The first NYPD officers to arrive on the scene were Steve Spiro and Peter Cullen, who had been on patrol at Broadway and 72nd Street when the first calls about the shooting came through. Upon their arrival they drew their guns and shouted “Put your hands up” at the Dakota’s duty concierge Jay Hastings, who was kneeling by John Lennon and was covered in blood. “Not him,” Perdomo told them. “He works here. He’s the one,” he said, pointing to Mark Chapman.
Spiro and Cullen forced Chapman against a wall of the Dakota building, searching him for concealed weapons. “Don’t hurt me, stay with me,” he asked the officers. The search revealed keys, the copy of The Catcher In The Rye, and a wallet containing $2,000 in cash. Spiro handcuffed Chapman, and Perdomo recovered the gun and handed it to his co-worker.
Fellow officers Bill Gamble and James Moran arrived and, seeing that the suspect was under control, rushed inside the Dakota. Against Yoko Ono’s wishes, Gamble turned over Lennon’s body to determine the extent of his injuries. “What is your name?” he asked. Although he struggled to reply, John eventually managed to say: “Lennon”.
Realising that his injuries were too severe to wait for an ambulance, Gamble and Moran carried Lennon to their car. Moran took Lennon legs and Gamble carried him by his underarms, and they placed him on the back seat. Gamble kneeled by his side as Moran drove at 50mph speeds to the nearest emergency hospital, St Luke’s Roosevelt on West 59th Street.
Gamble attempted to keep Lennon conscious by talking to him. “Are you sure you’re John Lennon?” he asked. “I am,” came the reply. “How do you feel?” “I’m in pain,” he is reported to have said.
Moran had contacted the hospital as he drove. Behind them was another police car, driven by Officer Anthony Palmer and containing an increasingly hysterical Ono.
Upon their arrival at the hospital a rolling stretcher was waiting. Medical director Dr Stephan Lynn took Lennon into the emergency room, while Ono called the Dakota to check on their son Sean’s safety. Lennon had no pulse and wasn’t breathing, but for 20 minutes Lynn and two other doctors opened his chest and attempted manual heart massage to try and restore circulation.
Despite the hospital’s attempts, including blood transfusions and surgery by highly-trained staff, they were unable to save him. Dr Lynn pronounced John Lennon dead on arrival in the emergency room at the Roosevelt Hospital at 11.07pm on 8 December 1980.
Lynn informed Ono at 11.15pm. “He never stood a chance,” he said. “Nothing we were able to do could revive your husband. We believe the first bullet killed him. It ripped through John’s chest causing irreparable damage to a major artery.” In a state of shock, Ono asked him: “Do you mean that he is sleeping?”
The cause of death was reported as hypovolemic shock, caused by the loss of more than 80% of blood volume. The hollow-point bullets used by Chapman expanded upon entering the body, causing irreparable damage to Lennon’s organs.
The news of Lennon’s death broke on WABC TV’s Monday Night Football. The producer, Bob Goodrich, told host Howard Cosell, who announced it on-air during a televised match between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins.
Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy, confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous, perhaps, of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to the Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival.
NBC announced the news during The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; the show was interrupted by a news bulletin. On CBS Lennon’s death was reported by Walter Cronkite and reporters.
At the Record Plant Studio, producer Jack Douglas had continued work on ‘Walking On Thin Ice’. His wife informed him of Lennon’s death at 11.35pm. The news sent him into a state of shock, and he decided to wipe the tapes of studio banter between him and Lennon recorded that day. He has never revealed the precise nature of their conversations.
Also on this day...
- 2010: Tributes held worldwide to mark 30 years of John Lennon’s passing
- 1969: Recording: Octopus’s Garden
- 1967: UK EP release: Magical Mystery Tour
- 1966: Recording, editing: When I’m Sixty-Four, Strawberry Fields Forever
- 1965: Live: Gaumont Cinema, Sheffield
- 1964: George Harrison visits Ringo Starr in hospital
- 1963: Live: Odeon Cinema, Lewisham
- 1962: Live: Oasis Club, Manchester
- 1961: Live: Tower Ballroom, New Brighton, Wallasey
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.