Thomas Delahanty

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Thomas Delahanty
Thomas Delahanty (cropped).jpg
Delahanty in 1981, moments before the shooting
Thomas K. Delahanty

c. 1935 (age 87–88)
Jean Marcey
(died 1997)
Police career
Country United States of America
Allegiance Washington, D.C.
DepartmentSeal of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.png Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia
Service years1963–1981

Thomas K. Delahanty (born c. 1935) is an American retired policeman who served in the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. He was one of the people who were wounded during the assassination attempt on U.S. President Ronald Reagan on Monday, March 30, 1981, in Washington, D.C.

Early life[edit]

From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Thomas Delahanty joined the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia in September 1963 after working for Jones and Laughlin Steel (1959–1963) and serving in the United States Navy (1955–1959). When the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan occurred in March 1981, he was 45 years old and had been a police officer for 17 years. Part of what his nephew described as "a long line of Irish cops", Delahanty was the fourth generation in his family to join the police.[1]

Reagan assassination attempt[edit]

Chaos outside the Washington Hilton Hotel after the assassination attempt on President Reagan. Delahanty (with arm outstretched) and Brady lie wounded on the ground.

Delahanty was normally a police dog officer; after his dog became ill, he volunteered to help guard President Reagan instead of taking the day off.[1] Reagan, White House Press Secretary James Brady, and United States Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy were also wounded in the crossfire. When John Hinckley Jr. fired the first of six bullets, striking Brady in the head and seriously wounding him, Delahanty recognized the sound as a gunshot and turned his head sharply to the left to locate Reagan. As he did so, he was struck in the back of his neck by the second shot, the bullet ricocheting off his spine.[2][3][4] Delahanty fell on top of Brady, screaming "I am hit!".[5][6][7]

Delahanty was taken to Washington Hospital Center. Hinckley's gun had been loaded with six "Devastator" brand cartridges, which contained small aluminum and lead azide explosive charges designed to explode on contact; the bullet that hit Brady was the only one that exploded. On April 2, after learning that the others could explode at any time, volunteer doctors wearing bulletproof vests removed the bullet from Delahanty's neck. He was sent home eleven days later on Friday, April 10, 1981, and was quoted as saying, "I feel good ... I'm ready to go."[8]

After the assassination attempt, Delahanty was hailed as a hero, though he felt a great deal of regret for not having been able to have done more.[9]

Delahanty later sued Hinckley, Hinckley's psychiatrist, and the gun manufacturer, Röhm Gesellschaft. His argument against the manufacturer—that small, cheap guns have no purpose except for crime, and thus the company should be held responsible—was rejected by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Delahanty lives in Whitehall Borough, Pennsylvania[11] (a suburb of Pittsburgh) after having moved from suburban Washington, D.C. after the death of his wife, Jean Marcey (1926–1997).

Delahanty was interviewed in 2016 about the release of John Hinckley Jr., and responded: "That's their decision, I guess. I'm probably not too enthused with it, but what can you do?"[12]


  1. ^ a b Hotz, Lee (March 31, 1981). "Wounded D.C. Cop A City Native". The Pittsburgh Press. p. A-1. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  2. ^ "Statement issued by physician". The New York Times. April 1, 1981. p. A22. ProQuest 114189210.
  3. ^ Anne Edwards (2003). The Reagans: Portrait of a Marriage. Macmillan, St. Martin's Press. pp. 209–214. ISBN 978-0-312-33117-7. "... At 5:30 police officer Thomas Delehanty [sic] came out of surgery to remove a bullet that had gone through his neck and lodged not far from his spine ..." / "Delehanty [sic] had been taken to Washington Hospital Center, whereas Reagan, Brady, and McCarthy had been taken to George Washington University Hospital
  4. ^ David S. Broder (March 31, 1981). "25th Anniversary: Reagan's Brush With Death: Reagan Wounded by Assailant's Bullet". The Washington Post. p. 2 of 5. Delahanty in the neck and shoulder...
  5. ^ Feaver, Douglas (March 31, 1981). "Three men shot at the side of their President". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ Hunter, Marjorie (March 31, 1981). "2 in Reagan security detail are wounded outside hotel". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Charles R. Babcock (April 3, 1981). "Fears of Explosive Bullet Force Surgery on Officer". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ Lescaze, Lee (April 11, 1981). "Feeling 'Great,' President Leaves the Hospital". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ "Personality Spotlight: Thomas K. Delahanty: Police officer wounded by Reagan's side..." UPI. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  10. ^ Delahanty v. Hinckley, 564 A.2d 758 (D.C.App. 1989). Carnegie Mellon University; retrieved August 4, 2014.
  11. ^ "Wounded officers struggle with Hinkley's release". Chicago Tribune.
  12. ^ Ben Nuckols and Joe Mandak (August 1, 2016). John Hinckley story Archived October 26, 2016, at the Wayback Machine