February 22, 1974
Samuel Byck (44, pictured) kills an airport police officer and a co-pilot, wounds a pilot, and kills himself in a failed attempt to hijack a plane with the intention to crash it into the White House to assassinate President Nixon
Byck had been outspoken in his disdain regarding Nixon and the Watergate scandal*, to the point the Secret Service knew of him. He had undergone psychiatric care twice in the past, and had been arrested for picketing without a permit in front of the White House on two occasions the year before the attack.
* The scandal, to give a very brief explanation, involved people with ties to the government attempting to spy on the Democratic National Party in their headquarters stationed in the Watergate complex. Its subsequent cover-up was authorized by President Nixon.
After planning his attack, Byck sent a carbon copy letter to at least three newspapers explaining the motivation behind his upcoming attack, though the letters did not arrive to their destinations until after the attempted hijacking took place. The letter read:
It has become evident to me that this government that I love dearly will not respond to the needs of the majority of the American citizens.
The majority of the people in the government (so-called public servants) are financed by special interest groups and if they are servants, they are servants to these groups.
Now is the time! Independent-minded citizens must take back their government before their government takes control of them all. I, for one, will not live in controlled society and I would rather die as a free-man, than live like a sheep.
Power to the People,
The letters bore American flag stamps, placed on their envelopes upside-down (an upside down flag is used as a distress signal).
After dropping the letters in a mailbox, Byck went to the Baltimore/Washington International Airport with a suitcase containing gasoline which was powerful enough to “have flashed through the entire airplane, destroying it, if it had been set off while in the air.” Along with the bomb, Byck carried a .22 caliber revolver.
Byck entered the airport and slipped behind an airport police officer, 24-year-old George N. Ramsburg, as he was processing passengers. Byck shot Ramsburg twice in the back of the head then ran towards the airplane. He threatened the pilots, firing several warning shots when the pilots told Byck they could not take off as the plane’s door was open, its landing wheels were still in blocks, and the plane was not cleared for take off.
Byck grabbed a passenger and dragged her to the cockpit “to help fly the plane,” then shot both pilots before returning the passenger to her seat. He grabbed a second passenger by her hair, pulled her into the cockpit as well, and shot the pilots again. Co-pilot Freddie D. Jones (32) later died on the operating table; pilot Reese D. Loftin (40) survived the attack.
A patrolman, Charles Troyer, heard the shot which killed Ramsburg and chased Byck to the airplane. After Byck had shot the pilots a second time, Troyer attempted to shoot Byck through a porthole in the airplane’s door, though his service revolver was unable to penetrate the plexiglass. Troyer then used a .357 magnum he retrieved from Ramsburg’s body which managed to wound Byck. Two shots entered below Byck’s left arm and exited his chest, neither striking vital organs. Shortly afterward, Byck ended his own life with a shot to his head.
Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.
“Skyjacker planned White House raid.” The Miami News. February 27, 1974
Girard, Fred. “Hijacker Sent Suicide Notes to Newspapers.” The Detroit Free Press. February 26, 1974
Dalke, Bob and Hosler, Karen. “Hijacker killed self, medical examiner says.” The Capital [Annapolis, Maryland]. February 24, 1974