Reagan assassin-turned musician craves live show

WILLIAMSBURG, United States (AFP) — More than four decades after John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan, the man who was acquitted of the crime on an insanity defense and subsequently hospitalized for 34 years is fully free.

But the one thing he wants most after decades of treatments and years of conditional release still eludes him: A guitarist and songwriter, Hinckley longs to play a live concert.

On 15 June, the day he was released from court oversight, Hinckley also learned the Brooklyn venue where he was scheduled to perform had scrapped his set over safety concerns, saying they’d faced “very real and worsening threats.”

“It was just a huge disappointment,” says Hinckley, who’s now 67 and wields an acoustic guitar with his name emblazoned across its soundboard.

He faced the same disappointment just before other scheduled shows in Chicago, Virginia and Connecticut.

Speaking to AFP at a park in Williamsburg, Virginia where he lives in an apartment with his cat Theo, Hinckley insists he’s a changed man, eager to share his music with a world that’s long branded him “violent and unstable.”

“They know me from all the negativity that came out about me for 41 years, but I’m a different person now,” he says with a southern twang.

Audience disconnect

On 30 March 1981, Hinckley shot Reagan and three others in Washington. All survived, but the former president’s press secretary, James Brady, was left permanently disabled.

Hinckley said he committed the crime to impress Jodie Foster; he’d grown obsessed with the actor after watching her in Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.”

He was declared not guilty on grounds of insanity and admitted to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington for more than three decades.

He was discharged from the hospital in September 2016 but mandated to live with his elderly mother, who has since passed, in Williamsburg.

Hinckley passes his days in the sleepy town painting, songwriting and uploading performances online.

He’s amassed more than 50,000 Twitter followers, and notches nearly 5,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.

But the self-taught musician yearns for the connection of a live audience.

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