tv American Artifacts Reagan Assassination Attempt CSPAN August 26, 2021 4:00pm-4:31pm EDT
c-span's shop.org is c-span's online store. there is a collection of c-span products. browse the see what's new. your purchase will support our non-profit operations and you will have the opportunity to get the congressional director. go to c-span shop.org. on march 30th, 1981, a would be assassin fired six shots at president ronald reagan outside the washington hilton hotel two miles from the white house. "washington post" reporter del wilbur, author of raw hide down, the near assassination of ronald reagan met us on a sidewalk where the assassination took place to tell us the story of
that day. >> reagan arc long time union man himself was excited to give a speech at the afl-cio. he actually rewrote it by hand. ♪♪ at 2:25, 2:26, 2:27, he emerges from this entrance behind this care. this is new, this is a bunker. over here you will see the entrance, a door, a steel door where the president emerged and left. they built this, actually, this entrance especially for the president. when they built this hotels in the 1960s, they built this wonderful grand ballroom and they knew for vips they want their own special interests so we built it back here. ease of access for limousine. interesting.
if you look up here you will see the curving driveway, the architects didn't consult the secret service in building the entrance. they realized if they came up this way, stopped here, and kept driving up, if they left the limo here for the president to come up here and go the limousine would be stuck in the curves because it is hulking and there was a police car up there to prevent anybody else from coming down. if they did that they couldn't get away and could get trapped in an attack. so they would leave the president here, back the limousine around, back it up and park it around here. this small is smaller than it was then. where the curb is they backed it up like this. the limousine is facing towards t street. the limousine is facing this way. the back door is open. this is a lincoln continental, this limousine, armored. 13,000 pounds. you know, it could stop a task
rifle round. this was a '72 lincoln. they stopped making the backward zoors in the late '60s. the agents called them suicide doors. the reason they called them suicide doors is because if they ever left them open when they drove they would rip them off. they had to make sure the doors were always closed. they parked there. doing it this way, the president would be out in the open. around 2:00, 1:30, about that time, john hinckley, a deranged, troubled 25-year-old from every green, colorado who was obsessed with jodie foster, we all know, infamously obsessed with jodie foster. hinckley is a real strange character. i tried to write him in the most balanced way possible. people differ whether he was really insane at that moment. the jury decided that he was. he had an obsession with jodie foster. it had started a few years earlier n 1976, he saw the movie
"taxi driver" and gap to fantasize about jodie foster. a taxi driver a former army vet wants to kill a presidential candidate to impress a woman he admires in that movie. he starts focusing on jodie foster who played a prost tooud aught to in that movie. he wants to impressive. he thinks the only way to impress her would be to shoot the president of the united states. he stalks the president in 1981, watching the president-elect. he actually stalked carter n. october, 1980, he was in dayton, ohio. and he got within arm's reach of the president. but he didn't bring his guns with him. he left them in the bug luggage at the bus station. he regretted that. so he had been stalking presidents and stuff. he's in l.a. he takes a bus across the country, arrive as day before
the shooting. at that moment, the documents i read, he hasn't made up his mind to shoot or kill the president. he doesn't know the president is no town. he wants to get to foster. he eats breakfast the morning of the shooting. he buys a copy of the washington star newspaper. he flips it open and on page a 4 he sees the president's schedule at the hilton. he says i am going to take my little gun, go up there and see how close i can go. he is waiting behind a rope line, 15 feet past where the open door is for the limousine. he has a .22 caliber gun in his pocket. it is loaded with devastator bullets which are tipped with lead adecide which is a high explosive, so they build up when they hit things.
he is sitting there wait, waiting, reagan comes out, hinckley can't believe he is 15 feet from the president. agents are surrounding him. three cops at the roofline, another agent there. hinckley pulls out his gun and envisions himself dying in a burst of gunfire, suicide by cop, suicide by secret service agent. he starts shooting. there's a wf documentary material from this day that explains what happened. there's a >> mr. president -- [ gunfire ] >> there is a wealth of document documentary s which describe what happens. there were photographers. one of them was on job for four days. he shoots over the limousine and has shots of pear throwing
reagan into the car. then you have the white house photographer, who is trailing reagan in this area. and he's shooting pictures that way. and by doing -- using those two pictures, you have got to get a sense of what happened. you watch the video, but it is all two dimensional. the fbi reports that i dug up, there are diagrams that map out where everything is. they laid it out with tape, measurements and stuff. that was helpful. and i have come here a few times. coming here is difficult because, if you notice, this thing obviously wasn't here that day. they built this after, to protect the president. then you have -- the little gardening area is new. i am told they put them in to keep spectators away from wall where hinckley was. and the sidewalk is shorter. he is right here, he sees
reagan. where is reagan. reagan is right about where you are standing right there? >> this far away. >> it is 15 feet. they measured it. reagan was 15 feet from hinckley when the shots were fire. you go to a basketball court in the country and you get on the free-throw line and you look at it -- it is the distance of a free throw. that's how close he was. that's 15 feet. i also got -- the secret service did -- there are a lot of great reports they did on this. they interviewed all the agents who were there that day and a lot of witnesses. i was able to get those and learn what everybody said they did. that's what matched up with what the video and the picture showed. it was helpful to get in their heads to understand what was happening. no one has seen reagan's fbi interview shortly after the shooting. he gave an interview to the fbi agents. it was sealed. i got it unsealed.
