Attacker: John Hinkley Jr.
Date: March 30, 1981
What’s significant about this assassination attempt isn’t the attack so much as the catalyst for it: actor Jodie Foster. In the years prior to the incident, Reagan’s attacker, John Hinkley Jr., became obsessed with the 1976 film Taxi Driver, which starred Robert De Niro as a fucked-up antihero who wants to assassinate a presidential candidate, and Jodie Foster as a child prostitute.
Hinkley became so obsessed with Foster that he moved to New Haven, CT, after finding out she was attending Yale University there, and even enrolled in a writing class on campus so he could be close to her and leave her poems and notes. His attempts to make contact were unsuccessful, however, and Hinkley began to grow agitated that she wasn’t noticing him, so he came up with a plan to get her attention: assassinate the president, a la Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. He originally intended on murdering Jimmy Carter, but was arrested in Nashville for unlawful possession of a firearm before he could make any attempts on Carter’s life.
It wasn’t until 1981, when Ronald Reagan had taken office, that he carried out his plan. He approached Reagan outside of a Hilton Hotel in DC and fired six shots at him; none hit Reagan directly, but one bullet did ricochet off of the presidential limousine to hit Reagan in the chest, puncturing his lung and causing serious internal bleeding. Thanks to prompt medical attention, he survived. Hinkley was tried for attempted murder after the attack, but found not guilty by reason of insanity. He is currently being held at a mental institution, having been diagnosed with a number of personality disorders.