Lennon, who was 40, was entering his Manhattan apartment building on New York’s Upper East Side in the evening when Mark David Chapman shot him four times at close range. Chapman was a 25-year-old former security guard from Honolulu, Hawaii, and had no prior criminal convictions.
Earlier in the day, Chapman had received Lennon’s autograph on his copy of Double Fantasy. Lennon gave Chapman the autograph justbefore he left to attend a recording session at the Recording Plant with his wife, Yoko Ono.
A few hours earlier, Lennon took part in a photo shoot for Rolling Stone magazine and soon after gave what would be his final ever interview to San Francisco DJ Dave Sholin, for a music show on RKO’s Radio Network.
At around 5pm, Lennon went to mix Ono’s song “Walking on Thin Ice” at the Record Plant – a song on which Lennon featured on lead guitar.
As they were leaving, Lennon gave Chapman his autograph. Chapman later said of the moment: “He was very kind to me. Ironically, very kind and was very patient with me. 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.”
The moment was captured by Paul Goresh, an amateur photographer and fan of John Lennon.
On Lennon’s return to his apartment – the Dakota building – with Ono at around 10:50pm, Chapman fired five bullets at Lennon, four of which hit him in the back.
Lennon was rushed to the nearby Roosevelt Hospital in a police car, but died en route. He was reported dead on arrival.
Chapman voluntarily remained at the scene of the shooting reading J. D. Salinger‘sThe Catcher in the Rye until he was later arrested by police. He had been planning the killing over several months and claimed that he was inspired by the character Holden Caulfield from Salinger‘s novel.
Soon after news broke of Lennon’s passing, a worldwide outpouring of grief followed. Fans gathered to remember Lennon outside the Roosevelt Hospital and in front of the Dakota building. Fans set up vigils which lasted weeks.
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The following day, Ono issued a statement: “There is no funeral for John. Later in the week we will set the time for a silent vigil to pray for his soul. We invite you to participate from wherever you are at the time… John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him. Love. Yoko and Sean.”
Psychiatrists deemed Chapman a borderline psychotic and he was instructed to plead insanity. However, he pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced 20 years to life.
He remains behind bars, despite his numerous attempts to request parole.
There is now a John Lennon memorial in “Strawberry Fields,” a section of Central Park across the street from the Dakota Building that Ono landscaped in memory of her late husband.