WASHINGTON (AP) — The man who shot President Ronald Reagan wants more than anything to “fit in” and be “a good citizen.” He tried to get a fast-food job, and loves to drive. His musical tastes run from Elvis and Paul McCartney to Nirvana.
John Hinckley Jr. has been barred for years from talking to the media, but court documents made available this week contain rare snippets of his voice.
A federal judge is deciding whether to allow Hinckley to live full-time outside St. Elizabeths, the mental hospital that has been his home since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 shooting that wounded Reagan and three others.
Hinckley has spent longer stretches of time on the outside in recent years, staying at his mother’s home in Williamsburg, Virginia, where the hospital says he’s ready to live full-time. Prosecutors have pushed for tight restrictions including wearing an ankle bracelet, a requirement the judge has dismissed in the past.
More than 100 pages of documents made public in the case provide a fuller picture of what Hinckley has been doing in the last two years as his visits to Williamsburg increased to 17-day stretches. He has volunteered at a local mental hospital and made required visits with therapists, but he also shops at Target, Best Buy and J.C. Penney.
He often buys CDs. A music lover, he has gone to concerts and looked at music sites online. He’s also exploring photography as a hobby and attended lectures at a local art museum. He treats his elderly mother to dinner at Ruby Tuesday and takes her on scenic drives.
When he returns to the hospital, Hinckley is interviewed by hospital staff. A government psychiatrist also questioned him before testifying in his case. Here are some of the things they quote him as saying:
On taking part in group therapy sessions outside St. Elizabeths:
“It’s really refreshing to be in a group with people who aren’t completely out of their minds. The people in this group have normal lives, and normal problems. They have to worry about getting their kids to soccer, and what to make for dinner.”
On driving, which Judge Paul L. Friedman allowed him to do unaccompanied beginning in 2014:
“I love the feeling of being able to drive on the open road. It’s so great.”
On being rejected for volunteer opportunities at a botanical garden, the local humane society and the law library at the nearby College of William & Mary:
The law library “would have been a great gig for me. But when it gets to a certain level and my name gets brought up, my reputation gets in the way and I hit another road block.”
On getting a job:
“I’d love to get a job so I can have some real income.”
On asking for jobs at Subway and Starbucks while being followed by the Secret Service:
Two agents were “watching and listening to every little thing. That just bummed me out once that started happening. It made me feel awkward and uncomfortable.”
On being busy:
“I don’t like flipping around the TV, I want to do things.”
On the death in 2014 of President Reagan’s press secretary James Brady, the person most seriously wounded in Hinckley’s shooting:
“Brady’s death, you know, it got me to thinking about what I did to this man. It really did. You know, that I so diminished his life, that for so many years he was in pain, he just didn’t have the life he would have had … It made me wish I could take it back but it is what happened.”
“I have tremendous remorse.”
On trips outside the hospital:
They “have made me more human.”
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