Suspect in assassination attempt: gun-toting 'loner'
As details about the background to John Warnock (Jack) Hinckley Jr. begin to emerge, they are not as yet sufficient to explain why the 25-year-old Coloradan would attempt to assassinate President Reagan.
According to a statement released by Mr. Hinckley's parents, the young man "had been under psychiatric care. However, the evaluations did not alert anyone to the seriousness of his condition."
Young Hinckley, blonde and husky, is the son of Denver oil executive John W. Hinckley Sr. The family lives in Evergreen, Colo., an exclusive Denver suburb. Recently, Jack Hinckley had been living at home, but, according to neighbors, he wasn't around much. The family is described by friends and neighbors as politically conservative and very religious. They were said to be "grieved and heartbroken" by the events.
While Hinckley, being held without bail on a charge of attempting to assassinate a US president, does not have any criminal record in Colorado, the FBI has turned up an arrest in California on drug charges. On March 11, he pawned a guitar and typewriter for $50 at GI-Joe's Pawnshop in Denver and the clerk described him as "spaced out" and apparently desperate for money.
He also has been identified as the recent purchaser of two .22-caliber handguns in Dallas, where he was raised.
He was arrested Oct. 9, 1980, in Nashville, Tenn., while President Carter was holding a town meeting in the city, when he tried to board an airplane with three guns and ammunition in a suitcase. He was fined and released after the guns were confiscated. Authorities have since learned that Hinckley commented at the time on the fact that presidential candidate Reagan had canceled an appearance there two days earlier.
In Chicago, an official of the National Socialist Party of America said Hinckley had been expelled from that neo-Nazi group because he "wanted to shoot people and blow things up."
Michael C. Allen, president-elect of the party, described Hinckley as "a nut" and said Hinckley joined the party in 1978.
Hinckley attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock on and off from 1973 until 1980. Although few people at Texas Tech recalled Hinckley, those who remembered him described him as a lonely person.
"He's a loner. I never saw the guy with anyone," said Don Barett, who rented a television to Hinckley during the youth's years at the university.
Hinckley's photograph in La Ventana, the Tech annual for 1974, lists no club memberships.
However, in primary and secondary schools in Highland Park, Texas, an incorporated city of plush mansions and upperclass homes surrounded by Dallas, Hinckley apparently had a number of friends.
"He seemed very cordial, not too outgoing or too overbearing," said Bill Lierman, sponsor of the Rodeo Club to which Hinckley belonged at Highland Park High School. "He was friendly to everyone. He didn't sit off in the corner."
His high school annual listed Hinckley as belonging to the Spanish Club, Rodeo Club, and Students in Government. Highland Park police said Hinckley was not known to them, and that he had no local arrest record.
Hinckley was born May 9, 1955, in Ardmore, Okla., but moved two years later with his family to Highland Park.
The family later moved to Evergreen, but Hinckley remained in Dallas and enrolled in the school of business administration at Tech. He never received a degree.