A Brief History
On April 26, 1865, Union Army troopers of the US Cavalry shot the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, dead on the spot in spite of orders to take the murderer alive. Booth is just one of many assassins that died without the benefit of being tried for their crime. Today we list several such assassins and welcome you to nominate others to this list. (See some of our other articles about assassinations.)
John Wilkes Booth, assassin of US President Abraham Lincoln (1865)
Boothe was the most famous American actor of his day, and thus was easily recognized after he shot President Abraham Lincoln in the head at a crowded theater. A massive manhunt was mounted, with troopers ordered to take Booth alive so authorities could learn the extent of the assassination plot. Trapped in a barn 12 days later, Booth did not want to be taken alive so the barn was set on fire and an obliging trooper shot him dead.
Lee Harvey Oswald, assassin of US President John F. Kennedy (1963)
On November 22, 1963, former US Marine and former defector to the Soviet Union, Lee Harvey Oswald, used a mail order war surplus rifle equipped with a cheap scope to shoot and kill President Kennedy as the presidential motorcade wound its way through the city of Dallas. Oswald went on the run, and killed a police officer while fleeing, but was soon rounded up and taken into custody. After protesting his innocence and claiming to be a “patsy,” Oswald begged to be taken immediately to Washington, D.C. where he could safely be interrogated. Oswald’s fears of being murdered himself were well founded, as only 2 days later Oswald was shot and killed by a sleazy Dallas night club owner while being transferred from the Dallas city jail to the county jail. With Oswald’s death, the public has never really accepted the government explanation of the events and possible conspiracy regarding the murder of President Kennedy.
Ignacy Hryniewiecki, Assassin of Russian Czar Alexander II (1881)
Alexander II became Czar (also spelled Tsar by some) of Imperial Russia in 1855, and 26 years later suffered an assassination attempt at the hands of a revolutionary activist, Nikolai Rysakov, who tossed a bomb underneath the Czar’s bulletproof carriage. The attempt failed, but another cohort of Nikolai Rysakov, a Polish man named Ignacy Hryniewiecki, made a second attempt on the Czar’s life, this time successful! Hryniewiecki used the confusion surrounding the aftermath of the failed assassination and the naivete of the Czar, who had come out to watch the attempted assassin be arrested and survey the damage from the bomb to hurl his own bomb at the feet of Alexander II, severely damaging the legs of the Czar. Unfortunately for the assassin, Hryniewiecki was also seriously wounded and died after being taken to a nearby infirmary.
Unknown Suicide Bomber, assassin of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (2007)
Bhutto apparently did not think the safety of her bullet proof limousine was all that important, because she chose to open the top hatch and extend herself out to wave to her “adoring” citizens while on a trip to a political rally. An anonymous assassin fired 3 shots at her and blew himself up with a suicide explosive vest packed with steel ball bearings, killing the Prime Minister and blowing himself to pieces. While 22 other people also died, no autopsy was performed on Bhutto, so we do not know if a bullet or a ball bearing from the vest killed her. Pakistani authorities never publicly identified the assassin, but claimed he was a teenager from South Waziristan and blamed the Pakistani Taliban as the perpetrators of the crime. Bhutto became the second leader of a nuclear armed country to be assassinated (after John F. Kennedy).
Alexander Schinas, assassin of King George I of Greece (1913)
King George was enjoying a long reign, and had nearly completed his 50th year in power, though his reign was bedeviled by troubling events, including The First Balkan War and political unrest in Greece. He had planned on abdicating his throne in favor of his son, Constantine, following the October 1913, celebration of his Golden Jubilee on the throne. Alas, he never got to make that gesture, as he was shot while walking in Thessaloniki with no particular escort. The assassin, Alexandros Schinas, was arrested and variously described by authorities as an anarchist, a socialist, or a vagrant. Tortured in prison, he died 6 weeks later without having stood trial, the victim of a “fall” from an upper floor police station window. Schinas never named any accomplices despite torture.
Alfredo Luís da Costa and Manuel Buíça, assassins of King Carlos I of Portugal (1908)
Traveling back to the Royal Palace in Lisbon, strangely without a military escort, the Royal Family was fired upon by 2 Republican riflemen, killing the King, the son and heir of the King Prince Luis Filipe, and wounding Prince Manuel. The assassins were gunned down virtually immediately by police on the scene.
Question for students (and subscribers): What assassin or assassins would you add to this list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Davis, Mike. The JFK Assassination Evidence Handbook: Issues, Evidence & Answers. Amazon, 2018.
Hutchinson, Robert. What Really Happened: The Lincoln Assassination. Regnery History, 2020.
The featured image in this article, a painting depicting Lincoln’s assassination, is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.