Sunday, January 22, 2012


On the morning of January 22, 1987, State Treasurer Robert Budd Dwyer called a press conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for what was thought to be a public statement about his conviction on bribery charges.  Instead, he held a very public suicide in front of the press with cameras rolling.  It is one of the most horrifying incidents of public suicide ever captured on tape.

Well, listen Bob, I'm quite sure all of this will be over soon...
Dwyer was guilty of soliciting a $300,000 dollar bribe in exchange for steering S4.6 million in public money toward a California based technologies company called Computer Technology Associates run by Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native John Torquato Jr.  The Governor's office was tipped off to the bribe by an anonymous letter.  Charges were filed and it was all downhill from there.

So, on the morning of January, 22nd, Budd Dwyer stepped up to the podium to hold a press conference.  Appearing what was described by others as "nervous" and "agitated," he read a prepared statement declaring his innocence and thanking god for the happy years he had lived.  He further stated he would not step down as Treasurer...

Then, he stopped reading...

Moments later, he called to three of his staffers and handed them sealed envelopes.  One was a suicide note to his wife, a second was said to contain an organ donor card and other pieces of information and a third that contained a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey.

"Please leave the room if this will offend you."

He was systematic about this, taking time to make sure the letters would get to their destination.  Then he pulled a .357 Magnum from a manila envelope and made an announcement to the crowd amid audible gasps and screams.  He said, "Please leave the room if this will offend you."

Then, when it became clear that people intended to stop him, he put the barrel of the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

All of this was captured by tv cameras in the room.  In fact, one cameraman decided to get a close up of Budd Dwyer's dead body gushing blood from his nasal cavity in a long, uninterrupted stream.  Ironically, audio from the tape captured the voice of a man telling people that there was nothing to see.

The gruesome and undeniably disturbing footage of this press conference turned suicide is readily available on the internet.  If you choose to seek it out, it is not something you will likely forget any time soon.  In the years before the digital age, VHS tape copies of the footage were traded by gore fanatics and the morbidly curious.  

In case you were wondering.  That was 25 years ago to the day.  Had he chose to serve his prison term, he would still have thirty years left on his sentence.

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