John Lennon’s final hours


Photo: John Lennon signs autograph for Mark David Chapman just hours before the shooting.


Monday, December 8, 1980 began early for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, writes Michael Kaplan in the New York Post.


They ate breakfast at their usual table in their favorite neighborhood restaurant, Café La Fortuna. It was a modest spot, known for Italian pastries. After John’s death, the table was placed in the window as a memento mori.

Morning meal completed, John Lennon slipped out for a haircut. Enjoying the city, he strolled without a bodyguard.

He returned home with his locks styled in the combed-back manner of a Teddy boy, throwing back to his 1950s youth in Liverpool.

Annie Leibovitz, Rolling Stone’s chief photographer, arrived for a cover shoot.



After Leibovitz left, John and Yoko met with radio host Dave Sholin and producer Laurie Kaye for a free-flowing interview in The Dakota apartment.

Some 90 minutes later, they all headed downstairs.

A small crowd waited outside, hoping to snag autographs. A heavyset young man in an overcoat stood among them, waving a copy of ‘Double Fantasy’ [John and Yoko’s album that had been released in October]. Accommodatingly, the singer wrote, ‘John Lennon, 1980.’

“Is that all?” John asked. “Do you want anything else?”

The man shook his head no. In the midst of this, a photo was snapped by Paul Goresh — an amateur lenser. The image [top photo] captured John Lennon inches away from his assassin Mark David Chapman.


John Lennon and Yoko then headed off in a car to the Record Plant for a final listen of their new song. They signed off on the recording.

“John was happy that it was going to be Yoko’s single instead of his single,” recalled Sam Ginsberg, an engineer at the Record Plant. “We just finished mixing that song and they left. The one thing that stuck in my mind was John saying, ‘I’m hungry. Should we stop at Wolf’s for a hamburger?’”

But John decided to head home so they could check on their son Sean, Kaplan writes.

Their limousine pulled up to The Dakota’s front gate at around 10:50 p.m.


“The car could have gone deeper into the driveway, and they could have stepped out right where the door is,” author Keith Elliot Greenberg reported later. “But he chose to step onto the sidewalk, as he usually did. He liked the fans.”

Chapman was waiting, Kaplan continues. This time, he assumed a combat stance, aimed his .38 Special revolver and shot four hollow-point bullets into the singer’s torso.

Police artist sketch of the shooting.

Police raced to the scene. Chapman was handcuffed. Two officers carried the ­dying Lennon to the back of their patrol car. Siren wailing, they roared off to the old Roosevelt Hospital at Ninth Avenue and 59th Street. Yoko followed in a second police vehicle.

Laurie Kaye, who had interviewed John and Yoko earlier in The Dakota, heard a radio report of the shooting. “I raced to hospital,” she said. “I looked through the window and saw Yoko inside. She was crying. I knew, at that moment, that John was dead.”

Shocked fans gather outside The Dakota after the shooting.


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Four bullets from a madman’s gun

On December 8, 1980 at 10:50 p.m. outside the Dakota Apartments on the Upper West Side, a man who had been stalking the Beatles legend stepped out of the shadows and fired five hollow-point bullets from a .38-caliber revolver. Four of the bullets ripped into John Lennon’s back.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono had just returned to the Dakota after a recording session downtown. They got out of their limousine at the 72nd Street curb.

A fat little nobody was standing just inside the arch to the building. As the Lennons walked by he called out, “Mr. Lennon.” Then, he reportedly dropped into “a combat stance” and emptied the chamber of his .38 revolver. Four of the bullets struck John Lennon, two in the left side of his back and two in his left shoulder. All four caused massive internal damage and bleeding.

Lennon staggered up six steps to the room at the end of the entrance used by the concierge and said, “I’m shot.” He fell to the pavement.

Remembering John Lennon
Police artist sketch of the shooting


New York City cops Steve Spire and Peter Cullen were in their patrol car at 72nd Street and Broadway when they heard a report of shots fired at the Dakota. They raced to the scene and found the shooter “very calmly” standing there.

He had dropped the revolver. He had a paperback copy of J.D. Salinger’s ’The Catcher in the Rye,’ and a cassette recorder with 14 hours of Beatles tapes.

The second police team to arrive, Bill Gamble and James Moran, picked up Lennon and stretched him out on the back seat of their patrol car. Lennon was still alive. One of the cops asked him, “Are you John Lennon?” Lennon moaned, “Yeah.”

The cops sped to nearby Roosevelt Hospital.


In the emergency room, Dr Stephan Lynn and his team worked frantically to try to bring the music icon back to life.

“He had no signs of life, no blood pressure, no pulse,” Dr Lynn later told reporters. “We opened his left chest with a scalpel. I held his heart in my hand as the nurses rapidly transfused blood. But there was no way we could repair the massive injury to all of the blood vessels in the body.”

John Lennon was pronounced dead at 11:15 p.m. No one could have lived more than a few minutes with such injuries, said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Elliott Gross.

Yoko Ono was taken to Roosevelt Hospital, crying “Tell me it’s not true,” She was led away in shock when she learned her husband was dead.

Remembering John Lennon


Within minutes, hundreds of people, many openly weeping, began to gather at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of the Dakota, reciting prayers, singing Lennon’s songs and burning candles.

TV sports reporters interrupted a tied game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins with less than a minute to play with a news bulletin of Lennon’s murder. The NBC network broke into its East Coast feed of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson with a bulletin of the tragedy.

New York rock station WNBEW-FM immediately suspended all programming and opened its lines to calls from listeners. Stations throughout the country switched to special programming devoted to Lennon and Beatles music.

Throughout the world there was an outpouring of grief on an unprecedented scale. At least three Beatles fans are known to have committed suicide.

Remembering John Lennon

Lennon was cremated on December 12 at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. His ashes were given to Yoko Ono, who, instead of holding a funeral, asked fans around the world to observe ten minutes of silence.

The shooter, a psycho named Mark David Chapman, pleaded guilty to murdering the music legend and was sentenced to 20-years-to-life. Now 64, he has been denied parole ten times since he became eligible in 2000. His eleventh parole hearing is scheduled for August, 2020.

Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people sharing all the world


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