John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinated President Ronald Reagan but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was granted unconditional release June 15, 2022.
“After 41 years 2 months and 15 days, FREEDOM AT LAST!!!,” Hinckley wrote on Twitter.
He was 25-years-old March 30, 1981 when he shot Reagan, wounding him. He also shot three other people. He is now 67 years old. He was released from a psychiatric hospital in 2016. Doctors determined his underlying psychotic disorder and major depressive disorder may have been in remission for three decades, according to court records.
Since then, Hinckley remained under court-ordered supervision, which required regular mental health appointments. He underwent routine assessments, reviewed by a federal judge. The judge could grant Hinkley additional freedoms or revoke them.
Hinckley said in a 2018 evaluation that he has never been happier. Hinckley is single, and some members of his mental health team have suggested he try online dating. At least one other mental health expert said online dating would be too risky to Hinckley.
Hinckley cared for his elderly mother, who he lived with in Virginia, along with his brother. Hinckley became his mother’s primary caregiver in August, 2017 when she fell and broke her hip. He handled many of the chores in their household, taking his mother and brother to meetings and appointments, grocery shopping and sometimes cooking. Jo Ann Hinckley died in July 2021 at age 95, according to the Associated Press. Heinckley also sells books online and at antique bookstores. He plays guitar and sees a music therapist.
His legal and mental health team indicated in court records that Hinckley has grown increasingly independent and mature.
His attorney, Barry Wm. Levine, told the Los Angeles Times “He is doing beautifully, perfectly. He is compliant with every requirement of the court and he is happy.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hinckley Was Released From a Psychiatric Hospital in 2016
Hinckley was in a mental health facility under medical supervision for 35 years. He was committed to St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. following his trial, which found him not guilty by reason of insanity.
He lived with his elderly mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, a colonial-era coastal town. She died in 2021. Hinckley has been repeatedly subjected to risk assessments. For example, here is an excerpt from federal court documents relating to a 2018 hearing in his case:
His attorney told the court in 2018, “Frankly, I’ve read these reports as written, and I don’t know what else these experts can say. They find no mental disease. They find no danger. They find mental disease in remission. Whether that equates to a mental disease that still exists but is in remission or whether that means because they perceive no symptoms that there is no mental disease, that is a distinction I think we do not have to solve.”
He added: “But I see no basis for any belief that this gentleman presents a danger to himself or others as a result of a mental disease. And the requirements of law require that he be in the least restrictive environment.”
Hinckley’s release from the psychiatric facility did not mean he was free from the criminal justice system. He was under court-ordered supervision.
2. Hinckley Lived With His Elderly Mother, Who Died in July
Hinckley began living with his elderly mother and brother in Williamsburg, Virginia following his release from the mental health facility in 2018. His brother, Scott, also lives with them in the gated community in the village of Kingsmill along the Potomac River.
His mother, Jo Ann Hinckley, died in July 2021 at age 95, according to her obituary.
“Jo Ann Hinckley, 95, had been her son’s primary companion as he transitioned in recent years from living at a Washington psychiatric hospital to being allowed to live with her full-time in a gated community in Williamsburg, Virginia,” the obituary says.
Hinckley became his mother’s primary caregiver in August, 2017 after she fell and broke her hip. He also handles many of the chores in the home, including grocery shopping and some cooking.
He lived in a modest house on a golf course and drives for his mother and brother, the Los Angeles Times reported.
A federal judge ruled Hinckley is permitted to move out of his mother’s house, but he decided to live with the woman and continue providing her care.
He suffers from arthritis and hypertension and walks with a limp. He doesn’t like to exercise, and gained 40 pounds since his release.
3. Hinckley Said He Was ‘Happy As a Clam’ in a 2018 Psychiatric Evaluation
In one psychiatric evaluation in 2018, he told mental health officials he was “happy as a clam.”
“This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life,’ Hinckley said during an evaluation. “I’m happy as a clam, to be honest.”
His evaluations routinely proved positive. The federal judge overseeing his case, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman, granted him more freedoms since his release from psychiatric care. The judge allowed him to drive greater distances unaccompanied outside his home in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was also permitted to sell books anonymously online, display his artwork and music, and move out of his mother’s house if he chooses to do so.
His conditions prior to his unconditional release included meeting at least twice a month with a psychologist and social worker. He was not permitted to use alcohol or drugs, and could not own a gun, NBC reported. He was also required to carry a cellphone with GPS enabled any time he traveled from his home. He was not permitted to contact his victims’ families or travel anywhere where there are former or current U.S. presidents, vice presidents and members of Congress.
4. Ronald Reagan’s Son Fears Hinckley Will Hurt Someone Again
Ronald Reagan’s son, Ron Reagan, expressed that he has concerns about Hinckley’s release from the psychiatric hospital.
“My worry is that his narcissistic personality disorder will be affronted by somebody,” he said in an interview. “He will not get the respect or attention that he feels that he’s owed, and he will act out again in some violent way.”
Hinckley’s assassination attempt also injured three others: The president’s press secretary, Jim Brady; a Secret Service agent, Tim McCarthy; and District of Columbia Police Officer Thomas Delahanty outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. Brady’s later death was ruled a homicide because it stemmed from paralysis from his gunshot wound.
A federal judge disagreed with Ron Reagan’s fears.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman wrote in a ruling “this court finds that Mr. Hinckley will not pose a danger to himself or others if he is permitted to continue residing full-time in Williamsburg, Virginia, on convalescent leave under the proposed conditions.”
5. Hinckley Runs a Small Antiques Shop
Hinckley runs a small antique store, working by selling books anonymously online and at antique malls. Hinckley also enjoys art, and displays his own artwork in his bedroom.
Hinckley has struggled to form lasting romantic relationships or friendships. Some members of his mental health team suggested he try online dating, while at least one of them said it was “far too risky, possibly endangering Mr Hinckley’s personal safety.”
One of Hinckley’s potential romantic interests called police, scared of the man who was pursuing her, the Los Angeles Times reported.