More than 40 years after shooting President Ronald Reagan and three others, John Hinckley Jr. said he was remorseful for his actions but ready to move on with his life.
Hinckley, 67, spoke with “Nightline” co-anchor Juju Chang two weeks after his release from federal supervision and apologized to the families of his victims.
“I’m so sorry. I really am,” he told ‘Nightline’. “I’m not sure they can forgive me, and I probably wouldn’t even blame them.”
While some close to Reagan are reluctant to accept Hinckley’s olive branch, he said he was committed to proving to the world that he was a changed and better man. And he supports laws that would ban other people with mental health issues from having access to firearms.
Watch John Hinckley Jr.’s full interview with “Nightline” Tuesday, July 5 at 12:35 a.m. ET on ABC.
On March 30, 1981, Hinckley, then 25, shot Reagan, police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, and publicist James Brady outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. DC, where Regan had just delivered a speech to the AFL-CIO. .
All four men survived. Reagan, however, was hospitalized for 12 days; Brady, who was shot in the head, suffered brain damage and was confined to a wheelchair following the incident. Delahanty developed permanent nerve damage to his left arm. McCarthy was also hospitalized and was the first victim to be released.
Brady, who became a strong gun control advocate as co-founder of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, died in 2014.
Although the medical examiner concluded that the death was a homicide and that the cause of death was a gunshot wound and its health consequences, Hinckley was not charged in Brady’s death.
Hinckley was arrested shortly after the shooting and charged with attempted murder. He told investigators he opened fire on the president to impress actress Jodie Foster. He told Nightline he had no ill will against Reagan and called him “a good, kind man”, who he thought “is a good president”.
Hinckley told “Nightline” he was severely depressed, estranged from his family and in despair when he plotted to shoot the president.
“It was kind of like a suicide attempt just saying, this is it. This is the end of my life,” he said.
Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity a year later in a jury trial and sentenced to be confined to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., under psychiatric care. In 2016, he was allowed to leave the hospital under the care of his mother and with heavy restrictions, including not owning a firearm or contacting any of his victims, their families or Foster.
In September 2021, federal judge OK’d Hinckley’s absolute discharge became effective June 15.
Despite being forbidden to speak with his victims, Hinckley told ABC News he had been remorseful for years and felt sad that his actions led to Brady’s years of pain. He shared that he prays every night for the Brady family to have a good life.
“If I could take it back, I sure would,” he said.
Hinckley’s Total Unsupervised is a study in rehabilitation and sits at the intersection of ongoing discussions about how the country deals with mental health issues and the rise in gun violence.
Hinckley said he supports background checks and gun waiting times, especially for people who are in pain, policies that were introduced by the Brady Act.
“I think there are too many guns in America,” he said.
President Reagan publicly forgave Hinckley for the assassination attempt, but at least one member of Reagan’s family did not forgive him.
Patti Davis, Reagan’s daughter, published an op-ed in The Washington Post in September after the judge ordered Hinckley’s release and said she feared he would contact her.
“I understand the struggle for forgiveness, but it’s like looking through prison bars. I don’t believe John Hinckley feels remorse. Narcissists rarely do,” she wrote.
Danny Spriggs, a Secret Service agent on Reagan’s details at the time of the shooting, told ABC News he also doesn’t accept Hinckley’s apology.
“I don’t think enough accountability has been handed down in this particular case,” he said. “I wish him good luck. The main thing is that these words are easy to say [and] now it depends on his actions.”
Hinckley claimed he was no longer the same man he was in 1981. He told “Nightline” that in his 41 years of therapy he had “worked hard to overcome [his] illness”, and he is confident that he will stay on the right track. His medical team at St. Elizabeth’s and the judge who released him seem to agree.
Hinckley voluntarily took his anti-anxiety medication and antipsychotic medication, continues to undergo therapy and says he has a good support system with his siblings.
“I just have a good mindset now that I don’t have the depression that I had. I don’t have the isolation that I had. And I feel really good now,” he said. -he declares.