This Day In History: September 22

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On September 22, 1975, Sara Jane Moore aims a gun at President Gerald Ford as he leaves the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco, California. The attempt on the president’s life came only 17 days after another woman had tried to assassinate Ford while he was on his way to give a speech to the California legislature in Sacramento.

Moore’s attempt was thwarted by a bystander, Oliver Sipple, who instinctively grabbed Moore’s arm when she raised the gun. She was able to fire off one shot, but it failed to find its target. Secret Service agents quickly hustled Ford into a waiting vehicle and sped him to safety.

On September 5, 1975, in Sacramento, California, a woman named Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme had also attempted to shoot Ford. Fromme, a drug-addled Charles Manson follower, and Moore, a mentally unstable former FBI informant and accountant who fell into fringe revolutionary politics, both targeted Ford as a symbol of their hatred for the political establishment.

Moore served time in the same prison in West Virginia as Fromme. Fromme escaped the prison in 1979, but was caught and transferred to a higher-security facility. Moore escaped in 1989, but turned herself in two days later and, like Fromme, was transferred to a more secure penitentiary. On December 31, 2007, Moore was released on parole. 

Sipple received a written letter of thanks from Ford. Later, some critics claimed that the White House initially hesitated to publicly thank Sipple, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, because he was gay.