HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — John Hinckley Jr. might soon accomplish something no other man has. Never has anyone shot an American president and then walked the streets, full time, as a free man.
“I don’t think anyone who owned a television in 1981 would have expected that we would talk about Hinckley being released,” said Dr. Felicia Flores, a psychology educator who has closely studied the attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life and Hinckley’s motive for the shootings.
Hinckley fired a gun at President Reagan’s entourage as he left the Washington Hilton on March 30, 1981. Reagan was shot along with three others, including Press Secretary James Brady, who died in 2014.
“He was just looking for a target, essentially. He was looking for some way to commit front page murder, as he himself said. And he certainly attempted to,” Flores said.
Since a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity, Hinckley has lived at a mental hospital. For the past two years, he has been allowed to spend 17 days a month in his mother’s home at Kingsmill in Williamsburg, Virginia.
When he’s there, he walks the streets as a seemingly average citizen. Most people never even notice.
But will Hinckley ever leave the hospital for good?
In April 2015, a judge began considering that possibility. Flores said the judge will have to determine if Hinckley is a danger to anyone, including himself.
The other factor: How will he afford to live on his own? In court hearings last year, Hinckley said he tried to get jobs in the past at a Starbucks and a Subway, but his almost always present Secret Service escort was a turn-off for potential employers.
Flores believes it’s not a matter of if Hinkley is released permanently, but when, meaning the man who tried to kill President Reagan could soon have a permanent home in Virginia.
“Yes, I do believe he will be released very shortly on permanent convalescent leave,” Flores said.