Assassination plots and attempts are common among prominent people. Through the years, we have seen presidents, prime ministers, human rights advocates, religious leaders and world-renowned celebrities almost get killed in cold blood by haters, subordinates or strangers. Most assassination attempts and plots have been politically motivated, carried out by rational killers. However, a good number of them were carried out by attackers with highly questionable mental stability. If these 25 boldest assassination attempts ever tell us anything, is that high profiles come at a price:
When Andrew Jackson became the president of the United States in 1835, an unemployed house painter named Richard Lawrence approached him as he left a funeral service in the Congress and attempted to kill him with several bystanders around. His attempt was brought by his delusion that the U.S. government owed him a lot of money, and that the money that Jackson was “keeping” from him was the key to his dream of being the King Richard III of England. Unfortunately for him, his gun misfired.
As Ronald Reagan was about to leave Hilton after delivering his presidential speech on March 30, 1981, a deranged man named John Hinckley fired six shots from a .22-caliber revolver at him, puncturing his lung. Hinckley was obsessed with actress Jodie Foster and believed that killing the president was the best way to impress her.
At a conference at the villa of Hitler on March 11, 1944, Cavalry Captain Eberhard von Breitenbuch attempted to kill Hitler as he concealed a small Browning pistol. The captain felt that the destruction of Germany was already inexorable and that the German leader had to be stopped. As he entered the conference room to kill Hitler, Field Marshal Ernst Busch stopped him without suspecting anything, saying “Sorry, no adjutants beyond this point.”
After delivering a speech on August 30, 1918 in a Moscow factory, Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin was shot thrice by Social Revolutionary Party member Fanya Kaplan. His shoulder and jaw were hit but he survived the attack despite the serious wounds. The assassination attempt kindled a wave of reprisals by the Bolsheviks against the Social Revolutionaries.
Former Ukraine Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned at a dinner sometime in September 2004, following his announcement of his bid to run against incumbent Viktor Yanukoyych. He was flown to Vienna, Austria for treatment after he was diagnosed with “acute pancratitis.” Following tests, it was concluded that his condition was brought by high concentrations of Dioxin that were mixed in with his food in an attempt to kill him.
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II was about to give his speech at St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981 when Turksih gunman Mehmet Ali Agca shot at him, claiming that the pope was the ultimate symbol of capitalism. He fired the shots while the pope was walking through the crowd. The Pope was rushed to Gemelli Hospital and fortunately survived.
Islamic Nation Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto arrived in Karachi, Pakistan to welcome a crowd on October 18, 2007 when two bombs went off at the airport after two suicide bombers hit her homecoming parade. Bhutto survived the attack but 139 bystanders were killed. It was later revealed that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the bombing.
On October 14, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was conducting a campaign in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was about to deliver a speech when a mentally unstable man named John Schrank shot at him. The projectile passed through his speech and eyeglass case and went through his skin but fortunately didn’t puncture his lung. After the shot, he continued to deliver his speech with blood seeping through his coat.
Tsar Nicholas II
The first assassination attempt against Tsar Nicholas II happened in 1981, when he visited Japan with his cousin, Prince George of Greece and Denmark. At Lake Biwa in Otsu, Tsuda Sanzo, one of the native escorts accompanying them attacked them with a saber and struck Nicholas’ head. The next attack was blocked by the cane of Prince George.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
On December 11, 1960, retired postal worker Richard Paul Pavlick followed Kennedy in Palm Beach, Florida in an attempt to kill him by blowing his car with dynamite. His plan was to ram his car into the limousine of JFK so the dynamite can kill them both. Unfortunately, Kennedy left the house with his wife and baby. Feeling pity for JFK’s family, Pavlick decided to do the assassination another day.
King Louis XV
On a cold, snowy night in January 1757, Robert Francois Damiens tried to kill King Louis XV by passing by his guards and approaching the king, stabbing him in his side using a small pen knife. Fortunately, the blade was too small to kill the king who was wearing thick layers of clothes to protect his skin from frostbite.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered two Israeli Mossad agents to kill Khaled Mashal in July 1997 as a counter-attack to the Mahane Yehuda Market Bombings. Using their Canadian passports, the agents entered the city and waited for Mashal at his office. When Mashal arrived, one of the agents injected a toxin called levofentanyl into his left ear. Unfortunately for the assailants, this was seen by Mashal’s chauffeur and the two agents were caught. Mashal was immediately given an antidote for the poison.
