35 years later: John Hinckley, Jr., closer to living permanently in Hampton Roads

Posted at 10:42 AM, Mar 30, 2016

John Hinckley, Jr., may 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," says Dr. Felicia Flores, a psychology educator who's closely studied the attempt on President Reagan's life and Hinckley's motive for the shootings.

Hinckley fired a gun as 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 from his injuries 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 noted.

Since a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity, Hinckley has lived at a mental hospital.  For the past two years, he's been allowed to spend 17 days a month in his mother's home at Kingsmill in Williamsburg. When he's there, he walks the streets as a seemingly average citizen. Most people never even notice.

But, will John Hinckley, Jr., ever leave the hospital for good? In April 2015, a judge began considering that very possibility. Dr. Flores explains 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.

Dr. 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 Hampton Roads.

"Yes, I do believe he will be released very shortly on permanent convalescent leave.”