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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 03/11/2011

Revealing tapes of ride after 1981 Reagan shooting

By Del Quentin Wilber

The Secret Service on Friday released never-before-heard audio recordings made during one of the American presidency's most dramatic and dire episodes: the attempted assassination and wounding of President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981.

The recordings reveal poised Secret Service agents grappling with the aftermath of the shooting and the split-second decisions that ultimately saved Reagan's life.

The assassination attempt occurred at 2:27 p.m. as Reagan emerged from the Washington Hilton hotel, where he had just finished delivering a speech to a trade union.

From a distance of 15 feet, John W. Hinckley Jr. unleashed six shots that immediately wounded three men standing between the gunman and the president -- Press Secretary James Brady; D.C. Police Officer Thomas Delahanty; and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy. Meanwhile, Agent Jerry Parr shoved Reagan into a limousine that quickly fled the scene.

At first, it seemed the president had escaped injury, according to the recordings. "Rawhide is okay," Parr said over his radio, referring to Reagan's Secret Service codename, according to the tapes. Parr then told an agent over the radio that they were heading back to "Crown," the codename for the White House.

However, Reagan's condition rapidly deteriorated: he was struggling to breathe, his face turned ashen and frothy blood appeared on his lips, Parr has said.

Parr quickly changed his mind and directed the limousine to the nearest trauma center, George Washington University Hospital. Over the radio, the limousine's driver, Agent Drew Unrue, alerted other agents to the change in course: "We want to go the emergency room of George Washington," he said calmly.

Within three minutes of the shooting, the presidential limousine reached the entrance to the hospital's emergency room. Reagan collapsed shortly after walking through the ER doors, but he was resuscitated.

At first, no one knew Reagan had been wounded -- some thought he had suffered a heart attack or a punctured lung. But it soon became clear he had been hit by one of Hinckley's bullets and he eventually underwent underwent major chest surgery to stop his bleeding and remove the bullet fragment, which was lodged just an inch from his heart.

Reagan would lose more than half of his blood but recover and return to the White House 12 days later. He went on to serve two-full terms as president.

The recordings, available here and posted on the Secret Service website, can be downloaded and heard in MP3 format. A transcript is also available in PDF format.

The Secret Service released the tapes in response to a public records request by me for my book, Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan.

By Del Quentin Wilber  | March 11, 2011; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Crime History, Del Quentin Wilber, The District  
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Comments

Rivetting

Posted by: RambleOn | March 11, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

When I ride pass the Hilton you can still see the enterance to the hotel where Reagan was shot. Crazy how close Hinckley was able to get to the President back then. No way anyone gets that close to President Obama today like that. Great stuff!

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | March 11, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

What a pathetic, piece of garbage loser Hinkley was and is. Just infuriating that someone so pathetic has the power to cause so much destruction. I'm no Reagan fan but he showed a lot of courage that day, including joking with the surgeons.

Posted by: NYC123 | March 11, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Imagine that, the son of a friend of George H. W. Bush shoots the only man standing between him and the office he desired.

G. H. W. Bush the CIA agent who was up to his neck in the JFK assassination

Whose father Prescott (a nazi baker while it was treason) found Nixon and started him in politics

Who couldn't be elected dog catcher because he is blander than white bread and so both had his pals gerrymander a district as well as run a democrat to split their votes

Who dared to openly mouth his desire for a "New World Order"

Whose son was illegally placed in office to start a war for oil profit and let the major theft of our treasury and services commence thus provoking the economic distaster he wasn't swift enough to run from under

I'm no Reagan zombie. I always knew he was a front man, an actor for god's sakes. But what we have here is "Lips" Bush almost killing another president.

Posted by: mot2win | March 11, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

One of those moments when you remember exactly where you were...very chilling.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | March 11, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Well, I guess mot2win gets the moron of the month award

Posted by: JBClark1 | March 12, 2011 4:33 AM | Report abuse

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