About when The Beatles’ John Lennon was shot and killed in New York City (1980)

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

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The shocking murder of The Beatles’ John Lennon (1980)

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 Want to 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.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono on Rolling Stone cover
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

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.

People magazine cover - 1980 - John Lennon tribute
People magazine cover featuring a tribute to John Lennon, from December 22, 1980.

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.”

John Lennon and Mark David Chapman

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.

Beatles - LIFE Aug 28, 1964

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.”

MORE: Dad takes dare and attends a Beatles concert – plus a teen fan describes the chaos in the ’60s

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.

John Lennon killed - New York City newspaper front page - December 9, 1980

John Lennon mourners sing outside the Dakota

New York — Young women wept and embraced. Some of them were in grade school when the Beatles cut their last album.

They were gathered today outside the Dakota, the apartment building where rock ‘n’ roll legend John Lennon was shot and killed Monday night.

The scent of incense wafted through the air and the Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields” blared from a speaker on the roof of one of the cabs double-parked along the busy roadway outside the building.

A young man collapsed as police fought to keep the crowd from the gateway leading to the ultra-exclusive Dakota, where Lennon had lived.

The crowd of some 500 arrived by foot, cab, subway and car and milled mournfully outside the Dakota.

Clusters of fans huddled around transistor radios listening to reports of the shootings, and later, to Beatles’ music.

In the early morning hours, as shock gave way to sorrow, people began singing, swaying rhythmically, and holding lighted matches above their heads.

John Lennon: “Imagine” video

The Los Angeles Times: Beatle John Lennon Slain

John Lennon killed - Los Angeles newspaper front page - December 9, 1980

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. I was in high school when John Lennon was shot. Half the kids were freaking out and openly crying in the halls. The other half were asking, “Who’s this John Lennon everyone’s talking about?” The weekend after he was shot, our church youth group took a bus trip to NYC. A group of us walked up to the Dakota to see what was going on; it was almost a circus atmosphere, with vendors hawking t-shirts and even balloons to the mourners and curiosity seekers. The crowd was so big that we couldn’t get anywhere near the building.

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