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There have been multiple assassination attempts and plots on Presidents of the United States; there have been over 20 known attempts to kill sitting and former Presidents as well as Presidents-elect. Four attempts on sitting Presidents have succeeded: Abraham Lincoln (the 16th President), James A. Garfield (the 20th President), William McKinley (the 25th President) and John F. Kennedy (the 35th President). Two other Presidents were injured in attempted assassinations: then former President Theodore Roosevelt and then sitting President Ronald Reagan.


Abraham Lincoln[]

Main article: Abraham Lincoln assassination

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln took place on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, at approximately 10:15 p.m. President Abraham Lincoln was shot by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth while attending a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and two guests. The president died the following morning—April 15, 1865—at 7:22 a.m., in the home of William Petersen.

James A. Garfield[]

Main article: Assassination of James A. Garfield

The assassination of James A. Garfield took place in Washington, D.C., at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 2, 1881, less than four months after Garfield took office. Charles Guiteau shot him with a .442 Webley British Bulldog revolver. Garfield died 11 weeks later, on Friday, September 19, 1881, at 10:35 p.m., due to infections.

William McKinley[]

Main article: William McKinley assassination

The assassination of William McKinley took place at 4:07 p.m. on Friday, September 6, 1901, at the Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York. President William McKinley, attending the Pan-American Exposition, was shot twice by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist. McKinley died eight days later, on September 14, 1901, at 2:15 a.m.

John F. Kennedy[]

Main article: John F. Kennedy assassination

The assassination of John F. Kennedy took place on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 p.m. CST (18:30 UTC). John F. Kennedy was fatally wounded by a sniper's bullet while riding with his wife Jacqueline in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza. Although Kennedy was not formally declared dead until half an hour after the shooting, he effectively died instantaneously. The ten-month investigation of the Warren Commission of 1963–1964 concluded that Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee of the Texas School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza. The United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) of 1976–1979 determined that Kennedy's murder was probably the result of a conspiracy that included Oswald, but more recent analysis of evidence has called the committee's findings into question.

Attempted assassinations[]

Andrew Jackson[]


Illustration of Jackson's attempted assassination

January 30, 1835: At the Capitol Building, a house painter named Richard Lawrence aimed two flintlock pistols at the President, but both misfired, one of them while Lawrence stood within 13 feet (4 m) of Jackson, and the other at point-blank range.[1] Lawrence was apprehended after Jackson beat him down with a cane. Lawrence was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to a mental institution until his death in 1861. The odds of two consecutive misfires were estimated at 1 in 1,925,000.[citation needed]

Abraham Lincoln[]

Main article: Baltimore Plot

February 23, 1861: The Baltimore Plot was an alleged conspiracy to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln en route to his inauguration. Allan Pinkerton, eponymous founder of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, played a key role by managing Lincoln's security throughout the journey. Though scholars debate whether or not the threat was real, clearly Lincoln and his advisors believed that there was a threat and took actions to ensure his safe passage through Baltimore.

August 1864: As Lincoln was riding to the Soldiers' Home, a shot fired from the bushes caused his horse to bolt, and he lost his hat; when soldiers retrieved the hat, they found a bullet hole in it. The incident was hushed up, but Secretary of War Edwin Stanton augmented the heavy guard that accompanied the president.[2]

Theodore Roosevelt[]

October 13, 1912: Three and a half years after he left office, Roosevelt was running for President as a member of the Progressive party established in 1912 by Roosevelt and other political free thinkers, after he split from the Republican Party which he had served as a member of during his Presidency. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, John F. Schrank, a saloon-keeper from New York, shot Roosevelt once with a .38 caliber revolver. A 50-page speech folded over twice in Roosevelt's breast pocket and a metal glasses case slowed the bullet. Amidst the commotion, Roosevelt yelled out, "Quiet! I've been shot." Roosevelt insisted on giving his speech with the bullet still lodged inside him. During his speech Roosevelt stated, "It takes more than one bullet to bring down a Bull Moose" thus further perpetuating Roosevelt's image as a larger than life President and the nickname of the Progressive Party, the Bull Moose Party established in June of 1912 after Roosevelt responded to reporters questioning his health stating, "I am as strong as Bull Moose". He later went to the hospital, but the bullet was never removed. Roosevelt, remembering that William McKinley died after operations to remove his bullet, chose to have his remain. The bullet remained in his body until his death. Schrank said that McKinley's ghost had told him to avenge his assassination. Schrank was found legally insane and was institutionalized until his death in 1943.[3]