reagan said he was coming out here and saw the reporters but he wasn't going to talk to the press. and you can infer from that that the reason he didn't want to talk to the press, he made stumbles and he had wanted to stay on message in that period of time before. he also said had hinckley waited, he was going to step on to the running boards of the limousine and wave. his back would have been to hinckley if he waved. but hinckley didn't wait. it is 2:27 p.m. we know it's 2:27 because the moment the gunfire ends a secret service agent calls the white house and an agent looks at the clock and knows it is 2:27.
he shoots six shots. the first one hits secretary brady in the head. he falls down. a second man is hit. now the path to the president is clear. himpgly has done target practice, he can hit stationary targets 20 to 30 feet. jerry pear in .4 of a second. i tried to time it, it is difficult, but he grabs the president of the united states the moment he hears the gunfire. thrusts him behind tim mccarthy, another secret service agent who swivels his body and takes a bullet in the chest. first bullet hits brady, second hits dela hansy. the fourth one hits mccarthy who turns like this. he's not wearing a bulletproof
vest. he is credited with helping save the president. the fifth one hits the bulletproof limousine window just as jerry pear is pushing him in the limousine. the sixth one cracks across the parking lot. jerry pear gets in the limo. someone slams the door shut. the driver of the limo -- stressful job driving the president he said not because you are not worried about situations like this, but you are always worried you are going to be dropping him at the wrong place. he was waiting. he can't hear the shots. so door shuts, he is like i have got to get out of here. he was worried because he saw his buddy tim mccarthy fall
down. they drove away. hinckley's final shot, the sixth one, ricochetted to have back quarter panel of the limousine and as reagan is diving it hits him in this side right here and lodges an inch from his heart. >> we are going to get in a taxi and follow the ride of the limousine. do you think it was parked like this. >> this direction, like this, out there towards t street. the dear door of the limo was almost touching the sidewalk. the sidewalk is smaller than it was. right about here is where the door was. >> you are going to go out here, make a left on connecticut, make a right, continue connecticut down 17th street, and then make a right on pennsylvania. can you do that. >> paint us the picture inside the limo while we are driving here. >> jerry pear, the agent looks out the window and sees a pock
mark on that door, on that window, where the bullet has -- your window. he also noticed the three dies down on the sidewalk as they pull away. man, this is bad, there has been a shooting. he props reagan up, he's like a tired basketball player. he runs his body inside his coat and his hands through his hair to check to see if there is any blood. he feels good. tells the driver to tell on his radio -- jerry pear lost his radio. it busts off in the mi lay and he lost his tran responder. he can't use his radio to tell everyone what they are doing. he asked the driver to radio that they are heading back to the white house. he takes the radio and says raw hide is okay. raw hide is ronald reagan's code
name. >> raw hide is okay. raw hide is okay. going to crown. >> you want to go to the hospital or back to the white house? >> we are right -- we are going to crown. >> back to the white house. back to the white house. raw hide is okay. >> they are heading back now towards the white house. and the driver is flying, the driver of the limousine is hurgtsing -- hurdling down the connecticut. they closed the streets so there is no traffic. remember, the limousine is alone. they have no support. they have left the motorcade behind. the follow-up car, armored follow-up car with two guys brandishing uzis on it finally catches up behind them. and the spare limousine which has the president's physician in it and another vehicle comes along, too.
