HIGHLAND PARK (CBS11) – “Well-liked, good guy, normal”—that is how old friends of John Hinckley, Jr. describe the man who shot President Ronald Reagan and three other people in 1981.
“The person who pulled the trigger is not the person we knew. Something changed and we didn’t know what that was,” said Kirk Dooley, who graduated from Highland Park High School with Hinckley in 1973.
The two attended middle school together also and later went on to Texas Tech with a big group of friends.
Today, a federal judge granted Hinckley a full-time leave from a Washington D.C. mental health facility.
Dooley remembers Hinckley signing his yearbook in seventh grade. His signature surrounds a young picture of a smiling Hinckley dressed in a suit and tie. He says they were good friends for years.
Dooley was the captain of his basketball team. Hinckley was the manager, and, according to Dooley, a popular guy.
“Here are the homeroom presidents. He was our president,” said Dooley while turning the pages of a Highland Park High School seventh grade yearbook. He smiled at the memories.
They hung out at all the same places the school-age kids in Highland Park frequent today. Dooley says they ate burgers at Burger House. They went to Kuby’s and they ran around Snider Plaza.
“I remember those times fondly with all of our friends and he was one of them,” said Dooley.
In high school, Dooley says Hinckley became a little more quiet but he was still involved in Student Government and Rodeo Club; however, as their group of friends moved on to Texas Tech together, Dooley says Hinckley went his separate ways.
“We are kinda haunted by our inactivity and not reaching out to him. It makes you wonder what if one of us would have called him and kinda pulled him back into reality.”
Dooley says the news in 1981 came as a shock.
Hinckley, 61, is expected to be released from custody in August.
Dooley says his Highland Park friends may try to rekindle their old friendship. Dooley says he will reach out.
“It’s a responsibility of a friend to be a friend. I’d like to reach out to him,” said Dooley.
Other community members tell CBS11 Hinckley’s father was a well-respected business man and his sister was a well-liked student at Highland Park High School.
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