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March 30, 1981: President Ronald Reagan shot by John Hinckley

On March 30, 1981, an unsuccessful assassination attempt left President Ronald Reagan wounded in the chest, and his press secretary severely wounded
On this day: John Hinckley shoots Ronald Reagan 00:57

Just 69 days into his presidency, Ronald Reagan was shot while leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel after a speech. The assassination attempt left him wounded in the chest, and his press secretary James Brady badly injured with a gunshot to the head.

The entire ordeal was caught on video and in now-iconic photographs.

This photo taken by presidential photographer Mike Evens on March 30, 1981 shows police and Secret Service agents reacting during the assassination attempt on then US president Ronald Reagan, after a conference outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.. Reagan was hit by one of six shots fired by John Hinckley, who also seriously injured press secretary James Brady (just behind the car). Reagan was hit in the chest and was hospitalized for 12 days. Hinckley was acquitted 21 June 1982 after a jury found him mentally unstable. MIKE EVENS/AFP/Getty Images

"The president first waves with his right arm, then you see his left arm go up, and there comes the shot," Dan Rather, CBS Evening News anchor at the time, said as he described the footage during a live special report.

"That's Secret Service agent Jerry Parr, pushing the president into the limousine -- and James Brady the White House Press Secretary is hit," he continued.

The shooter was John Hinckley Jr., a 25-year-old man who claimed he was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster. Law enforcement quickly apprehended him at the scene of the shooting.

"This is a scene of police officers and secret servicemen getting under control and holding down that man who is suspected of the shooting," Rather reported.

A witness told CBS News later that day of the chaotic moments following the gunshots. "One guy was holding [President Reagan] on the side, and he was holding his left side," the man said. "I couldn't see that much blood because he had on the jacket."

Reagan, of course, survived the shooting -- Brady did as well, but was left partially paralyzed. When he died in 2014, the coroner ruled his death a homicide due to injuries sustained from being shot.

Will the gunman who shot Reagan be released from mental hospital? 02:11

Before the assassination attempt, Hinckley wrote a letter to Foster -- who he had been stalking -- detailing his desire to gain her "love and respect."

"The reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you," he wrote.

He was later found not guilty by reason of insanity, and committed to a hospital under psychiatric supervision. His restrictions have eased over the years, and in 2015 he sought full-time release.

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