1907 - 1910
1911 - 1920
1921 - 1930
1931 - 1940
1941 - 1950
1951 - 1960
1961 - 1970
1971 - 1980
1981 - 1990
1991 - 2000
2001 - Today
UPI Archives
Tuesday, March 31, 1981

Reagan shooting suspect has had psychiatric care

WASHINGTON, March 31, 1981 (UPI)-The stocky, blond college dropout and drifter charged with trying to kill President Reagan is from a wealthy, Republican conservative family and has a history of psychiatric care.

John W. "Jack" Hinckley Jr., 25, the son of an Evergreen, Colo., oilman, has spent most of his life in Texas and was described by acquaintances there as a quiet, friendly young man who became a loner in college.

Authorities disclosed Hinckley, who has been wandering around the country for the past several months, was arrested last fall for trying to board an airliner with three handguns in Nashville, Tenn., when President Carter was in town.

And the leader of a neo-Nazi group in Chicago described Hinckley as an ex-member who was expelled because "he wanted to shoot people and blow things up."

Charged with attempting to assassinate a president and assaulting a federal agent with a pistol, Hinckley today was in FBI custody at a "safe place" where he will undergo psychiatric exams, FBI Director William Webster said.

Dressed in a navy blue shirt and trousers, Hinckley appeared last night at a preliminary examination in federal court, where the two felony charges against him were read and he was asked if he understood them.

"Yes, sir," Hinckley replied to U.S. Magistrate Arthur L. Burnett, who denied bond and set arraignment on the charges for Thursday.

Hinckley sat with his head propped in his hands and listened intently when advised of his rights by Burnett. He appeared lethargic, perhaps tired. He displayed no emotion.

His two court-appointed defense attorneys, Stuart Johnson and Ed Wilhite, sought unsuccessfully to have reporters excluded from the hearing. Johnson later declined to comment on his client's state of mind. "We don't want to do anything to publicize the event," he said.

If convicted of the attempted assassination charge, Hinckley could be sentenced up to life in prison.

It was not known how long Hinckley had been in Washington. He was registered at the Park Central Hotel, opposite the Secret Service headquarters and about two blocks from the White House.

Hinckley purchased the revolver used in the assassination attempt and another 22-caliber six-shot revolver for $47 each at Rocky's Pawn Shop in Dallas Oct. 13.

Rocky's, located less than a half mile down the road from where John F. Kennedy was felled by an assassin nearly 18 years ago, was closed last night. A sliding steel grill was moved across the front to protect the shop's windows and its two wooden doors.

The revolver was one of two purchased by Hinckley that day. Pawn-broker Rocky Goldstein said his son, David, sold the gun and could not remember anything specific about the sale.

"But I'm already getting those phone calls from people saying they are gonna blow this place up because I sold the gun," said Goldstein. "Did I know he was going to shoot the president?"

Police said that on the way out of police headquarters Hinckley said very little and repeatedly asked for a lawyer.

Hinckley was arrested in Nashville on Oct. 9 -- the same day Carter was in town -- for trying to board an American Airlines plane with three handguns and 50 rounds of ammunition in his suitcase.

A source close to the Reagan shooting investigation said Hinckley had been in Nashville a couple of days before his arrest and was heard to say that Reagan had canceled a campaign appearance there scheduled for Oct. 7.

Hinckley was charged in Nashville with carrying weapons on city property, a misdemeanor. He was fined $50 plus $12.50 in court costs, turned loose and the guns were confiscated.

Secret Service spokesman John Warner said the service had no previous knowledge of Hinckley before yesterday's shooting.

In Chicago, the president elect of the National Socialist Party of America, Michael C. Allen, said Hinckley was expelled from the neo-Nazi group in November 1979 because he was "a nut."

Allen said Hinckley "wanted to shoot people and blow things up."

When Hinckley's mother, Joanne, was informed by a reporter that police had named her son in the shooting, she reacted with disbelief. "This is a joke, isn't it?" Then her voice began to crack and she hung up.

The family later put out a statement that said, "John has been under psychiatric care. However, the evaluations did not alert anyone to the seriousness of his condition."

The Hinckleys said they "are grieved and heartbroken by this tragedy. We love our son and will of course stand by him. We are heartbroken for the victims of this incident."

Hinckley's parents and his younger brother, Scott, 20, stayed through the night at the home of a neighbor, William Sells, where they were interviewed by Secret Service and FBI agents.

Hinckley's father, John Sr., is president of Vanderbilt Energy Corp., a multi-million dollar oil and gas exploration firm. He is a registered Republican and was a financial contributor to John Connally's presidential campaign.

Robert Prewitt, president of the Denver-based Prewitt Exploration Co. and a friend of John Sr., said: "It's all madness, absolute madness...We often talked of gas and oil and politics and I do know Jack was a firm supporter of Reagan all the way."

"They are just top-drawer people," said Owen Strand, a close friend and tennis partner of John Sr. "The kids had all the advantages. He (John Jr.) was interested in writing and music."

Hinckley had applied for a job as a reporter last October with the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post.

Hinckley spent little time with his family at their plush home in Evergreen after his father moved his oil business in Texas to Denver in 1974. Few people in Colorado remember much about him. The impressions of him in Texas were mixed.

Hinckley was born May 9, 1955, in Ardmore, Okla., but moved two years later with his family into a plush, two-story tan brick house in Highland Park, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

"He seemed very cordial, not too outgoing or overbearing," said Bill Lierman, sponsor of the Rodeo Club at Highland Park High School, which Hinckley attended. "He was friendly to everyone."

"He was likable, laughable, cutting up all the time. If he did (have a temper), he didn't display it. It seemed like he liked everybody."

When Hinckley's family moved to Evergreen in 1974, he remained in Dallas to finish high school and then moved to Lubbock, where he entered the school of business administration at Texas Tech University.

Hinckley attended Tech off and on until the summer of 1980, but left without getting his degree.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International.