August 27th, 2013
09:56 AM ET
7 years ago

Ford describes glimpsing gun before assassination attempt

(CNN) – A bright red dress. A weathered face. And a gun, almost as large as the shooter's hand.

Those were the images seared into President Gerald Ford's memory as he recalled the September day in 1975 when Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, pointed a gun at him near the California capitol in Sacramento.

The recollections were made public in newly distributed testimony from Ford that was videotaped and played during Fromme's trial. For more than three decades, the tape was under seal, but after an appeal from an historical society was made available for distribution on Tuesday.

Sitting in front of a blue curtain and occasionally sipping from a glass of ice water, Ford gave measured answers to questions from a lawyer about his memories of that assassination attempt, which landed Fromme in prison for 34 years.

As he was walking and shaking hands along L Street toward the state capitol building, Ford - who died in 2006 - recalled noticing a woman in the crowd standing behind two or three rows of other people.

The woman, Ford remembered, was wearing a "brightly colored dress" that was either orange or red, and she looked like she wanted to get closer. He described her face as "weathered."

"I hesitated, instead of keeping moving as I normally do," Ford said. "And as I stopped, I saw her hand come through the crowd in the first row. And that was the only active gesture that I saw. But in the hand was a weapon."

He estimated that weapon – a Colt .45 caliber pistol – was two feet away from him, and positioned between his knees and his waist. Police later said there was ammunition loaded into the weapon, but not in the chamber.

"I only saw it instantaneously, because almost automatically one of the secret service agents lunged, grabbed the hand and the weapon, and then I was pushed off by the other members of the secret service detail," he said.

He couldn't remember seeing Fromme's finger on the trigger or whether or not she was cocking the weapon. And as his security detail lunged at the woman, Ford said he didn't take a second glace as his would-be killer.

"I really don't think I looked back on any deliberate way. I was being pushed and moved very rapidly by the secret service detail," he said.

Fromme was eventually convicted of attempting to assassinate Ford, and after serving more than three decades behind bars was released in 2009. In interviews, Fromme has denied a desire to kill the president, saying she only wanted to talk to him and brought the gun to get his attention.

Ford, who served as president after Richard Nixon resigned, lost the 1976 presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Filed under: Gerald Ford
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Wake up People!

    Thank goodness for the SS. The most pathetic part of this story is she should be in prison for life for attempting to kill the POTUS. I saw a story a few years ago where two dealers were given life due to a female overdosing herself.

    August 27, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  2. Gurgy

    Simple solution–pass Gun-Ban Laws.

    August 27, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  3. jamison

    The worst day I will ever remember was when JFK was shot. We need to have guns banned. PERIOD.

    August 27, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. EuphoriCrest

    @ Gurgy: Let me edit that for you: Simple minded solution.

    August 27, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  5. Dirt grub

    @gurgy right! All the Middle East needs to do to stop suicide bombings is ban bombs

    August 27, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  6. ellid

    @Wake Up People! – if you mean what I think you mean, FAIL.

    And Squeaky Fromme is a dangerous, dangerous woman who SHOULD be locked up.

    August 27, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  7. Ed Goering

    Manson and his girls shouldnt have seen the light of day after thrill kills !

    August 27, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. dave

    ban guns? yea I bet that would stop the killers....who are so law abiding

    August 27, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  9. BJ

    @jamison & @gurgy, A gun ban would have prevented the Boston Marathon bombing too, right? Abolishing guns does not solve the problem.

    August 27, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. Wake up People!

    @ellid. What exactly are you talking about?? I'm saying she should be locked up for life. But a person that sells to an adult, who od's shouldn't be locked up for life.

    August 27, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  11. Bill

    If Squeaky wanted to shoot Ford, she would have. There wasn't even a round in the chamber.

    August 27, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  12. Tony

    Ever notice the recurring theme? More Gun Control and the killing will stop! Really? Next time you read about a gun murder, heck to see if the gun was LEGALLY POSSESSED. That's right folks! Most gun violence is caused by criminals who have illegal possession of the gun!!! Thank you, but I'd rather have my legally possessed gun and not need it, then need it and only have an empty hand in response.

    August 27, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |