 1974.
He attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock off-and-on from 1974 to 1980, but eventually dropped out.
Hinckley became obsessed with Jodie Foster and the film Taxi Driver, where Robert De Niro's deranged character, Travis Bickle, plots to kill a presidential candidate. Foster attended Yale University, and Hinckley moved to New Haven, Conn., for a period of time to stalk her. He wrote Foster love letters and poems, trying to gain her affection.
Then, his Foster obsession turned to action. Reagan wasn't the first president in Hinckley's crosshairs, though. He stalked then-President Jimmy Carter first and was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee on a weapons charge.
Hinkley's love-blinded focus shifted to newly-elected President Reagan in 1981. On March 30, 1981, Hinckley shot a .22 caliber Röhm RG-14 revolver six times at former President Reagan as he left the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., after the president addressed an AFL–CIO conference.
Hinckley did not shoot Reagan directly, but the president was seriously-wounded when a bullet ricocheted off the side of the presidential limousine and hit him in the chest. Police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and press secretary James Brady were all also wounded in the shooting. Brady died in 2014 from his injuries and the others recovered.
In 1982, Hinckley went on trial and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was transferred to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he remained until 2016.
He was not allowed outside the psychiatric facility until 1999, but over the years, judges gradually expanded the time he is allowed off-campus. In 2009, a judge allowed him to drive while being tracked by GPS. In December 2013, a federal judge extended the time he's allowed to visit Williamsburg, Va., where his mother lives, from 10 days to 17 days. His first supervised visits there were approved in late 2005, WFAA reported.
In September 2016, Hinckley was released from St. Elizabeths Hospital and moved to Virginia with his older brother Scott and his mother under under a set of 30 conditions overlooked by the court and medical professionals. Conditions included, but were not limited to: regular visits with mental health professionals; no contact with Reagan’s children, other victims or their families, or actress Jodie Foster; living within a 75-mile radius of Williamsburg; attending group and individual therapy sessions; volunteering or working at least three days a week and not speaking with the media.
Despite his musical aspirations, he was also not allowed to perform publicly under his court-ordered conditions. Without his restrictions, set to expire on June 15 per the judge's orders, Hinckley will be able to play public shows. The VERIFY team found Hinckley has booked a show in Brooklyn. Appearances in Connecticut and Chicago for what he has called the “John Hinckley Redemption Tour” have been canceled, according to the Associated Press.
The Reagan Foundation posted a tweet condemning Hinckley’s plans, saying “he apparently seeks to make a profit from his infamy.”
Hinckley also shares his music on a YouTube channel.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.