What happened to presidential press secretary James Brady, who was shot by John Hinckley, Jr. in the presidential assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan? And what happened to the two law enforcement officers who were also shot, Thomas Delahanty and Timothy McCarthy?
Brady died in August 2014 at the age of 73. He lived more than 20 years after the 1981 assassination attempt that also injured President Reagan. Delahanty and McCarthy are still alive; Delahanty retired and McCarthy is now a suburban Chicago police chief. Ronald Reagan died in 2004 at the age of 93. The assassination attempt was captured on video.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman has now ordered attempted assassin Hinckley released. Starting in August 2016, Hinckley, 61, will live with his mother in Virginia. Friedman ruled that Hinckley’s “major depression and psychotic disorder” were now “in full and sustained remission and have been for more than twenty years,” said Fox News.
Hinckley was trying to impress Hollywood actress Jodie Foster, who has continued to star and direct in major motion pictures in the decades following the assassination attempt.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Medical Examiner Ruled Brady’s Death a Homicide
When Brady died in 2014, the Virginia medical examiner’s officer ruled that the cause of death was “homicide” as a result of the gunshot wound he suffered at Hinckley’s hands during the Reagan assassination attempt, according to The Washington Post.
The Post said that Brady died in a retirement community in Alexandria, Virginia. CNN said that Brady died after a “series of health issues.”
A family spokesman told NBC News that the homicide ruling was not a surprise because the shooting left Brady suffering severe health consequences for the rest of his life. NBC said the homicide ruling could mean Hinckley was open to charges in Brady’s death but that did not occur; Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the assassination attempt.
2. Brady Was Paralyzed & Confined to a Wheelchair From Hinckley’s Bullet
During the assassination attempt, Brady was shot in the head. As a result of that wound, he was paralyzed and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, CNN said.
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “Jim suffered a serious head wound that left him partially paralyzed for life.” The White House briefing room for the media now bears Brady’s name, says NBC.
A 1981 New York Times article described Brady’s injuries in explicit detail, including how he was initially comatose, documenting the miraculous nature of his recovery, which highlighted the progress made in the field of neuroscience. After his life was saved, he faced arduous years of seizures, paralysis, and rehabilitation, said The Times.
3. Brady & His Wife, Sarah, Fought Against Gun Violence For Decades
After the assassination attempt that wounded Brady, the Reagan press secretary and his wife, Sarah, started a decades-long effort to combat gun violence, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Sarah Brady was chairperson of the Brady campaign, and together the Bradys lobbied “in support of commonsense gun laws,” says the organization. One of their successes: The 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Protect Act, signed into law by then President Bill Clinton, which required “that every sale of a gun by a licensed dealer be referred to law enforcement for a background check,” said the Brady campaign. NBC called the Brady bill “groundbreaking.”
Sarah Brady died in 2015, also age 73.
4. Television Commentators Had Declared Brady Dead After the Assassination Attempt
Brady’s wounds were so severe that television commentators had initially declared him dead as news of the assassination attempt broke, said the Los Angeles Times.
BBC said that Brady was the most seriously injured during the assassination attack. Reagan’s lung was punctured. Hinckley had fired at the president and his entourage outside a Washington D.C. hotel.
Brady, who had only been Reagan’s press secretary for three months, was shot in the chest by a “ricocheting bullet” and also was shot in the left side of the forehead, said the LA Times, noting that the bullet passed “through the right side of his brain.” President Obama called Brady a “legend” and praised his warmth and professionalism after Brady died, BBC said.
5. Three Other People, Including Reagan, Were Wounded During the Assassination Attempt
President Reagan was shot by a bullet that “bounced off his presidential limo,” said Fox News. Also injured in the attack were two law enforcement officers: Washington D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy. Delahanty was shot in the neck and had to retire, said the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
McCarthy became a police chief in a Chicago-area suburb, Orland Park, after the attack; he also ran for secretary of state in Illinois but didn’t win. Voice of America said in 2011 that McCarthy stayed in the Secret Service through the presidency of George H.W. Bush and then became the Orland Park, Illinois police chief. McCarthy is still Orland Park chief, according to the department’s website. Delahanty joined a suit with Brady and McCarthy against a psychiatric professional who had treated Hinckley, but it was dismissed.