Franklin D. Roosevelt[]

On Thursday, February 15, 1933 in Miami, Florida, Giuseppe Zangara fired five shots at Roosevelt. The assassination attempt occurred one month before Roosevelt was sworn in for his first term in office. Four people were wounded and Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak was killed. Zangara was found guilty of murder and was executed March 20, 1933. Some researchers believe Cermak, not Roosevelt, was the intended target that day, as the mayor was a staunch foe of Al Capone's Chicago mob organization.[4][5]

Harry S Truman[]

Main article: Truman assassination attempt

On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican pro-independence activists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, attempted to kill Truman. A violent gun battle ensued between the assassins and the Secret Service, resulting in the death of White House Policeman Leslie Coffelt. Coffelt was able to kill Torresola before blacking out and soon dying. Collazo survived with serious injuries. Truman was not harmed.

John F. Kennedy[]

December 11, 1960: While vacationing in Palm Beach, Florida, President-elect John F. Kennedy's life was threatened by Richard Paul Pavlick, a 73-year-old former postal worker. Pavlick's plan was to serve as a suicide bomber by crashing his dynamite-laden 1950 Buick into Kennedy's vehicle, but the plan was disrupted when Pavlick saw Kennedy's wife and daughter bidding him goodbye.[6] That attack of conscience foiled the opportunity, with Pavlick's arrest by the Secret Service coming three days later after he was stopped for a driving violation, with the dynamite still in his car. Pavlick spent the next six years in both federal prison and mental institutions before being released in December 1966.

Richard Nixon[]

February 22, 1974: Samuel Byck apparently planned to kill Nixon by crashing a commercial airliner into the White House.[7] Once he had hijacked the plane on the ground, he was informed that it could not take off with the wheel blocks still in place. He shot the pilot and copilot, then was shot by an officer through the plane's door window before killing himself. The events surrounding this assassination attempt were portrayed in the film The Assassination of Richard Nixon.

Gerald Ford[]

September 5, 1975: On the northern grounds of the California State Capitol, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, drew a Colt M1911 .45 caliber pistol on Ford when he reached to shake her hand in a crowd. There were four cartridges in the pistol's magazine but the firing chamber was empty. She was soon restrained by a Secret Service agent. Fromme was sentenced to life in prison, but was released from custody on August 14, 2009, nearly 3 years after Ford's death.[8]

September 22, 1975: In San Francisco, California, Sara Jane Moore fired a revolver at Ford from 40 feet (12 m) away.[9] A bystander, Oliver Sipple, grabbed Moore's arm and the shot missed Ford.[10] Moore was sentenced to life in prison.[11] She was later paroled from a federal prison on Monday, December 31, 2007 (370 days after Ford's death) after serving more than 30 years.

July 27, 1976: Chester Plumber, a Washington, DC taxi driver climbed over the White House fence with a one metre (three foot) length of pipe. He continued to advance towards the White House with the raised pipe, threatening a security officer. He was shot in the chest and died.[12][13][14][15]

Jimmy Carter[]

May 5, 1979: Two minutes before Carter was about to speak at the civic center mall in Los Angeles, Raymond Lee Harvey was arrested carrying a pistol.[16] He later told authorities that he and another man, Osvaldo Ortiz, were hired to create a diversion so that Mexican hit men armed with sniper rifles could kill Carter. Charges against him were dismissed for lack of evidence.[17]

Ronald Reagan[]

Main article: Reagan assassination attempt

On March 30, 1981, following a speaking engagement at the Hilton Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C., Reagan and three others were shot and wounded by John Hinckley, Jr., as Reagan was returning to his limousine. The others that were shot were White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty, all of whom survived, though Brady was permanently disabled. Reagan survived and recovered after emergency surgery at nearby George Washington University Hospital.

