Then-President Gerald Ford was in San Francisco's financial district on Monday afternoon, Sept. 22, 1975.
He had been on the Stanford campus the previous day to help dedicate the new law school building.
When Ford stepped out of the St. Francis Hotel, there was a popping sound as a bullet whizzed by his head, missing him by six inches.
The woman who had shot at him was quickly disarmed.
She was a middle-aged woman, formerly married to an East Bay physician. They had lived in a nice house in Danville. She had campaigned for Republicans.
So why did Sara Jane Moore try to kill Gerald Ford?
Palo Alto writer Geri Spieler first encountered Moore more than 30 years ago, after Moore was arrested.
Spieler, who was then a Los Angeles newspaper reporter, interviewed Moore in prison and kept in contact with her for 28 years.
"Taking Aim at the President" is Spieler's attempt to understand Moore and what she tried to do. It's a fascinating story, full of contradictions, because Moore herself is difficult to fathom.
Spieler interviewed high-school classmates, Danville neighbors, family members and others who knew Moore over the years.
Moore, who was paroled in 2007, did not contribute to the book or cooperate with Spieler. During a 2003 phone conversation with Spieler, Moore made it clear she wanted to control the content of the book.
"She proceeded to tell me exactly how this project was going to be done," Spieler wrote. "She would approve my book proposal to be sure it was the book she wanted to publish; she would supply me with a list of interviewees; and she would read and approve everything I wrote. Then she demanded to see and review my contract with my agent, and she said she would call her after that review."
"That is not how I work," Spieler replied. It was the last time the women spoke.
Moore grew up on the edge of Charleston, W.Va., part of a middle-class family with three brothers and two sisters. The family was respectable. But Spieler discovered, as she wrote, "some cracks" in the family façade.
"Ruth was a solid neighborhood mom, but she was also a perfectionist; she was rarely satisfied with her children’s efforts," the author wrote. She often redid their children's chores because the efforts were not good enough.
Moore was a straight-"A" high school student not remembered fondly by her classmates, who described her as "aloof” or "odd."
"One day in the fall of 1946, when Sara Jane was sixteen, she left home for school but never showed up," Spieler wrote. Moore went missing for three days.
When she reappeared, in the clothes she had worn when she left for school, she was silent about where she had been or why.
She later went to nursing school, then joined the Woman's Army Corps (WACs) and then married a Marine sergeant. It was the first of four sometimes short-lived marriages that produced five children.
Moore abandoned her three children at one point to her own mother and father back in West Virginia.
Later, when she was in prison, her 24-year-old daughter, whom Moore had not seen for 21 years, tried to visit her in prison. "I have no daughter," Moore told prison officials.
Moore made an effort in her fourth marriage, to the Danville doctor, to fit in with the East Bay country-club set but it never worked out, and not because of politics. Moore was a fervent supporter of then-Republican Sen. George Murphy, who lost a reelection bid in 1970. The other women who were part of that crowd just didn't like her.
A messy and contentious divorce proceeding in 1972 turned into an annulment and a financial disaster for Moore because she had not divorced her previous husband.
That brings the story to the early 1970s and the political turmoil of the time, when Moore turned from Republican supporter to become involved in political groups on the radical left in the Bay Area.
Spieler does an excellent job of recapping the intensity and polarization of those years in the early 1970s, including the actions of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), the self-styled revolutionary group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. That led to a food program for the poor funded by Hearst's father that Moore became the media spokeswoman for, a friendship with prison activist George "Popeye" Jackson and his prison reform group, and links to other leftist activists.
Moore's activities also led her to becoming an informant for the FBI, which was desperately trying to find Patty Hearst.
Moore's links to both radical activists and the FBI sounds strange from this distance, but the FBI back then was trying to use anyone who might be helpful to its efforts. And Moore was chameleon-like in her ability to switch gears, switch husbands and switch sides. Ultimately, no one trusted her and she became a pariah to her former activist friends.
The story of Sara Jane Moore is also a story about the changing times she lived in and how those currents may have affected her.
But a running thread through her story is how she "turned her back on her parents, her siblings and four of her children,” Spieler wrote. "She lied to anyone who she might have become close to and repeatedly misrepresented herself and withheld information ..."
Moore was released from prison in 2007 at the age of 77, after serving 32 years and with five years of supervised parole ahead. Her whereabouts are publicly not known.
But Sara Jane Moore might have been much, much more famous.
When she joined the WACs as a young woman, she learned to use guns. And she had a .44 caliber handgun until the police took it through a search warrant two days before she shot at Ford. The .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver Moore used to shoot at Ford was purchased earlier the same day from an East Bay gun dealer.
It was likely sold to the dealer by a San Francisco cop because the Standing 40 feet from Ford, Moore's bullet missed his head by six inches, thanks to the faulty sight.
Causes Geri Spieler Supports
Gobal Tolerance, Village Harvest, harvesting produce for the homeless and hungry. American Lung Association, Big Brothers and Big Sisters,