Would-be President Reagan assassin John Hinckley, Jr., will be released from prison to live with his mother in Virginia. Should someone who tried to assassinate the President off the United States be released? Should those Hinckley shot and wounded (and ultimately killed in the case of James Brady) be at least informed if not solicited for their views prior to his release? Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy who took a bullet for Ronald Reagan as a Secret Service officer in 1981 joined Dan & Amy to discuss these and other questions.
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Dan Proft: March 30th, 1981. The day that John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Reagan and shot Secret Service agent at the time Tim McCarthy, took a bullet for the President of the United States in the line of duty as did the press secretary, Jim Brady. Amy Jacobson: Yeah, and another DC police officer was hit too. Dan Proft: And it was announced yesterday towards the end of our show that John Hinckley Jr. is going to be released from prison after 35 years in to live with his mother in Virginia and this has raised some obvious questions like should someone who attempted to assassinate the President of the United States and catastrophically injured a number of the President's aides including the a Secret Service agent and as you said a DC police officer, should that person ever be released from prison? Amy Jacobson: And he was released with several conditions. He has to continue his mental health treatment. He’s not allowed to talk to the media. Good luck with that. And he can try and contact the victims or their families or actress Jodie Foster. But that’s it. Dan Proft: Yeah, that doesn't quite clear the threshold I think should be said for someone who tried to assassinate the President of the United States but why don't we get the opinion of an American hero on this matter. He is former Secret Service agent and long time Orland Park Police Chief, happy to have him right here in the Chicago metropolitan area, Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy. Chief McCarthy, thanks so much for joining us again. Appreciate it. Tim McCarthy: Good morning, Dan. Good morning, Amy. Dan Proft: So your reaction to the Hinckley announcement? Tim McCarthy: Well, it was not unexpected based upon what's been happening over the past 10, 20 years of being released under some supervision then less supervision so it did not surprise me that this happened. I can't say that I totally agree with it by the way for a person who almost assassinated a President of the United States, murdered Jim Brady who died from his injuries, from his wound to his head and then shot two law enforcement officers. So they better be right because the consequences could be catastrophic. Amy Jacobson: But you're not a vengeful person and you believe in redemption but do you really think that if somebody tries to assassinate the President and actually shoots them that they should ever see freedom? Tim McCarthy: You would think not. We did have Sara Jane Moore however who attempted to assassinate President Ford many years ago it and was released. The differences however, first of all she certainly intended to assassinate the President but didn't strike him right and she was found guilty. With Mr Hinckley, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity so we have a totally different standard here to determine if he's a danger to himself or others. And you know medicine is very, very good but it's not a totally exact science either. And I think one of the things that probably should have happened is it would have been a simple courtesy to notify victims that this was going to happen before it did happen. Now Sarah and Jim Brady are both dead but they have a son who's about 35 or 36 years old. The Reagans have children and I'm sure they would’ve liked to have been notified ahead of time or even allowed the opportunity to express their opinion of this and certainly they were the ones most affected by this. Amy Jacobson: And you weren't warned either that he was going to be released? Tim McCarthy: No. Now in 35 years, they have notified me it in the past of when they were going to release him but I asked them to stop that because it was happening so often that it was like a daily telephone but I've never been asked my opinion about whether he should be released or not and I don't know that the Bradys, while both of them were alive, had ever been asked or the Reagan's or the Delahantys, if they’d ever been asked. Dan Proft: Do you, I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to interrupt. Tim McCarthy: No, it would’ve been just a simple courtesy, you know, to do that if for no other reason than to get prepared for the onslaught of interviews. Dan Proft: Yeah, right. Well, so do you keep in touch with former colleagues and Secret Service? I just wonder what those who have the same job today that you had 35 years ago, what impact that has on the way they do their job or their thinking about the job or people that whether they're mentally ill or just consumed by evil would consider such an act as trying to assassinate the President or other people the Secret Service protects? Tim McCarthy: You