US & Canada

US police to investigate James Brady death as homicide

Media captionABC News footage of the moment President Reagan was shot in March, 1981

The death this week of former White House press secretary James Brady was caused by injuries sustained in a 1981 shooting, US police have said.

He was wounded during an attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life by John Hinckley Jr. Mr Brady's death has been therefore classified as homicide.

He suffered brain damage and partial paralysis and died on Monday aged 73.

Hinckley has been confined to a psychiatric hospital since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

"We can confirm that the autopsy has been ruled a homicide and the Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the case," spokesman Officer Hugh Carew told the BBC.

Image caption Brady was the most seriously wounded in the attempt on Reagan's life

In a statement, the Metropolitan police said that Mr Brady's remains were transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the Northern District of Virginia.

"An autopsy was conducted and revealed the cause of death to be a gunshot wound and consequences thereof, and the manner of death was ruled a homicide," it said.

Mr Brady died on Monday at the age of 73.

A lifelong Republican, he had served in the Nixon and Ford administrations and as a Senate aide before joining Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign.

'Not guilty'

On 30 March 1981, John Hinckley Jr opened fire on the president's party outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, striking four people, including Mr Brady and Reagan.

Media captionThe BBC's Alpa Patel: "This notorious shooting continues to cast a long shadow"

Mr Brady was shot in the head and was the most seriously wounded. Reagan was shot in one lung. A Secret Service agent and a police officer suffered lesser wounds.

Photos and video of the incident show the wounded press secretary sprawled on the ground as Secret Service agents rushed the president into his vehicle and others wrestled Hinckley to the ground.

The former press secretary suffered brain damage, partial paralysis, short-term memory impairment and slurred speech.

Hinckley was tried and found not guilty due to insanity. Since the trial he has been committed to a Washington DC psychiatric hospital, but has been allowed to spend limited time at his mother's home.

Mr Brady, who served in three Republican administrations, became an advocate for stricter gun control.

He lobbied for legislation to require background checks for handgun sales. The so-called Brady Bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

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