On June 18, 2016, 20-year-old Briton Michael Sandford attended a Las Vegas rally in support of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Arrested after he attempted to take a gun from a police officer, Sandford was charged, tried and sentenced to 12 months in jail.
Sandford claimed he wanted to kill the Republican nominee, but faced the relatively minor charges of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, and disrupting the orderly conduct of government business and official functions – as opposed to attempted murder.
Documentary The Boy Who Tried To Kill Trump follows Sandford’s family as they head to America and try to work out what motivated his actions. Details of the man’s mental health issues emerge which paint a more complicated picture of the assassination attempt.
These other attempts on the lives of political figures throughout history were just as unsuccessful.
Charles de Gaulle, president of France
Date: August 22, 1962
Would-be assassins: The OAS (Organisation de l'armée secrete)
Reason for attempt: Anger over de Gaulle’s ceding of Algeria to Algerian nationalists.
Method: Firing upon de Gaulle’s motorcade.
Why it failed: While the hail of bullets fired at the president’s vehicle succeeded in blowing out all its tyres (and killing two bodyguards on motorbikes), de Gaulle’s driver managed to accelerate away as he and his wife ducked for cover.
Franklin D Roosevelt, president-elect of the USA
Date: February 15, 1933
Would-be assassin: Giuseppe Zangara
Reason for attempt: Antipathy towards those in government
Why it failed: Because he was too short. Zangara fired upon the incoming president at a speech he was giving in Miami, but had to stand on a chair to see over the people in front of him. After his first shot, onlookers pulled him off the chair, causing his other shots to miss their mark. Chicago mayor Anton Cermak died after being hit by one of the bullets.
Adolf Hitler, Führer of Germany
Date: July 20, 1944
Would-be assassin: Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg as part of Operation Valkyrie
Reason for attempt: Because it was Hitler – and Germany was losing the war.
Method: A briefcase packed with explosives placed next to Hitler during a meeting.
Why it failed: The bag was moved and three other men at the meeting were killed in the blast.
Fidel Castro, prime minister/president of Cuba
Date: Numerous – there were hundreds of plots to kill Castro
Would-be assassins: Various, but more often than not, the CIA
Reason for attempts: To overthrow the Cuban government.
Methods: Everything from a poisoned fountain pen to exploding cigars to a wetsuit lined with a fungus that would provoke a lethal skin disease.
Why they failed: Maybe because life isn’t a James Bond movie?
Ronald Reagan, president of the USA
Date: March 30, 1981
Would-be assassin: John Hinkley Jr
Reason for attempt: To impress Jodie Foster, with whom Hinkley was obsessed.
Why it failed: Poor aim. Hinkley fired six times at Reagan outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, and although one of his shots hit the president, puncturing a lung and causing internal bleeding, his life was saved due to rapid medical attention.
Theodore Roosevelt, former president of the USA
Date: October 14, 1912
Would-be assassin: John Schrank
Reason for attempt: Roosevelt was seeking a third term as president, and the ghost of former president William McKinley told Schrank to stop him. Or something.
Why it failed: The bullet that hit Roosevelt in the chest was prevented from doing serious damage because it first passed through his steel eyeglass case and a copy of his 50-page speech. Realising he wasn’t in mortal danger, Roosevelt proceeded with his speech as planned, telling the crowd, “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a bull moose.”
Andrew Jackson, president of the USA
Date: January 30, 1835
Would-be assassin: Richard Lawrence
Reason for attempt: Mental instability – Lawrence suffered delusions that he was King Richard III and was owed money by the US government.
Why it failed: Both weapons misfired, allowing Jackson to take on his attacker -- with his walking cane. This was the first known attempt on the life of a sitting US president.
Winston Churchill, prime minister of Britain
Date: Early 1943
Would-be assassin: Nazi Germany
Reason for attempt: World War II
Method: Exploding chocolate bars. Yes, really. German bomb makers crafted explosive devices covered with a thin layer of chocolate and wrapped them up as pretend bars. The plan was to sneak them into the War Cabinet.
Why it failed: British spies uncovered the plot.
Patrice Lumumba, prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Would-be assassin: The USA
Reason for attempt: Lumumba’s perceived allegiance to the USSR and US paranoia about the Soviets getting a foothold in Africa.
Method: Poisoned toothpaste, which was to be placed in Lumumba’s bathroom.
Why it failed: The CIA station chief in Leopoldville, Congo’s capital, refused to plant the tube of toothpaste and ended up throwing it in the Congo River. Lumumba was eventually killed on January 17, 1961 – but that’s another story.
Khaled Meshaal, Jordanian branch chief of Hamas
Date: September 25, 1997
Would-be assassin: Mossad
Reason for attempt: Retaliation for the July 1997 bombing of the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem.
Method: Poison injected into his ear.
Why it failed: The poison, which was meant to bring about immediate paralysis and lead to death, didn’t work properly. Two of the five assassins were arrested and as part of the deal for their release, the antidote was handed over, saving the life of the comatose Meshaal.
Watch The Boy Who Tried To Kill Trump right here: