The whole thing was over in a matter of seconds, but the bullets from the cheap .22-caliber handgun that sounded a handful of times outside the Washington Hilton Monday caused damage to President Reagan, his press secretary and two other men that may take years--or lifetimes--to repair.
Although a spokesman at George Washington University Hospital said Thursday that Reagan, the victim of the seventh assassination attempt upon a major national political figure since 1963, had been making "super" progress since doctors remove a bullet from his left lung late Monday afternoon, the president yesterday developed a fever which hit 102 degrees.
And despite what doctors called "minimal but hopeful improvement" for Press Secretary James S. Brady, a substantive prognosis for the White House aide--who was shot through the forehead by a bullet that apparently exploded in the right lobe of his brain--may not become apparent for a year.
While the nation reacted to the shooting with shock, disgust and much philosophizing. Reagan ran the country from his hospital bed. Vice President Bush and Cabinet members resumed their normal duties, and federal investigators scoured the land looking for tidbits about the alleged assailant. John Warnock Hinckley, a 25-year-old drifter from Evergreen, Colo. (see story, left).
According to eyewitness reports and some of the most startling videotape since the film recording the assassination of President John F. Kennedy '40 in 1963. Hinckley fired six shots at Reagan from a small crowd of reporters and onlookers at 2:25 p.m. on Monday, as the smiling president emerged from the Hilton after addressing a group of AFL-CIO leaders.
Although network television stations showed segments of videotape over and over again this week and although federal agents, hospital spokesman and reporters pressed to dig up the facts, the story of what happened after the shooting still remains less than clear.
For some time after the assassination attempt, it appeared that Reagan had not been shot and that he had driven to the hospital to check on the conditions of Brady and the other two victims. District of Columbia Police Officer Thomas K. Delahanty and Secret Service agent Timothy J. McCarthy, both of whom are still in stable condition.
Even after the nation learned that is president had been shot, official spokesmen insisted that the wound was minor and that the president had never been in any danger. But late this week Dr. Dennis S. O'Leary, the hospital spokesman, told reporters that Reagan had lost about two units of blood and was complaining of "air hunger" when he reached the hospital. And yesterday Reagan's chest surgeon conceded that the president's temperature is a "limited setback" that might lead to pneumonia.
Meanwhile, cries for a more stringent federal gun control policy--which Reagan continues to oppose--came from all over the country. "This is horrendous," former Sen. John Culver '54, who is now at the Kennedy School of Government, said Monday, adding. "No one is safe."