know, law enforcement, you know, it's a tough business. It always was and still is and of course it's under a little bit more focus now than it ever has been but I stay in contact with many of the former agents, many current agents here in the Chicago division of the Secret Service as well as in Washington and it will not change one thing as to how dedicated they are to do the job. So it will have absolutely no effect whatsoever. It might even, you know, cause them to, you know, even be more vigilant than they were before because we know that mental illnesses is a big problem in our society too to the point where my police department like many others, we now have a critical incident teams, crisis intervention teams to handle many of the problems with the mentally ill because funds have been cut so much. So mental illness is a thing we're going to be facing for a long, long time with far less resources than we had in the past. Amy Jacobson: And the assassination attempt, that video is used as a training tool, correct? For the current Secret Service agents? Tim McCarthy: Yeah, yeah. It is used and it is one of the principles that is used by the Secret Service to cover and evacuate the President in the event of an assassination attempt or what's referred to as the arms’ reach theory, if the threat is within arms' reach to go after the threat but, you know, if there's a perceived threat that's 20, 30 yards away, one of the agents on perimeter cannot respond to that or you're leaving an opening in and around the protectee. So those are two principles that are drilled into you, Amy, in lots and lots of training and guess what? It works. It works pretty well. Dan Proft: And then you also have to watch in the Line of Fire, you have to watch all these sorts of movies. Of course. Tim McCarthy: Yes, that’s where you really get your training. Dan Proft: It's kind of wild actual in Chicago to have a bit of the Alpha and the Omega. We have Tim McCarthy, the Secret Service agent took a bullet for the President, stopped an assassination attempt effectively, part of the group that did and then we have Bill Ayers, a retired university professor and a taxpayer-funded pension who dedicated one of his books to Sirhan Sirhan who assassinated Bobby Kennedy. It's an interesting mix of people we have in the Chicago metropolitan area, isn't it, Tim? Tim McCarthy: I guess so. It's pretty remarkable. Dan Proft: You mention of what it's like to be a police officer in these days and with the assassinations of police officers and the antagonism towards police officers, I wonder how you view the politicization of police in a way that maybe hasn't been seen since the late 60s? Tim McCarthy: It's really an unfortunate situation and police do make mistakes. This is a split second business that we’re in and mistakes are made. And those that are made, you know, have to be addressed and we have to be accountable. On the other hand, it's unfortunate when people use them simply for political purposes because in my own town, we have a 180,000 incidents per year which includes everything, traffic stops, and we got 25 or 30 complaints as a result of that. City of Chicago probably not a whole lot different and most of the time, 99.9% of the time, they're doing the job, a very difficult job, doing it extremely well in Chicago under very difficult circumstances and some of the things that have been done, you know, it's been politicized. We have to be accountable. We have to be accountable for what happens. Let's keep in mind the nature of this work. And then there's some actions that are so outrageous which include the assassination of the police officers that they're almost unspeakable and the same can be said and, you know, there's been a couple of occasions where police officer misconduct has also been outrageous. So it happens. It will continue to happen. We hope it never happens but it's a split second business what goes on in this profession and there is no training in the world that's ever going to prevent that and soldiers in combat from time to time make mistakes. Police officers make mistakes too. Amy Jacobson: Quickly wanted to go back to the release of John Hinckley Jr. I know that both Nancy and Ronald Reagan have transitioned into heaven and do you think what their reaction would be if they knew that he was going to be released? Tim McCarthy: Well, I can tell you that they - I don't know what they might think but they were very forgiving people too. Mrs Reagan a little bit less, I will tell you that. Amy Jacobson: Because you were close to her, didn’t you attend her funeral/ Tim McCarthy: Yes, my wife and I, we both attended the funeral in California and we've been out to visit, it was about a year before we fly out to visit with Mrs Reagan when her health was failing and none of us probably had a whole lot of good Christian thoughts about John Hinckley, let’s put it that way but certainly for myself and I know for the Reagans, there was not vengeful or anything like that. Just would like to see justice done. Dan Proft: See justice done, yes. Orland Park Police Chief, former Secret Service agent, Tim McCarthy. Chief McCarthy, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate your time. Tim McCarthy: You’re welcome.