Attempted assassination of Gerald Ford in San Francisco
|Gerald Ford assassination attempt in San Francisco|
President Ford wincing at the sound of Moore’s gunfire during the assassination attempt in San Francisco
|Location||On Post Street in front of St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, California, United States|
|Date||September 22, 1975 |
3:30 p.m. (PDT)
|Target||Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States|
|Attempted assassination by gunshot|
|Weapons||.38 Special revolver|
|Injured||1 (John Ludwig, taxi driver)|
|Perpetrator||Sara Jane Moore|
|Defenders||Oliver Sipple, Timothy Hettrich, San Francisco Police Department, United States Secret Service|
Moore had been evaluated by the Secret Service earlier in 1975, but agents decided that she posed no danger to the president. She was detained by police on an illegal handgun charge the day before the assassination attempt but was released. The police confiscated her .44 caliber revolver and 113 rounds of ammunition.
At 3:30 p.m., after speaking to the World Affairs Council, Ford emerged from the Post Street entrance of the St. Francis Hotel in Union Square, then walked toward his limousine. Before boarding the vehicle, he stopped and waved to the crowd that had gathered across the street.
Sara Jane Moore was standing in the crowd 40 feet away from Ford when she fired two shots with her .38 Special revolver. The first shot missed Ford's head by 5 inches and passed through the wall above the doorway Ford had just walked out of. A bystander named Oliver Sipple heard the sound of the first shot and dove at Moore, grabbing her shooting arm before she pulled the trigger a second time. The second shot struck John Ludwig, a 42-year-old taxi driver standing inside the hotel, in the groin. Ludwig survived.
San Francisco Police Capt. Timothy Hettrich grabbed Moore and wrestled the gun from her hand. Many other officers immediately joined in subduing Moore. In the meantime, the president’s Secret Service team pushed Ford into his waiting limousine where the Secret Service and Donald Rumsfeld lay on top of him. The limousine raced to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) where Ford boarded Air Force One and, after being joined by the First Lady, flew back to Washington, D.C.
Sara Jane Moore
Moore pleaded guilty to charges of attempted assassination on December 12, 1975. The following month, on January 15, she was sentenced to life imprisonment. On December 31, 2007 at the age of 77, Moore was released on parole.
Oliver Sipple was commended at the scene by Secret Service and the San Francisco Police for his actions; the media portrayed him as a national hero. Three days after the assassination attempt in San Francisco, Sipple received a letter from President Ford praising him for his heroic actions.
All of the media publicity about him was not without controversy, however. Upon realizing that Sipple was gay, the media began broadcasting this information. That became the first time that Sipple’s parents and family found out that Sipple was homosexual, as he had been hiding it from them. After learning about his sexual orientation, much of his family, including his parents, disowned him, and were subsequently estranged from him, but later were reconciled. Sipple died in 1989.
After President Ford was rushed to the SFO tarmac in his limousine, he quickly boarded Air Force One. Before Ford could depart on his return trip to the nation’s capital, however, the plane had to wait for his wife Betty, the First Lady, who was carrying out her own schedule of events on the Peninsula.
In addition to the San Francisco incident, Ford had escaped unharmed from a previous assassination attempt in Sacramento, California, which occurred 17 days earlier on September 5, 1975. In response to the two occurrences in the same month, President Ford subsequently wore a bulletproof trench coat in public, beginning in October 1975.
Ford, who had succeeded to the presidency upon the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974, ran for election in 1976. He lost to Jimmy Carter, by 297-240 in the electoral vote, and didn't run for public office again. In 2006, Ford died from natural causes.
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