An Illinois police chief is retiring 39 years after he stopped an assassin’s bullet intended for former President Ronald Reagan with his chest.
Tim McCarthy was part of Reagan’s Secret Service detail at the Washington Hilton Hotel when Reagan was shot in a lone-gunman assassination attempt on March 30, 1981.
After retiring from the Secret Service, McCarthy became the police chief in Orland Park.
He announced his retirement this week, saying that after 26 years on the job in the Chicago suburb, he wanted to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren. His retirement date is Aug. 1.
"It has been a great career," the 71-year-old McCarthy told WLS-TV on Wednesday. "I would do it for another 10 years but family, at some point, comes first."
Would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr. fired off seven rounds in the attempt on Reagan’s life. Also injured in the shooting was Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady, who was gravely wounded after being shot in the head, and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty, who was shot in the neck. Hinckley spent decades after the shooting confined to a psychiatric hospital before being released in 2016.
McCarthy told WLS about that fateful day.
"I turned toward where I thought the shots were coming from, attempted to make myself as big as I could and lo and behold, I was hit right in the chest," he said.
He said he had a great relationship with Reagan and his wife Nancy after the president left office.
"But you have to remember that it is business too, and you have to separate those things," he told the station.
"That was my job to protect him, President [Jimmy] Carter, whoever it was,” he said. “Glad I could do it at the time. Glad the training paid off."
McCarthy is retiring at a time when police officers are being criticized. But he said he hopes it doesn’t discourage people from pursuing a career in law enforcement.
“Most of our departments are extremely professional, but we do make mistakes. But we got to minimize those. What happened in Minneapolis shouldn't have happened,” he said, referring to the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.