As Governor and Senator of Louisiana, Huey Long pushed through controversial “share the wealth” laws during the Depression. On September 8, 1935, Long was in Baton Rouge when Dr. Carl Weiss, the nephew of Long’s political enemy, shot Long twice at close range. Or did he? For years, historians have suggested Weiss merely pulled a knife and that Long’s overzealous bodyguards shot both Weiss and Long. Numerous assassination plots and conspiracies were afoot at the time of Long’s death, but with all of the players long since dead, it’s impossible to say who really fired the fatal shots.
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda was hit by two anti-aircraft missiles, crashing the plane and killing him and nine others. But that was only the beginning of the violence. Rumors flew that Paul Kagame, a political rival and member of the Tutsi ethnic group, engineered the attack, and many Tutsis were killed in retaliation, setting off a holocaust. Many Rwandans insist that the President’s own supporters engineered the murder as an excuse to exterminated the Tutsis.
On February 22, 1974, unemployed tire salesman Samuel Byck (above) used a gun to force his way onto an airliner waiting to take-off from the Baltimore-Washington Airport. His plan was to hijack the plane and crash it into the White House in hopes of assassinating President Richard Nixon. After Byck killed one of the plane’s pilots, a police officer shot the would-be assassin four times through the plane’s cockpit door. Gravely wounded and surrounded by police, Byck took his own life, thus sparing the president’s.
The following year, President Ford escaped two assassination attempts just days apart. On September 5, 1975, a Charles Manson follower named “Squeaky” Fromme (above) tried to shoot Ford as he walked across the State Capitol grounds in Sacramento, California. However, Fromme was wrestled to the ground by a Secret Service agent before she could fire her gun. On September 22, FBI informant Sara Jane Moore fired two shots at Ford as he emerged from a San Francisco hotel after giving a speech. The first bullet narrowly missed the 38th president, while the second went wide. A police officer tackled Moore before she could fire again.
On December 30, 1999, another Beatle came close to being killed by an assassin. Mental patient Mick Abram broke into George Harrison’s mansion, stabbing the songwriter numerous times. Harrison was saved from certain death when his wife Olivia hit the intruder with a lamp. One Harrison fansite believes it was a conspiracy, based on a numerological analysis: “The numbers indicate that George Harrison’s assault was a purposeful hit, as he no doubt perceived. Whether or not it was a satanic and/or freemasonic hit cannot be determined by the numbers or knife alone.”
One of the most shocking videos on YouTube shows the January 19, 2013 near-killing of Ahmed Dogan, leader of Bulgaria’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms party. Dogan is seen speaking at a conference when, out of nowhere, a man careens across the stage, points a gun at his head, and pulls the trigger. Security guards tackled the suspect and Dogan’s fellow politicians beat the assassin savagely.
Lee Harvey Oswald
Everyone knows the story of how grief-stricken, enraged nightclub owner named Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in the gut live on national television as revenge for the alleged assassination of JFK. But was it an assassination planned in a sinister conspiracy? Did Ruby do a favor for a mobster he owed money to, in order to cover up the Mafia’s role in the killing of President Kennedy?
On November 4, 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was leaving a peace rally in Tel Aviv when a man named Yigal Amir shot him three times at close range, fatally wounding him. Police quickly tackled Amir and arrested him. A member of an extreme right-wing organization who opposed Rabin’s peace initiatives with the Palestinians, the assassin received life in prison for the murder.
One of the most influential black activists in American history, Malcolm X was shot dead at a conference in New York on February 21, 1965. After a deliberately-staged disruption involving unidentified co-conspirators, a man seated in the front row pulled out a double-barreled shotgun and shot Malcolm once in the chest. Two other men then charged the stage, firing handguns and hitting Malcolm X several more times. Although the three gunmen were connected to the Nation of Islam, an organization Malcolm X had split with a year earlier, a bungled investigation has obscured the true motives.
The men who assassinated Rafic Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, wanted to be damn sure their target was dead. On February 14, 2005, they detonated a bomb containing more than 2000 pounds of explosives as Hariri’s motorcade drove through downtown Beirut. The enormous blast obliterated Hariri and 21 others. Although there was no shortage of suspects in the assassination, most believe Hezbollah was responsible.
On March 31, 1995, the hugely popular Mexican-American singer Selena agreed to meet her fan club’s former president in a motel room in Corpus Christi, Texas. The woman, Yolanda Saldivar, was suspected of stealing money from the singer’s boutique and ostensibly agreed to the meeting to turn over relevant financial documents. At some point in the meeting, Saldivar pulled a gun and fired a single shot at Selena, killing her. Though Saldivar claimed the shooting was accidental, she was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand
In a series of unfortunate events, the murder of one man led to the deaths of 16 million others. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was shot dead in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb. The killing was an attempt to force Austria’s southern provinces to join Serbia, but because of a complex set of treaties in place throughout Europe at the time, Ferdinand’s murder led directly to the outbreak of WWI just a few weeks later. Disturbingly, it was only because of a wrong turn after leaving a parade that Ferdinand’s driver drove past the assassin.
Although many assassination attempts against Nazi officials failed, the good guys did get Reinhard Heydrich. Known as the “Butcher of Prague” for his indiscriminate murder of Czech civilians during WWII, Heydrich also indulged his bloodthirsty tendencies as a chief architect of the Holocaust. In 1942, he was riding to his office when two British-trained Czech agents threw a bomb into his car, mortally wounding him. When the Butcher died a week later, the Nazis executed hundreds of innocent people in their search for the assassins, who were eventually found and killed in a shootout.
George Wallace was obviously never meant to survive his 1972 assassination and he shouldn’t have. Shot repeatedly at close range by Arthur Bremer at a shopping mall in Maryland, the Alabama Governor, campaigning for President, was left paralyzed. Bremer had sought to kill Wallace in order to achieve infamy, according to his diary, but Wallace had won the previous, crucial primary in Florida and looked to be a formidable candidate for the Democratic nomination. If Bremer had another motivation, he served 35 years without talking.
Though a dictator, Julius Caesar was popular with the people of Rome. (Back then, “dictator” just meant sole leader and they were appointed by the governing Consuls in times of crisis.) But Caesar’s brash style clashed with his fellow politicians. On March 15, 44 B.C., a man named Cimber approached the Roman Consul to plead leniency for a wayward relative. When Caesar refused, Cimber grabbed him, allowing other conspirators to rush forward, knives in hand. Within seconds, Caesar lay dead of 23 stab wounds.
On January 5, 1757, King Louis XV of France was walking his palace grounds when a man named Robert Damiens got by the royal guard and stabbed the monarch. Certain he was going to die, Louis called for a priest to give his last confession, and begged forgiveness from his wife for all his bad behavior. But Louis miraculous survived — his would-be assassin had used only a tiny penknife as his weapon. A former soldier and mental patient, Damiens was nevertheless tortured to death.