Forty years ago today, on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was fatally shot at his residence at the Dakota building in New York City. The perpetrator was Mark David Chapman, a recently unemployed security guard and resident of Hawaii. Chapman stated that he was incensed by Lennon's lifestyle and public statements and was inspired by the fictional character Holden Caulfield from J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye. The photo above is the last photo taken of John Lennon, autographing a Double Fantasy album cover for Chapman earlier that day by photographer and Lennon fan Paul Goresh.
At approximately 5:00 p.m., Lennon and Ono left the Dakota for a recording session at Record Plant Studios. As they were walking to a limousine, they were approached by Chapman, who was seeking an autograph. It was common for fans to wait outside the Dakota to meet Lennon and ask for his autograph. According to Chapman himself, “He was very kind to me. Ironically, very kind and was very patient with me,” he said. “The limousine was waiting … and he took his time with me and he got the pen going and he signed my album. He asked me if I needed anything else. I said, ‘No. No sir.’ And he walked away. Very cordial and decent man.” In a 1992 interview with Larry King, Chapman would say that he felt Lennon knew that there was something suspicious about him.
The Lennons spent several hours at the Record Plant studio before returning to the Dakota at approximately 10:50 p.m. Lennon had decided against dining out so he could be home in time to say goodnight to his son, before going on to the Stage Deli restaurant with Ono. Lennon liked to oblige, with autographs or pictures, any fans who had been waiting for long periods of time to meet him. The Lennons exited their limousine on 72nd Street instead of driving into the more secure courtyard of the Dakota.
The Dakota doorman Jose Perdomo and a nearby taxi driver saw Chapman standing in the shadows by the archway. The Lennons passed Chapman and walked toward the archway entrance of the building. As Ono passed by, Chapman nodded at her. As Lennon passed by, he glanced briefly at Chapman, appearing to recognize him from earlier. From the street behind them, Chapman fired five hollow-point bullets from a .38 special revolver, four of which hit Lennon in the back. Based on statements made that night by NYPD Chief of Detectives James Sullivan, numerous radio, television, and newspaper reports claimed at the time that, before firing, Chapman called out, "Mr. Lennon", and dropped into a combat stance. Chapman remained at the scene until he was arrested by the police, reading The Catcher in the Rye. Lennon was rushed in a police cruiser to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
The breaking news was reported by Ted Koppel on ABC News:
More details on the events that occurred during that day leading up to the shooting including Lennon's photograph session with Annie Leibovitz for the Rolling Stone Magazine cover and his last radio interview:
As the events unfolded that day, sportscaster and friend of John Lennon, Howard Cossell, was first to announce the news of the murder nationally on Monday Night Football:
Howard Cossell during the Monday Night Football broadcast, would continue to comment on the shocking and tragic news of the assassination:
Paul McCartney's shocked reaction to the news of the murder:
A worldwide outpouring of grief ensued on an unprecedented scale. Crowds gathered at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of the Dakota, and at least three Beatles fans committed suicide. Yoko Ono, requested 10 minutes of silence around the world instead of holding a funeral. Here is footage which includes Today Show with Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley morning after the murder took place:
Mark David Chapman pleaded guilty of murdering Lennon and was given a sentence of 20-years-to-life imprisonment. He has been denied parole ten times since he became eligible in 2000. Chapman recollects the events that occurred the day of the shooting in aere is the segment of the Larry King Live Interview of Chapman in 1992:
Strawberry Fields Memorial in West Central Park near the Dakota Building.
"Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears." - John Lennon
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