Reagan shooter Hinckley will soon leave hospital for good

Published 10:20 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — In little more than a week, the only living man to have shot an American president could pack his bags and leave a Washington psychiatric hospital for the last time.

John Hinckley Jr. has already been living with his 90-year-old mother at her home overlooking a golf course in Williamsburg, Virginia, for 17 days each month. Thanks to a judge’s order Wednesday, he’ll be able to live there full time, starting as early as Aug. 5.

Hinckley was 25 and had suffered from psychosis and depression for several years when he shot President Ronald Reagan and three others outside a Washington hotel on March 30, 1981. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to St. Elizabeths hospital.

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Now 61, Hinckley has graying hair and suffers from arthritis and high blood pressure. He enjoys painting and photography and cares for feral cats. During his time in Williamsburg, he drives himself around town in a Toyota Avalon, going to movies and eating at fast-food restaurants.

The community has been reluctant to embrace him — he’s been turned away from volunteer opportunities because of his notoriety and from restaurants where he’s applied for part-time jobs. Some neighbors are wary of his presence, although the police chief said there’s no need for his officers to pay special attention to Hinckley.

But unless he violates the conditions of his leave, he won’t return to St. Elizabeths, despite opposition by prosecutors to greater freedom for the would-be assassin. The order by Judge Paul Friedman cannot be appealed.

The assassination attempt was fueled by Hinckley’s obsession with the movie “Taxi Driver” and its then-teenage star, Jodie Foster. He used a pawn-shop revolver to fire six shots at Reagan, the president’s aides and his protective detail outside a Washington hotel, wounding the president and three others.