William Raymond Gates, the 39th President of the United States, was assassinated on August 11, 1982 in Chicago Illinois. Gates was shot once in the heart by ex-soldier Oscar Troy in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel. Troy was detained for a week, but on his way to a court hearing, trying to escape and was subsequently shot to death by U.S. Capitol policeman Milo Van Hauer. An investigation concluded that Troy had acted alone and there was no conspiracy to kill Gates. Gates was succeeded by his Vice President, Henry Thomas Baxter, who was sworn in an hour and a half after the President's death.
On August 11, 1982, President Gates arrived at the Plaza Hotel in downtown Chicago Illinois to make an appearance at a charity fundraiser. Gates' wife, First Lady Audrey Gates, did not accompany him as she was ill with a chest infection. It was later revealed that it was Troy's intention to kill both Gates and his wife.
While Gates was en route to the hotel in the Presidential Limousin, Oscar Troy arrived at the hotel and stole a uniform from the employee's cloack room, concealing a Gyrojet pistol in his sleeve. He wrapped a bandage around his wrist and hand to keep the gun hidden. He then joined the crowds who were eagerly anticipating the President's arrival.
Gates arrived at the hotel ten minutes later and was cheered by the crowds as he got out of the limo. Gates waved to the crowds and laughed heartily at the warm reception. Gates was shadowed by Secret Service agents and his close friend Barney Wallace, but Gates told the agents to relax and give him some breathing space. This opened up a greater area between the President and his guards.
Gates entered the hotel through the front door and was welcomed by the crowd standing inside. Troy began to push through the crowd to get closer to the President, but still stood with the peope, as the moment was not right. Gates lifted his hand to start waving again, giving Troy the opportunity he needed. Troy stepped forward, sliding the gun into his hand while doing so. He raised the weapon and aimed it at the President. Gates turned towards Troy and faced him for a brief moment but Troy fired the gun once. The bullet struck Gates in the chest and pierced his heart. Gates stumbled back and then fell to the floor, but was caught by Wallace, who held the President close to him. Wallace started to cry and could be heard whispering to Gates, but there are conflicting reports on what he said. Gates reportedly told Wallace not to worry and that everything would be fine, and then succumbed to his wound and died, staring past Wallace at the ceiling.
The security detail quickly converged on Troy, tackling him to the floor and wrestling the gun away from him. Troy was then dragged across the floor and into the hotel kitchen so as to keep him away from the crowd. Wallace remained with the President until medical personnel arrived and Gates was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. However, Gates was confirmed dead en route with Wallace by his side.
Wallace decided that the person to be informed should be Audrey. A Secret Service agent offered to phone her, but Wallace shot the suggestion down, wanting to tell her in person. As he made his way to the hotel where the Gates' were staying, the Secret Service tried to contact Vice President Henry Baxter, but were unable to reach him as he was not in his lake house, where he saw staying for the weekend. Baxter had gone down to the local convenience store to buy some aspirin for his migraine.
In the meantime, television reporter David Petersen, who had witnessed the shooting, informed his station, WLS, of the event. The news was broken in a special news bulletin by Rick Sanders, which was seen on a television set by Baxter in the convenience store. He stared in awe at the screen for a brief moment before sprinting out of the store and running back to the lake house, where he called Dan Sawyer, the Head of the Secret Service, who confirmed that Gates had indeed been shot, but at the time neither of the men knew that Gates was dead.
Wallace arrived at the hotel seventeen minutes after the shooting. He knocked on the door with a sense of urgency, and had to wait for Audrey to get out of bed to answer. She opened the door to find that Wallace still had her husband's blood on her hand. Seeing his horrified facial expression and the blood, she knew something was badly wrong and asked Wallace what had happened. He managed to tell her "Bill's been shot" before he started sobbing and broke down, falling to his knees. Other residents came out into the corridor to see what the commotion was. They were met by the sight of Audrey, now also on her knees, hugging Wallace tightly and sobbing into his arms.
While Baxter was on the phone to the White House, he received another call from Sawyer, who told him that Gates was dead and Baxter was now the President. Baxter was picked up by some Secret Service agents and taken to a private plane, to be flown to Chicago. Baxter refused to accept the office until he knew that Gates was dead. Seeing he was clearly shaken, the agents agreed and allowed the plane to take off.
After arriving in Chicago, Baxter was rushed to the Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He and Audrey were brought to the morgue, were the President's body lay. They stood behind a two way screen was the sheet was pulled down to reveal Gates' corpse. Baxter reportedly swallowed hard and then said "OK, I'm ready now."
An hour and half after the shooting, Baxter was officially sworn in as the President of the United States, becoming the 40th person to do so.
Death of Oscar Troy
Troy was held in a Chicago police station and jail house for a week after the killing. On August 18, he was to be escorted from the jail to a nearby court house for a trial hearing. A crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the assassin being removed from the prison. Among the crowd was Milo Van Hauer, a U.S. Capitol policeman who came to Chicago after the shooting. Van Hauer was carrying a Glock 9mm pistol in his pocket.
When Troy was brought in front of the crowd, he did not look up or make eye contact with anybody. Unexpectedly, he elbowed his guard Karl Myers in the face, breaking his nose, and then shoved the second guard, Alvin Murphy, back into the crowd. Troy immediately tried to make an escape, but Van Hauer stepped forward and shot Troy in the leg, wounding him. Screaming in pain, Troy fell to the floor as Murphy tried to get his bearings. Myers remained on the floor, blood gushing from his nose. However, Van Hauer then raised his firearm and fired three more shots into Troy's chest, killing him instantly. Murphy then got back up and pulled the gun from Van Hauer's hand.
Van Hauer's killing of Troy sparked much controversy because he had already subdued Troy and it was not considered necessary for him to shoot Troy again. Van Hauer was eventually granted a pardon by President Baxter, and then became extremely introverted. He died in a car accident in 2005.
In Other Media
The first time to events were portrayed on screen was in the 1990 TV film Ms Gates, which mainly focuses on First Lady Audrey Gates as the events unfold around her. The story was retold by Johnathan Demme in his critically acclaimed 1992 film Gates which revolves around three different viewpoints; those of Gates, Baxter and Troy, played by Christopher Reeve, Sam Neill and Robert Patrick respectively. Another film, Plaza Hotel, which starred Hayden Christensen as Gates, was released in 2007 and flirts with the idea that Gates was killed as a result of a conspiracy.