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Reagan Wounded In Chest By Gunman; Outlook 'Good' After 2-Hour Surgery; Aide And

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« on: March 30, 2010, 07:07:31 am »

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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2010, 07:07:56 am »

Reagan Wounded In Chest By Gunman; Outlook 'Good' After 2-Hour Surgery; Aide And 2 Guards Shot; Suspect Held
Left Lung is Pierced Coloradan, 25, Arrested -- Brady, Press Chief, Is Critically Injured
By Howell Raines
Special to The New York Times


Bush Flies Back From Texas Set to Take Charge in Crisis

A Bullet is Removed From Reagan's Lung in Emergency Surgery

Suspect Was Arrested Last Year in Nashville on Weapons Charge

Witnesses to Shooting Recall Suspect Acting 'Fidgety' and 'Hostile'

Washington, March 30 -- President Reagan was shot in the chest today by a gunman, apparently acting alone, as Mr. Reagan walked to his limousine after addressing a labor meeting at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The White House press secretary and two law-enforcement officers were also wounded by a burst of shots.

The President was reported in ''good'' and ''stable'' condition tonight at George Washington University Hospital after undergoing two hours of surgery. ''The prognosis is excellent,'' said Dr. Dennis S. O'Leary, dean of clinical affairs at the university. ''He is alert and should be able to make decisions by tomorrow.''

The hospital spokesman said surgeons removed a .22-caliber bullet that struck Mr. Reagan's seventh rib, penetrating the left lung three inches and collapsing it.

Look of Disbelief

A rapid series of five or six shots rang out at about 2:30 P.M. as Mr. Reagan left the hotel. A look of stunned disbelief swept across the President's face when the shots were fired just after he raised his left arm to wave to the crowd. Nearby, his press secretary, James S. Brady, fell to the sidewalk, critically wounded.

Eyewitnesses said six shots were fired at the Presidential entourage from a distance of about 10 feet. The assailant had positioned himself among the television camera crews and reporters assembled outside a hotel exit.

The authorities arrested a 25-year-old Colorado man, John W. Hinckley Jr., at the scene of the attack. He was later booked on Federal charges of attempting to assassinate the President and assault on a Federal officer.

Within minutes, Americans were witnessing for the second time in a generation television pictures of a chief executive being struck by gunfire during what appeared to be a routine public appearance. For the second time in less than 20 years, too, they watched as the nation's leaders scrambled to meet one of the sternest tests of the democratic system.

Scene of Turmoil

Mr. Reagan, apparently at first unaware that he had been wounded, was shoved forcefully by a Secret Service agent into the Presidential limousine, which sped away with the President in a sitting position in the backseat.

Behind him lay a scene of turmoil. A Secret Service agent writhed in pain on the rain-slick sidewalk. Nearby a District of Columbia plainclothesman had fallen alongside Mr. Brady. The press secretary lay face down, blood from a gushing head wound dripping into a steel grate. A pistol, apparently dropped by one of the security aides, lay near his head.

At the sixth shot, uniformed and plainclothes agents had piled on a blond-haired man in a raincoat, pinning him against a stone wall. ''Get him out,'' a gun-waving officer yelled as the President's limousine sped off. At first, it raced down Connecticut Avenue toward the White House.

Only then, according to some reports, was it discovered that Mr. Reagan was bleeding. The vehicle turned west toward the hospital. Upon learning of the shooting, Vice President Bush returned to the capital from Austin, Tex., where he was to address the Texas Legislature. In Washington, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. and other Cabinet officers began gathering in the White House situation room as soon as they learned of the assassination attempt.

At 4:14 P.M, Mr. Haig, in a voice shaking with emotion, told reporters that the Administration's ''crisis management'' plan was in effect, and citing provisions for Presidential succession, Mr. Haig asserted that he was in charge.

Mr. Reagan's wife, Nancy, and senior White House advisers rushed to the hospital and talked to Mr. Reagan before he entered surgery at about 3:24 P.M.. Despite his wound, the 70-year-old President walked into the hospital and seemed determined to assure his wife and colleagues that he would survive.

''Honey, I forgot to duck,'' Mr. Reagan was quoted as telling his wife. As he was wheeled down a corridor on a hospital cart, he told Senator Paul Laxalt, a political associate, ''Don't worry about me.'' According to Lyn Nofziger, the White House political director, Mr. Reagan winked at James A. Baker 3d, his chief of staff. Then, spying Edwin Meese 3d, the White House counselor, Mr. Reagan quipped, ''Who's minding the store?''

'Tell Me You're Republicans'

The operating room was said to be the scene of a bit of the partisan humor favored by the chief executive. Mr. Nofziger said that Mr. Reagan, eyeing the surgeons, said, ''Please tell me you're Republicans.''

At this point, Mr. Reagan had apparently not been told of the grave wounds to the three men who went down in the spray of bullets aimed at him.

Mr. Brady, 40, was struck above the left eye. Doctors performed a skull operation and discovered a trauma so severe as to probably cause permanent brain damage should the press secretary survive.

While Mr. Brady was still in surgery, medical sources said the brain damage was in a portion of the organ relating to the makeup of the personality. Later Dr. O'Leary described his condition as ''critical.''

''This is not a good injury,'' he said. ''It causes a lot of damage.'' Mr. Brady emerged from four and a half hours of surgery about 8:15 P.M., according to Mr. Nofziger, who relayed a report from Dr. Arthur Koprine, the neurosurgeon who operated on the press secretary. Mr. Nofziger said, ''The prognosis is better at this moment than it was this afternoon.''

He quoted the physician as saying ''there may be some impairment'' of Mr. Brady's mental faculties, but added, ''He doesn't know how much.'' Mr. Nofziger said, apparently elaborating on the surgeon's report, ''The brain stem apparently is functioning.'' Mr. Brady's condition was still listed as critical.

A Secret Service agent, Timothy J. McCarthy, 31, was shot in the right side and surgeons at the hospital removed a bullet from his liver.

The other wounded man was Thomas K. Delahaney, 45, a District of Columbia policeman, who was listed in serious condition at the Washington Hospital Center with a bullet lodged in his neck.

Noting that Mr. Reagan's lung had been reinflated, Dr. O'Leary said that the President ''was never in any serious danger'' since the bullet did not damage the heart. Dr. O'Leary said Mr. Reagan probably would be hospitalized for about two weeks.

Mr. Reagan regained consciousness early tonight, according to a White House statement. It said: ''At 8:50 this evening, the President joked with his doctors in the recovery room and, despite the tubes in his mouth, he gave them a handwritten note that said, 'All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.' ''

The President's game recounting of the show-business line, attributed to W.C. Fields as his choice of epitaph, struck a sharp contrast with the events of the day.

Mr. Reagan entered Operating Room 2 at the hospital at 3:24 P.M., according to an eyewitness. He was wheeled out to the recovery room over three hours later at 6:46 P.M., the witness said. The operation itself lasted about two hours. The remainder of the time was used to prepare the President for the operation and later to close and bandage the wound.

Mr. Reagan was operated upon by Dr. Benjamin Aaron and Dr. Joseph Giordano of the university's staff. Asked if it was ''medically extraordinary'' for Mr. Reagan to have walked into the hospital, Dr. O'Leary said, ''Maybe not medically extraordinary, but just short of that.''

Dr. O'Leary said the surgeons made an incision about six inches long just underneath the left nipple. Mr. Reagan received two and a half quarts of blood through transfusions during what Dr. O'Leary called a ''relatively simple procedure.''

The bullet was removed intact, although its shape had been distorted by striking Mr. Reagan's rib. A .22-caliber bullet is relatively small, and although capable of killing, generally does less tissue damage than the larger calibers typically used by lawenforcement officers.

'Never in Serious Danger'

Mr. Reagan, who has been in office just over two months, is the eighth American President to become an assassin's target. Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy were killed by gunmen. Unsuccessful attempts were made on the lives of Andrew Jackson, Harry S. Truman and Gerald R. Ford. This is the third assassination attempt since President Kennedy's death in 1963. Two attempts were made on President Ford's life in September 1975.

Mr. Reagan arrived at the hotel at Connecticut Avenue and T Street, about one and a half miles from the White House, at 2 P.M. on a warm, rainy afternoon. His speech in the hotel ballroom to the Building and Construction Trades Department of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. got a subdued reception, reflecting the concern of many union members that Mr. Reagan's budget cuts will endanger their jobs.

Accompanied by Mr. Brady, Michael K. Deaver, deputy chief of staff at the White House, other aides and Secret Service agents, a smiling Mr. Reagan emerged from the hotel through a side entrance set into a steep rock wall along the T Street side of the hotel.

The position of the waiting motorcade required that he walk from the shelter of the entrance canopy, angling to his left toward the limousine, which was about 15 steps away.

The heavy-set Mr. Brady, turned more sharply to the left, heading toward a car behind the Presidential vehicle.

Acknowledged Applause

The President, wearing no top coat despite the light drizzle, paused to acknowledge the applause of a crowd of several hundred. He waved to the right, then turning a bit, raised his left arm in salute to the crowd. He was smiling as Mike Putzel, an Associated Press reporter standing with reporters behind the rope barricade about 20 feet away, shouted, ''Mr. President - ''

Just then, the first shot was fired. Tape recordings at the scene indicated that there were six shots in all, although the Secret Service later said there were five. ''Reagan was stunned,'' Mr. Putzel said. ''He just sort of stood there. Then the smile just sort of washed off his face.''

The gunfire, allegedly from a Harrington and Richardson revolver held by Mr. Hinckley, came from within the the small group of reporters that watches routine events such as Presidential departures on behalf of colleagues who cannot be accommodated in a restricted space.

The assailant had found a position among the reporters, and thrusting his hand from among the crush of bodies in the press area, he began firing.

One of the first bullets is thought to have hit Mr. Reagan. Jerry S. Parr, the special agent in charge of the Presidential Protection Division of the Secret Service, was standing behind Mr. Reagan. With a powerful shove, he bent the President forward, thrust him into the limousine and piled in behind him.

Other Three Went Down

Almost in the same instant, the other three men went down, and a chaotic scene unfolded. The alleged assailant was smothered under a shouting mass of bodies.

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"He who controls others maybe powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still. - Lao Tsu
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