John Hinckley’s greater freedom doesn’t worry south suburban chief he shot
BY STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporter December 29, 2013 12:04AM
John Hinckley, who tried to kill President Ronald Reagan, has a federal judge’s permission to spend more time outside a mental health hospital. That doesn't worry a suburban Chicago police chief, who took one of the bullets. | AP file photo
Updated: January 31, 2014 6:14AM
The man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981 now has a federal judge’s permission to spend more days each month outside a mental health hospital than in it.
Does that worry Tim McCarthy, who took one of John Hinckley Jr.’s bullets in the chest?
“Not in the slightest,” says McCarthy, the former U.S. Secret Service agent who has been Orland Park’s police chief since 1994. “Maybe it should be the other way around . . . I’m still in law enforcement. I have no reason to fear him. I had no reason to fear him then and none now.”
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman agreed to increase Hinckley’s monthly visits to Virginia, where his mother lives, from 10 to 17 days. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the assassination attempt and has spent 31 years receiving treatment at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C.
McCarthy, a 64-year-old grandfather, says he hopes that the mental health professionals testifying before Friedman are certain the would-be assassin is a good risk.
“I just hope they know what they’re doing — that they feel 100 percent confident that he’s not a threat to anyone else,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy was part of Reagan’s detail on March 30, 1981, when Hinckley fired six shots from a .22-caliber pistol at the president. McCarthy was one of four shot, including the president and Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady. McCarthy received the Valor Award from the Secret Service and an Exceptional Service citation for bravery from the U.S. Treasury Department.
Some 30-plus years on, McCarthy rarely thinks about that March day — except perhaps when he gets a call from a reporter on the anniversary. The gunshot left McCarthy with surgical scars, but no lingering pain. He sometimes has to correct people, who wrongly assumed Hinckley’s bullet hit him in the stomach.
“I grabbed my lower abdomen because it went through the liver as the bullet bounced around,” he said.
For a time, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., would call McCarthy to let him know whenever Hinckley was being released. A number of years ago, McCarthy told authorities they didn’t need to bother.
“I said: ‘It’s been a long time. If you think I’m worried about this, I’m not,’” McCarthy said.
McCarthy isn’t making light of the situation. After all, he says, if Hinckley had succeeded in killing the president, he would have “changed the will of the people.”
All these years later, does McCarthy wish Hinckley well?
“Let’s say that I did not have a lot of good Christian thoughts for someone who shoots you, but naturally everyone hopes — no matter what the circumstances — that they fully recover,” McCarthy said.