New York — John Lennon, the former Beatle whose music set the beat for a revolutionary youth generation in the 1960s, was shot to death outside his Manhattan home by a man who earlier obtained his autograph on the rock star’s new record album, police said today.
The assailant was identified as Mark David Chapman, 25, who was only 7 when the Beatles first burst upon the world stage in 1963 with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
Police said Chapman killed Lennon Monday night with a snub-nosed .38-caliber Charter Arms revolver he bought in Honolulu just six weeks ago. He was charged with second degree murder and scheduled for arraignment later today.
The bespectacled Lennon, who at 40 had launched a comeback with the album “Double Fantasy,” fell to the floor of the vestibule of the exclusive Dakota Apartments, the cooperative turn-of-the-century building that is home to hundreds of celebrities in the city.
Police say Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, looked on in horror as Chapman assumed a combat stance and pumped five bullets into the rock star’s chest and arms.
Former Beatle John Lennon shot to death outside New York home
“I’m shot,” Lennon cried and slumped to the floor.
The slaying stunned the world. Radio stations were jammed with calls from fans who pleaded “Tell me it’s not true… It can’t be true.”
Hundreds gathered outside the Dakota to pay homage to Lennon, one of the most prolific songwriters of modern time, whose music helped define the turbulent ’60s.
They sang, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” A police officer placed a bouquet of white flowers at the entrance to the building’s courtyard.
Lennon was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital, where doctors worked feverishly to save him.
“Tell me it isn’t true,” Ms Ono cried in the police car as the couple was raced to the hospital.
Chapman, a former security guard who lived in Honolulu and was described by police as “a wacko,” who had been loitering around the Dakota for several days in an area of the courtyard set aside for autograph seekers.
“Do you know what you just did?” the doorman of the Dakota, whose facade was splattered with blood, reportedly asked Chapman.
“I just shot John Lennon,” Chapman reportedly replied.
Lennon killed by Mark David Chapman
Police said Chapman bought the pistol, similar to a model used by detectives, six weeks ago at a gun shop about a block from the Honolulu police station.
Police said Lennon drove into the Dakota’s courtyard shortly before 11 pm with his wife. The singer had been at a recording session.
In the afternoon, when Lennon left for the studio, Chapman reportedly got him to autograph a copy of his latest album, which features a cover picture of Lennon and Ms Ono in front of the Dakota.
When Lennon returned, police said, Chapman was waiting in the courtyard.
As Lennon left his car and walked toward the vestibule, police said, Chapman approached him, calling out, “Mr Lennon?” They said he then drew the gun from his coat, crouched down and fired five times.
Lennon staggered about six steps to a small guard’s office at the entrance of the building and fell face down.
While the doormen summoned police and doctors, witnesses said, Chapman waited calmly. They said he dropped his gun, which a guard kicked aside and waited for police.
One witness, Sean Strub, said the gunman had “almost a smirk on his face.”
Police carried the dying Lennon into a squad car and, with his wife at his side, raced to Roosevelt Hospital.
“Tell me he’s all right,” Ms Ono screamed as the police car sped to the hospital, a police officer said. “Tell me he’s all right.”
James Moran, the police officer who took Lennon to the hospital, said the singer was bleeding badly from the chest.
“Are you John Lennon?” the officer asked over and over. But Lennon only mumbled and moaned.
A hospital spokesman said Lennon suffered seven wounds to the chest, head and arm.
“John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him,” his widow said in a statement issued by David Geffen, a record producer and friend of the couple.
Ringo Starr, the Beatles’ drummer, was informed of Lennon’s death while on vacation “somewhere in Europe” and left immediately for the United States. A spokesman said, “He is extremely shocked. He doesn’t want to say more.”
A spokesman for Paul McCartney, with whom Lennon collaborated on most of the Beatles’ songs, said Lennon “was much respected and, although certainly reclusive in recent years, was much loved by all those who knew him. It is a deep, deep shock.”
The whereabouts of the fourth Beatle, George Harrison, were not immediately known.
Top photo: John Lennon & Yoko Ono in August 1980; Photo 2: The photo on the cover of the January 22, 1981 issue of Rolling Stone was taken by Annie Leibovitz on the day of Lennon’s death; Photo 3: Chapman’s mugshot; Photo 4: Chapman meeting Lennon earlier on the day of the murder; Photo 5: People magazine cover featuring a tribute to John Lennon, from December 22, 1980.