George H. W. Bush[]

April 13, 1993: Sixteen men, in the alleged employment of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, smuggled a car bomb into Kuwait with the intent of killing Bush as he spoke at Kuwait University. The supposed plot was foiled when Kuwaiti officials found the bomb and arrested the suspected assassins.[18] Bush had left office in January 1993. On June 26, 1993, the U.S. launched a missile attack targeting Baghdad intelligence headquarters in retaliation for the attempted attack against Bush.[19] The Iraqi Intelligence Service, particularly Directorate 14, is thought to be behind the plot,[20] though other sources say evidence is thin.[21][22]

Bill Clinton[]

September 12, 1994: Frank Eugene Corder flew a single-engine Cessna into the White House lawn, apparently trying to hit the White House. The President and First Family were not home at the time. Corder was the only casualty.[23]

October 29, 1994: Francisco Martin Duran fired at least 29 shots with a semi-automatic rifle at the White House from a fence overlooking the north lawn, thinking that Clinton was among the men in dark suits standing there (Clinton was in the White House Residence watching a football game). Three tourists, Harry Rakowsky, Ken Davis, and Robert Haines, tackled Duran before he could injure anyone. Duran was found to have a suicide note in his pocket and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.[24]

November 2006: In anticipation of the former president's visit to Manila in the Philippines, al Qaeda operative Ramzi Yousef, who claimed to have been instructed by Osama bin Laden planned to blow up his motorcade. The plan was aborted due to heavy security.[citation needed]

George W. Bush[]

See 2001 George W. Bush assassination attempt.

February 7, 2001: While President George W. Bush was occupied in the White House Residence, Washington, DC, Robert Pickett, standing outside the perimeter fence, discharged a number of shots from a weapon in the direction of the White House. The U.S. Park Police claimed, according to CNN correspondent Eileen O'Connor, that the type of handgun that was confiscated was of a sophisticated type and had the shooter not been shooting from an obstructed angle view, the bullets would have reached the White House. However, numerous trees and bushes separated the sidewalk, where Pickett was, from the White House. Following a stand-off of about ten minutes, the incident ended when a Secret Service officer shot Pickett, resulting in an injury which required immediate hospital surgery. Pickett was found to have emotional problems and employment grievances. Although Pickett had written letters to the President about these grievances, suggestions about a personal target lacked conclusive evidence. A court in July 2001 sentenced Pickett to three years imprisonment in connection with the incident.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Bush was at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida.[25] He woke up around 6:00 AM and prepared for his morning jog.[26][27] A van occupied by men of Middle Eastern descent arrived at the Colony Beach Resort and claimed they had a "poolside" interview with the President. They did not have an appointment and were turned away.[28] It is possible this was an assassination attempt modeled on the one used on anti-Taliban fighter and Northern Alliance military leader Ahmed Massoud two days earlier. The previous April, Massoud addressed the European Parliament and warned of the possibility of al-Qaeda attacking in the West.[29][30] Longboat Key Fire Marshal Carroll Mooneyhan was reported to have overheard the conversation between the men and the Secret Service, but he later denied the report. The newspaper that reported this, the Longboat Observer, stands by its story.[31] Both Mooneyhan and the Observer reporter were questioned by the Secret Service, but the agency has not commented further.[31] Witnesses have recalled seeing 9/11 hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta in the Longboat Key Holiday Inn a short distance from where Bush was staying as recently as September 7, the day Bush’s Sarasota appearance was publicly announced.[31][32]

May 10, 2005: While President George W. Bush was giving a speech in the Freedom Square in Tbilisi, Georgia, Vladimir Arutyunian threw a live Soviet-made RGD-5 hand grenade towards the podium where Bush was standing and where Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, First Lady Laura Bush, Saakashvili's wife, and officials were seated. The grenade was live and had its pin pulled, but did not explode because a red tartan handkerchief wrapped tightly around the grenade kept the firing pin from deploying quickly enough.[33] Arutyunian was arrested in July 2005, and killed an Interior Ministry agent while resisting arrest. He was convicted in January 2006, and was given a life sentence.[34][35]

November 19, 2008: Asa Seeley was initially reported by multiple sources to have stated he was going to shoot President George W. Bush,[36] but this was later reported that he said that "he was going to Washington to shoot the people that shot him."[37] Seeley was arrested at West Baltimore train station carrying a rifle after having been refused transportation to Washington, DC by a taxi driver who saw that he was carrying a rifle. Seeley was charged with weapons offenses[37].

