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Gerald Ford's testimony on 1975 assassination attempt: 'The weapon was large'

August 27, 2013|By Christopher Megerian

A videotape in which President Gerald Ford discussed a 1975 assassination attempt by a follower of Charles Manson was made public this week.

"It fills in the last gap of the case and explains from the president's perspective what it was like to have someone attempt to assassinate you," said Michael Vinding, secretary of the Eastern District Historical Society, which chronicles stories from the federal courthouse in Sacramento.

In newly released testimony ordered before the trial of Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, Ford recalled how she pointed a handgun at him outside California's Capitol on Sept. 5, 1975.

Ford had crossed the street toward the Capitol from his hotel, headed for a meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown, who was serving his first term. As he shook hands with people lined up to see him, Ford said, a brightly dressed woman caught his eye.

She seemed eager to meet him, Ford said. Then he saw a gun.

"The weapon was large," he recalled, speaking carefully at a glossy table with two microphones and a glass of water before him. "Almost automatically, one of the Secret Service agents lunged, grabbed the hands and the weapon, and then I was pushed off."

He said he could not tell whether Fromme pulled the trigger or whether she cocked the gun.

Authorities said the loaded gun, a .45-caliber Colt semiautomatic pistol, misfired. Fromme, who was 26 at the time, said she did not intend to kill the president.

Ford's sworn testimony was videotaped, and parts of it were shown during the trial. The recording was filed away and largely forgotten until Monday, when it was released by a federal judge in response to a petition by a local historical group.

For the 16 minutes of questioning about the incident, Ford wore a dark suit and tie and sat calmly with his hands folded.

After Ford's testimony, a judge can be heard saying the deposition would not be made public unless Fromme called Ford as a witness during the trial.

"I do not want any portion of this tape to be revealed to the public unless it is actually used in open court," the judge said.

Fromme was sentenced to life in prison. She was paroled in 2009 after 34 years behind bars. She later moved to upstate New York.

Ford died of natural causes in 2006.


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