On This Date in History: John Lennon was shot and killed on this date in 1980. I remember I was in my dorm room at Jester Hall at the University of Texas at Austin. 13th floor…methinks it was room 1325. Gary Hindman was my roomate. I called him Captain America. It was a Monday night because Howard Cosell announced the shooting toward the end of Monday Night Football.
Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, lived in an apartment in New York called The Dakota. A bunch of people were hanging around waiting to catch a glimpse of the couple. Mark David Chapman was a messed up guy who got into reading JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. He related to the protagonist of the novel about disaffected youth. Chapman lived in Hawaii and decided that he would shoot Lennon since he mused that Lennon was a phony. He bought a gun in Hawaii and flew to New York. He called his wife to tell him what he was going to do but she did not report it or say anything because she did not believe him. Chapman was unable to purchase ammunition for his gun in New York so he flew to Atlanta where he bought dum-dum bullets and a copy of Catcher in the Rye. He returned to New York and when Lennon and Ono emerged from The Dakota, he shot him in the back and then twice in the shoulder. I read some report that claimed Lennon lost 80% of his blood.
An interesting thing about Lennon’s death is that the reporting and public reaction were similar to that when JFK, RFK and MLK were assassinated. It mirrored what would happen a few months later when President Reagan was shot…I was in Jester Hall then too. But those guys were all politicians. He was a musician but one who had an influence perhaps on par with presidents. Now, Chapman at the last moment pleaded guilty instead of copping an insanity plea. He was given 20 years to life….
Here’s the kicker….he went to Attica Prison where in 1970 the famous riot broke out and Lennon became inspired to write Attica State, aka Free All Prisoners Everywhere. Chapman became a born-again Christian in prison and does evangelical writing.