Barack Obama[]

Main article: Barack Obama assassination threats

President Barack Obama has been the target of several assassination threats and alleged plots since he first became a presidential candidate in 2007. Secret Service protection for Obama began after the Senator received a death threat in 2007, when Obama was still serving as the junior U.S. Senator of Illinois and running for president. This marked the first time a candidate received such protection before being nominated.[38] Security was increased early for candidate Obama due to fears of possible assassination attempts by white supremacist or other racist groups or individuals against the first African American major party presidential candidate.[39][40][41] Some of the threats have been extended to members of Obama's family, including First Lady Michelle Obama.[42][43][44][45] Obama and his officials have generally declined discussing death threats made against him since he entered the presidential race.[38][42] Some commentators have suggested the unprecedented amount of death threats surrounding President Obama are at least partially tied to the use of racist imagery and words used by Obama's critics to describe the president.[39] Among the most serious threats were a 2008 alleged plot by three men in Denver to shoot Obama during the 2008 Democratic National Convention,[38][46][47] and a 2008 alleged plot by two men in Tennessee to kill Obama as part of a planned African American murder spree.[48][49]

Presidential deaths rumored to be assassinations[]

Zachary Taylor[]

On July 4, 1850, President Zachary Taylor was diagnosed by his physicians with cholera morbus, a term that included diarrhea and dysentery but not true cholera. Cholera, typhoid fever, and food poisoning have all been indicated as the source of the president's ultimately fatal gastroenteritis. More specifically, a hasty snack of iced milk, cold cherries and pickled cucumbers consumed at an Independence Day celebration might have been the culprit.[50] By July 9, Taylor was dead.

In the late 1980s, author Clara Rising theorized that Taylor was murdered by poison and was able to convince Taylor's closest living relative, as well as the Jefferson Co., KY Coroner, Dr. Richard Greathouse, to order an exhumation. On June 17, 1991 Taylor's remains were exhumed from the vault at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, in Louisville, KY. The remains were then transported to the Office of the Kentucky Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. George Nichols. Nichols, joined by Dr. William Maples, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, removed the top of the lead coffin liner to reveal remarkably well preserved human remains that were immediately recognizable as those of President Taylor. Radiological studies were conducted of the remains before small samples of hair, fingernail and other tissues were removed. Thomas Secoy of the Department of Veterans Affairs (and a direct descendant of Taylor's Democratic presidential opponent Lewis Cass), ensured that only those samples required for testing were removed and that the coffin was resealed. The remains were then returned to the cemetery and received appropriate honors at reinterment. The samples were sent to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where neutron activation analysis revealed traces of arsenic at levels less than one one-hundredth of the level expected in a death by poisoning.[51]

Warren G. Harding[]

In June 1923, President Warren G. Harding set out on a cross-country "Voyage of Understanding," planning to meet ordinary people and explain his policies. During this trip, he became the first president to visit Alaska.[52] Rumors of corruption in his administration were beginning to circulate in Washington by this time, and Harding was profoundly shocked by a long message he received while in Alaska, apparently detailing illegal activities previously unknown to him. At the end of July, while traveling south from Alaska through British Columbia, he developed what was thought to be a severe case of food poisoning. He gave the final speech of his life to a large crowd at the University of Washington Stadium (now Husky Stadium) at the University of Washington campus in Seattle, Washington. A scheduled speech in Portland, Oregon was canceled. The President's train proceeded south to San Francisco. Upon arriving at the Palace Hotel, he developed pneumonia. Harding died of either a heart attack or a stroke at 7:35 p.m. on August 2, 1923. The formal announcement, printed in the New York Times of that day, stated that "A stroke of apoplexy was the cause of death." He had been ill exactly one week.[53]

Naval physicians surmised that he had suffered a heart attack; however, this diagnosis was not made by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Charles E. Sawyer, who was traveling with the presidential party. Mrs. Harding refused permission for an autopsy, which soon led to speculation that the President had been the victim of a plot, possibly carried out by his wife. Harding apparently had been unfaithful to the First Lady. Gaston B. Means, an amateur historian and gadfly, noted in his book The Strange Death of President Harding (1930) that the circumstances surrounding his death lent themselves to some suspecting he had been poisoned. Several individuals attached to him, personally and politically, would have welcomed Harding's death, as they would have been disgraced in association by Means' assertion of Harding's "imminent impeachment." Although Means was later discredited for publicly accusing Mrs. Harding of the purported murder, enough doubts surround the President's death to keep reputable scholars open to the possibility of foul play.

See also[]

  • 2008 Barack Obama assassination scare in Denver and in Tennessee
  • United States Secret Service


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