Ford Assassination Attempts Recalled

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The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 27, 2006; 9:22 PM

WASHINGTON -- In the fall of 1975, Gerald Ford's presidency was rocked by two assassination attempts within less than three weeks. The first took place on Sept. 5, 1975, in Sacramento, Calif., where Ford had spent the night at the Senator Hotel. The president arose early that day to address a group of about 1,000 California businessmen gathered at the hotel.

Ford then set out to walk across a broad expanse of lawn to the California statehouse to address the Legislature in a speech on crime.

"It was a nice, sunny morning and a crowd of about 500, many of them state employees, had gathered along the way to greet him," recalled The Associated Press' Howard Benedict, who was in the White House press pool that day.

"About five minutes after Ford left the hotel, all hell broke loose as several news people burst into the press room (on the first floor of the hotel) shouting things like, 'Someone pulled a gun on the president!' "

Walter Rodgers of AP Radio was among the first through the door, and he started dictating a story to his desk, Benedict said.

"I immediately relayed what he said to the San Francisco bureau, something like: 'A woman in a red dress pulled a gun on President Ford today, but she was wrestled to the ground by a Secret Service agent,'" Bennedict said.

Bennedict then ran out to the scene. The Secret Service had already hustled Ford into the statehouse, but agents "had the young woman pinned up against a tree, her hands behind her in handcuffs. I was struck by the fact that she was completely in red: long red dress, red bandanna and red shoes," Benedict said.

"The Secret Service said she had pulled a .45 caliber pistol while standing in the crowd about 4 feet from Ford and that her name was Lynette Fromme. She muttered something like: 'The gun didn't go off, it didn't go off. Can you believe it?' "

It was later determined that though the automatic pistol was loaded with five bullets, the slide had not been pulled to place a bullet in the firing chamber, making it impossible for the gun to fire.

Several women who witnessed the incident described it to Benedict:

"Ford was shaking hands with everyone and smiling when suddenly he turned ashen and froze as he saw the gun being raised only a few feet away. Then a Secret Service agent grabbed the woman with the gun and another hit Ford from behind, buckling his knees and knocking him to the ground. They got him on his feet and ran him to the Statehouse."

While relaying this information to AP's San Francisco bureau, Benedict mentioned the name Lynette Fromme.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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