the police admonitions are catching up and getting ahead of the magazine. along here jerry pear notices the president is having trouble breathing. are you having a heart attack. the president says i don't think so. he dabs blood from his mouth. jerry pear has to make a call. this guy is struggling. they have a medical facility at the white house, the most secure place in the world. doesn't know if it is world war iii, or they can go to the hospital. if they go to the hospital and reagan is not hurt, it could set off an economic crisis. he decides to go to the hospital. there could have been other assassins in the city waiting for the president there. he makes that call and heads to the hospital. they are going to go to the hospital. he gets on the radio, we are
going to george washington, the radio. pear gets on the radio and says let's hustle. >> roger, we want to go to the emergency room of george washington. >> got your roger. >> go to george washington fast. >> roger. [ inaudible ] >> get an ambulance, i mean get the -- you because he can't say on the radio reagan tour. they don't use reagan's name. they don't >> hustle, hustle, hustle. let's hustle. >> because he can't say on the radio, reagan is hurt. they can't use reagan's name. they know assassins and news media can be listening to open radio communications. they use the code names. they abandon the crown and go to the hospital. about this time, marianne gordon, an unsung hero, one of the fewmy female agents of the
secret service, she devised the matter indicated that day, the routes, drove the routes from the hilton to the hospital and to the white house. wanted to make sure all the routes were clear and there were no blockages. the driver had driven a motorcade to the hilton not long before that. he knew all the routes. he didn't have to practice them. he already knew them. they are heading down and marianne gordon doesn't have a radio to communicate with the police cars in front. she goes, you know what, these cars, these cops are going to keep going to the white house because they don't know where they are going. we better get in front of the presidential limousine. she tells the driver, you better get in front of the presidential limousine because he's going to lose his police escort in a few minutes. she didn't want the driver -- there is a lot going on in this car. she didn't want him to think about how to get to the hospital and she wanted to be a battering ram.
she didn't know what was going on in the world. they don't know if there are other people working to get them. she needs to make sure if there is a car that lets in front of the limousine, she has to take that hit, not the president. meanwhile, the president's condition. he seems to have a harder time breathing. reagan said it felt like someone hit him with a hammer. he felt bad, like someone hit him in the back with a hammer and he was struggling to breathe. they are driving down here and the spare limousine is in front. this is a hard pivot because it is a angled street. meanwhile, the police cars keep going. i got the dc police tapes. you can could here donald bell, a sergeant, in one of the police cars says my god they turned to the hospital. and they started going this way. the driver asked jerry pear, do we want to go the wrong way around the circle to? jerry is like, no, no, no, we want to go around because jerry didn't want to hit oncoming
traffic. it could be too dangerous. the old hospital now is at 22nd. it was a wig world war ii era bunker building, really ugly. that's the new hospital. in fact that's where my two sons were born, at that hospital. they run around the circumstance cell and pull into the emergency room. reagan, they drive up, the limo drives up, pear jumps out. reagan indicates to pear i want to get out on my own, i don't need ahand out. he comes out. pear is going oh he wants to be a cowboy. reagan gets up, walk out, hitches up his pants to get them right. walks up to the door, agents scouted him. medical crews are there. he collapses. falls on the ground. his knees hit the grounds, but shaddic and pear catch him. a whole hoard of people carry him into the trauma bay.
they throw him on a jurnh grny. the nurses, paramedic, doctor who initially treated him thought he was going to die. this is ambassador. this is the president of the united states. they instantly do the medical protocols. they are throwing in ivs, getting long lines into him. someone is got an oxygen mask on him to get him air because you have got to stabilize someone's blood pressure fast when they are in shock, or it will kill you. a nurse can't get his blood pressure. can't feel it. she has to get it palpably. she counts to 60. anything below 90 is shock. he is in trouble. they don't know he has been shot. they think maybe he had a heart attack. when he was hurdling into the limousine, he landed on the transsome and jerry pear
suspects he landed on a rib and punctured a lung. jerry pear is thinking back the kennedy, can't lose another one. this is crazy. they throw in the ivs, following all the proper protocols which really had only come into existence the last ten years. reagan is lucky because not only did the secret service ramp up their training and save his life. at the same time, that hospital only became a certified level one trauma center two years before reagan is shot. years before that, emergency medicine was the back water of the medical establishment and they only realized recently how to save victims of trauma. you have to treat first and diagnose later. don't worry about diagnosing, stabilize, get the blood pressure up. don't let them go into stock. stabilize, stop the bleeding and then fix what's wrong. they are going through a checklist. there is no doctor ordering people what to do. everyone knows exactly what they
have to do at that second. if you have to think, you make mistakes, it takes too much time. reagan's blood pressure goes up. he begins to be stabilized. a doctor comes in and realizes -- they roll him over trying to find out what's wrong. no breath sounds in the left lung. roll him over, a intern at that moment comes in. he had been milling about, put the oxygen mask on reagan's face until someone else came. he is a vietnam veteran, he was shot. was in a helicopter and almost died. they roll him over and he looks down and goes, that's a bullet hole, flat slit because the bullet flattened after it hit the darr and hit him like a buzz saw and tears up his arteries. man, he must be filling up with blood or air.
the doctor who established the package room and made an emergency room what it is today takes over and inserts a chest tube. blood stars pouring out. usually, 85% of gun shot victims in the chest, chest tubes stop the blooding. you stop the bleeding, the lung reexpands and the bleeding capillaries are cut off. but it is still bleeding. ben aaron is a chief thoracic surgeon realizes we have to take this guy to surgery. we have to fix him. at 2:57 p.m. -- doctors took notes. not -- exactly half an hour after he was shot they wheel him to the o.r. this is when reagan delivers some of his best lines. he sees his wife nancy reagan and reprises the words of the
boxer, honey, i forgot to duck. he really said it. witnesses heard him say it. these weren't made up but republicans or his administration. he said this stuff. then he sees jim bakker and ed meese who rushed haoer to talk to him. and and mike defer, three of his top aides. he says, who is minding the store? cracking jokes. he was a guy. they wheel him to the o.r. he believes the role of president is his role to play. would he pass up a great operating room moment? could he pass up a operating room moment in his mind? he takes off the operating mask and says i hope you are all republicans the all the doctors.
the doctor says, mr. president, today worry all republicans. that's amazing because he is as liberal as they come. the nurses and doctors suspect when he was in the o.r. he knew things were intense. he needed them to act normally and professionally and needed to reduce the tension in the room. that's why he did that. he was in the hospital until april 11th, 12 days after the shooting and 13 days total. when he was in the operating room he went through surgery. ben aaron retrieved the bullet. i interviewed -- it is fascinating how routine the hospital tried to keep things. during his surgery, you know, aaron, a very by the books former military man wanted to ensure his own team was there, his normal team. he had a 31-year-old surgical intern with him. that intern, david attleberg, reached into the president's chest and pulled the beating heart aside to give aaron more
room to hup for the bullet. think about that, 31 years old, and the president's beating heart in your hand. a powerful moment. they find the bullet. stitch up the bleeding and send him to the recovery room where he regales with little airious one liners that he wrote by hand. the reagan foundation let me read these notes. he came here for an anniversary event and to support the brady bill for gun control. it was a big deal for reagan to do that. they named the emergency room the ron reagan institute of emergency medicine. in the '70s the concrete services is realizing -- there was a lot of assassinations. agent trained better, how the react when there are shots, they adopted training to improve how
quickly they react. with the reagan assassination attempt, they reacted instantly. in the kennedy assassination, no evasive maneuvers at all. that's interesting because they are prepared. but they let him walk out like this. they checked everybody who went in. checked the names of everyone who came in contact with the president. yet there is a rope line 15 feet from the president and the guy has a gun. there is something irreconcilable thing with the secret service where they are prepared for the worst but don't try to prevent the worst. that's something that's done after the fact. when hotels don't have a gram the president can pull into they
build a tent. they also go magneto meters everywhere. after that, they seized an inordinate amount of guns if old ladies from the south who came to the white house. the socialites from virginia who snuck into the white house to shake obama's hand. they had no guns but what if they attempted to do something -- a guy threw a shoe at president bush in iraq. we don't know why. and so in this era, his aide played the key to his success. reagan had the lowest approval of any president at that time in the first term. in his 59% approval rating,
which is low for a president in the honeymoon period, and wow, thinking back that he crushed carter in the landslide and everybody loved ronald reagan, and that is not true. he had controversial policies and stuff about el salvador coming up. he wanted to cut spending and reduce taxes. and those were controversial at the time. people were unsure about him. then he is shot. and he performs amazingly this day, and people separate the man they admire from the politics and a leader, and he gets a lot accomplished in the next year and forms a bond between him and the public, and lou canon who is the most esteemed biographer told me that, dale, what this day did is that the reagan's character under fire, and he heroism -- you know, he cracked jokes in the emergency room, and he cracked jokes in the o.r. and laughing at death, and people saw this on tv, and a real live event and the dawn of the 24 news cycle, and people drawn to the tvs and the radios and
listening to coverage, and they felt like it was their aunt or their uncle or grandfather shot, and they formed that bond with him. and that carried them through. it kept them from getting in a lot more trouble than presidents or other presidents would have faced a lot rougher time. >> rawhide is okay. follow up, rawhide is okay. c-span shop.org is c-span's store. there's a collection of c-span products. browse to see what's new. your purchase will support our non-profit operations and you still have time to order the congressional directory with contact information for members of congress and the biden administration. go to c-span shop.org. 40 years ago, on 30th, 1981, john hinkley jr. fired shots at president ron reagan outside the washington hilton hotel, including one that ricocheted