The day Reagan was shot, as remembered by reporter: 'It was chaotic'

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot and seriously injured outside a Washington, D.C., hotel, along with three other people.

Jackson Bain was a news anchor for WTTG-TV, now FOX 5 DC, and quickly arrived on the scene after the shooting. He said it was one of the most confusing days in his lengthy journalism career.

"It was just amazingly confusing, because there was so much complete misinformation," he told LiveNOW & Then. "It was chaotic. And of course, there were limits to anything we could do."

As confusing as the day was, Bain said he did his best to gather information and inform the public while looking out for his own safety.


American politician US President Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004) smiles and waves as he leaves the Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington DC, March 30, 1981. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

"There was not really any live coverage from the scene," he explained. "It was all on tape."

Bain said at first, it was unclear if Reagan had even been shot.

"It was no indication that he had been shot," he continued. "What we knew was Jim Brady had been shot."


File: Armed Secret Service agents and journalists around White House Press Secretary James Brady outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington DC, March 30, 1981. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/Getty Images)

Brady, the White House press secretary, suffered a bullet wound to his head in the assassination attempt. Although he returned to the White House only briefly, he was allowed to keep the title of presidential press secretary and his White House salary until Reagan left office in January 1989.

Brady spent much of the rest of his life in a wheelchair and died in 2014 at a retirement community in Virginia, where he lived with his wife.

The man who shot Reagan, John Hinckley, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting and spent decades in a mental hospital before being released in 2022.

Hinckley previously said he feels sorry for all the lives his actions affected.


John Hinckley, Jr. mugshot in on March 30, 1981. (Photo courtesy Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images)

However, Bain feels bothered that Hinckley is out.

"He shot the president of the United States, and Reagan could have died," Bain noted.

RELATED: Attempted Reagan assassin John Hinckley to get unconditional release, judge confirms

Bain said since the shooting, there have been changes such as tighter Secret Service surrounding a president, especially when he’s exposed to the public when walking from a building to a vehicle.

Bain said as devastating as Reagan’s assassination attempt was to the country, it was the former president’s recovery that brought back hope and healing.

"He was playing a hero as if he's on TV, but he's really not on TV," Bain added.

"He said to the doctors when he got in there [the hospital], ‘I hope you're all Republicans’ as he went into surgery," Bain continued. "The doctor in charge that day said, ‘Sir, today we are all Republicans.’"

Reagan died in 2004 at his home in California. He was 93 years old and had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.