HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) – Arthur H. Bremer, who simply reached through a crowd to shoot George Wallace, walked quietly out of prison Friday and into a society far safer for presidential candidates than it was when he paralyzed the Alabama governor.

In the nine years before Bremer shot Wallace in a shopping center parking lot, assassins killed a U.S. president, a presidential contender and the nation’s leading civil rights activist. In the 35 years since, attempts on two presidents’ lives have failed.

Each attack made it harder for the next one to succeed, former Secret Service agents said, but candidates’ safety still comes down to how close they want to get to the throngs.

“It’s the democratic way. The candidates have to go to the people and shake hands,” said Nick J. Zarvos, who was shot in the neck as a member of Wallace’s Secret Service detail. “Nowadays you just screen the people better, just like the changes that have been made at airports. You just try to stay ahead of the game.”

Bremer, 57, left the Maryland Correctional Institution near Hagerstown before dawn Friday after serving 35 years of his 53-year sentence for attempted murder. He earned his mandatory release through good behavior and by working in prison.

He didn’t speak to reporters and doesn’t want to, state prison officials said.

“He’s kept a decidedly low profile,” state Parole Commission Chairman David R. Blumberg said. “He’s turned down all requests for notoriety and interviews, including some that had money attached to them.”

The former busboy and janitor didn’t always feel that way. In his diary, he likened himself to President Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth, and said he, too, wanted “to do something bold and dramatic.”

Wallace, a fiery segregationist during the 1960s, was wounded along with Zarvos and two others on May 15, 1972, during a campaign stop in Laurel, Md. He lost his bid for the Democratic nomination, spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair and died in 1998.

Bremer grew up in Milwaukee during an era of remarkable violence against national public figures. President Kennedy’s murder in 1963 was followed by the assassinations in 1968 of the Rev. Martin Luther King and, two months later, Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.

Armored vehicles were put into use for presidential motorcades after President Kennedy’s assassination, said Joseph A. LaSorsa, who retired from the Secret Service in 1996 and runs a security firm in Pompano Beach, Fla. The Secret Service started offering protection to presidential candidates after Robert Kennedy was slain, he said, and since the Bremer attack, agents have scouted campaign stops much more thoroughly before candidates arrive.

“Every attempt triggers the implementation of additional countermeasures,” LaSorsa said.

Today, many candidates eschew appearances in wide-open areas such as mall parking lots, and limit interaction with ordinary voters. Rudy Giuliani travels with private security, and his crew has been known to whisk him away quickly from events.

Secret Service agents travel with Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, but other candidates say that level of protection would cramp their style.

“I’ve never done it. After we won New Hampshire in 2000, they really tried to get us, but we said no,” John McCain said Friday in Concord, N.H. “It’s an invasion of your ability to have contact with voters.”

Zarvos agreed Secret Service details are more sophisticated and effective now than when Wallace was shot – he noted, for instance, that candidates often attend events where the entire audience has been screened with metal detectors, something unheard of in 1972.

Zarvos who suffered a paralyzed vocal cord in the shooting.

“I asked myself what we could have done, but didn’t come up with any answers,” he said.

Bremer, 21 at the time, was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 53 years. He had been held at the medium-security prison near Hagerstown, about 70 miles from Baltimore, since 1979.

The Division of Parole and Probation will supervise him until his sentence ends in 2025, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said.

Under the conditions of his release, Bremer must stay away from elected officials and candidates. He must undergo a mental health evaluation and receive treatment if the state deems it necessary, and he can’t leave Maryland without written permission from the parole commission. The conditions also require Bremer to submit to electronic monitoring.

Wallace family members said Bremer hasn’t been punished enough.

“My father forgave him and my family has forgiven him. That’s consistent with God’s law,” George Wallace Jr. said in Montgomery, Ala. “Then there is man’s law. I doubt the punishment has fit the crime.”

Peggy Wallace Kennedy, the governor’s daughter, she thought Bremer was “getting out 171/2 years too early.”

The parole agency didn’t say where in the state Bremer has gone to live. Privacy, the agency said in a news release, will allow Bremer “to become acclimated to today’s world at his own pace and with as much anonymity as possible.”

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