The death of James Brady, who survived a gunshot to the head during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan 33 years ago, has been ruled a homicide by a Northern Virginia medical examiner, a spokeswoman told The Associated Press.
Because the examiner ruled the death the result of Brady's 1981 injuries, prosecutors could bring charges against the man who shot him, John Hinckley Jr., NBC Washington reported Friday.
The District of Columbia Police Department was notified of the ruling Friday, spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump told the AP.
Brady was serving as Reagan's press secretary at the time of the assassination attempt outside the Washington Hilton hotel. He was partially paralyzed as a result of his injuries and never returned to his position in the White House -- though he continued to hold the title for the rest of Reagan's time in office.
After the shooting, he endured an arduous recovery process and -- along with his wife, Sarah -- became an advocate for tougher restrictions on firearms. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, a landmark piece of gun legislation signed into law by President Bill Clinton, bears his name.
Hinkley, who shot at Reagan in an attempt to gain the attention of actress Jodie Foster, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He remains in a mental hospital in the Washington, D.C., area.
More from the AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) — This week's death of former White House press secretary James Brady, who survived a gunshot wound to the head in a 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, has been ruled a homicide by a medical examiner, District of Columbia police said Friday.
John Hinckley Jr. shot Brady, who lived through hours of delicate surgery and further operations over the years, but never regained normal use of his limbs and was often in a wheelchair. His family said he died Monday at age 73 from a series of health issues.
Nancy Bull, district administrator for the Virginia medical examiner's office, which made the ruling, declined to disclose the results of the autopsy and referred inquiries to District police.
DC police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said the department was notified of the homicide ruling Friday.
Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate Reagan outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981, just two months into the new president's term. Reagan nearly died from a chest wound. Three others, including Brady, were struck by bullets from Hinckley's handgun.
Hinckley Jr., now 59, was found not guilty by reason of insanity of all charges in a 13-count indictment, including federal counts of attempted assassination of the president of the United States, assault on a federal officer, and use of a firearm in the commission of a federal offense, as well as District of Columbia offenses of attempted murder, assault, and weapons charges. The District of Columbia offenses included charges related to the shooting of Brady.
William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, said the office "is reviewing the ruling on the death of Mr. Brady and has no further comment at this time."
Calls to Hinckley's attorneys were not immediately returned.
Officials at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, where Hinckley is a patient, have said that the mental illness that led him to shoot Reagan in an effort to impress actress Jodie Foster has been in remission for decades. Hinckley has been allowed to leave the hospital to visit his mother's home in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Besides partial paralysis from brain damage, Brady suffered short-term memory impairment, slurred speech and constant pain.
Brady undertook a personal crusade for gun control after suffering the devastating bullet wound. The Brady law, named after him, requires a five-day wait and background check before a handgun can be sold. President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1993.
Associated Press writer Pete Yost contributed to this story.
This post has been updated to reflect confirmation of the homicide ruling from the D.C. Police Department.
CORRECTION: Earlier reports said the homicide ruling came from the D.C. medical examiner. It came from a Northern Virginia examiner.