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1981: President Reagan is shot

VIDEO : BBC News report on John Hinckley

President Ronald Reagan has been shot and wounded after a lone gunman opened fire in Washington.

He is currently undergoing emergency surgery at George Washington University Hospital but there are unconfirmed reports he walked in unaided.

Initial reports claim he may have a punctured lung.

Five to six shots were fired as he left the Washington Hilton Hotel where he had been addressing a union convention, about one mile from the White House.

A man, firing at close range, also wounded White House Press Secretary James Brady in the head.

A Secret Service official and a Washington policeman were also injured before the gunman was pushed to the ground by police.

The president had appeared from the hotel smiling and walked towards his limousine turning momentarily to acknowledge calls from the waiting press.

A burst of gunfire was then heard before the president was bundled into a bullet proof limousine and whisked away.

First Lady Nancy Reagan is understood to be on her way to the hospital to visit her 70-year-old husband.

The attacker is described as being in his twenties and blonde.

He was pinned to the wall by secret service agents and he has now been arrested.

The assassination attempt has sent shock waves around the country where memories of the murder of president John F Kennedy remain vivid.

President Reagan has only been in office for 69 days and the attack leaves the running of the country in some confusion as his vice-president George Bush is currently on his way back from Texas.

Until the arrival of Vice-President Bush it is unclear who is in charge.

The American Stock Exchange has stopped trading and the Academy Awards have been postponed until tomorrow night in the wake of the attacks.

In Context
The president initially appeared to have escaped serious injury, but had been hit by a ricocheting bullet as he was bundled into his limousine by Secret Service Agents.

He was operated on and made a fast recovery.

Mr Brady suffered severe head injuries, and policeman Thomas Delahanty and Tim McCarthy of the Secret Service were also injured.

John Hinckley, 25, the son of an affluent oil industry executive, was charged with trying to assassinate the president fuelled by an obsession with actress Jodie Foster and a desire to impress her.

The following June, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to hospital.

Ronald Reagan went on to win a second term in office by a wide margin almost four years later.

He died in June 2004, aged 93, after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for 10 years.


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