The CIA once planned to assassinate Fidel Castro by taking advantage of his love for scuba diving. They planted colorfully-painted mollusk shells that contained explosives in the ocean while the Cuban dictator was underwater. This plan apparently did not work as Castro remains alive to this day.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
While delivering a speech in Miami on February 15, 1933, a mentally unstable man named Giuseppe Zangara tried to shoot the US president with his gun by climbing onto a folding chair so he could clearly see Roosevelt. Following his first failed shot, the crowd gathered around him, hit and knocked him off.
Lewis Powells tried to assassinate the US Secretary of State by going into his room and killing him there. At first, he planned to enter the Seward home under the excuse that he was delivering medicine for the bedridden Seward. However, he ran into the eldest son of Seward, panicked, and tried to shoot him but his gun misfired. He kept on trying to carry out his plan by going straight to the room of William Seward after beating his son, stabbing his target many times on his face and neck. Seward survived and he was caught the next day.
Charles De Gaulle
OAS conspirators attempted to kill French president Charles de Gaulle by attacking his car with 140 gun shots while he and his family were traveling from Elysee Palace to Orly Airport. De Gaulles survived the attack by ducking down and using the suspension system of his car which accelerated the car out of a potentially fatal front-wheel skid.
In 2011, some gunmen attempted to kill the president of New Guinea by surrounding his home overnight and pounding his bedroom with several rockets. Fortunately, the president was sleeping in a different room when the shooting erupted, saving him from the assassination. The targeted bedroom which was not his was ripped apart and one of his bodyguards got killed.
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
While he was attending a ceremony in commemoration of the founding of the Tehran University, a man named Fakhr-Arai shot at Pahlavi five times from a distance of ten feet. The assassination attempt failed after only one shot hit the target’s cheek. The attacker was a member of Tudeh Party and was immediately shot to death.
In February 1974, an unemployed salesman named Samuel Byck attempted to assassinate Richard Nixon by hijacking a commercial jet and flying it into the White House. He shot at a police officer at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, barged into the Atlanta-bound Delta Airlines DC-9 and killed one of the two pilots of the plane. He then forced one of the passengers to fly the plane to the White House, but before any of his orders was acted upon, police officers had already surrounded the plane and tried to shoot him. He committed suicide before the police was able to enter the plane door.
In January 2013, an assassin tried to kill Bulgarian political leader Ahmed Dogan while he was delivering his speech at a party conference at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. The gunman came up to the podium and directly extended his gun toward Dogan, but the gun jammed and failed to shoot off.
George W. Bush
While he was delivering his speech at Tbilisi’s Freedom Square in Georgia on May 10, 2005, an assassin attempted to kill US President George W. Bush by throwing a live grenade at the president. For some reason, the grenade did not explode and fell more than 30 yards away from President Bush.
US President Bill Clinton was attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Manila in 1996 when a terrorist hit was plotted against him. A few moments before his motorcade was about to move, some agents picked up a radio chatter that involved the mention of some code words referring to a terrorist hit. Agent Merletti changed the route to protect the President. As the rest of the agents took the prescribed route, they found four explosives that would have killed President Clinton.
In 1975, Gerald Ford survived an attempt to kill him after a young female assailant named Lynette Fromme missed her shot at him. Fromme approached Ford while he was walking near the California Capitol and immediately raised a .45 caliber gun toward him. But before she was able to fire the gun, the Secret Service agents were able to stop her by wrestling her to the ground.
In 2000, Pervez Musharraf survived the assassination attempt by Kamran Atif, a member of Harkat-Ul Muhahideen al-Alami. The assassin planted an explosive near a bridge in Rawalpindi where the Pakistani political figure was expected to pass. The attempt failed because when the bomb exploded, the heavily-guarded convoy of Musharraf had already crossed the bridge.
After delivering his speech in Rome at the International Congress of Surgeons in April 1926, Benito Mussolini walked to his car and failed to notice the mentally unstable Irish woman Violet Gibson, who was standing among the crowd and was about to kill him. She raised her revolver and pointed it at the head of Mussolini, but she failed to hit her target as Mussolini turned to face the flag to sing the National Fascist Party’s official hymn. Instead of passing into his head, the bullet passed through the nose of Mussolini.