John Lennon, who was widely regarded as the most thoughtful and outspoken of the four Beatles during their peak of popularity during the 1960's, dropped out of the music business, to devote his attention to his newly-born son, Sean, and to his wife, Yoko Ono. Then in November 1980, he reentered the pop mainstream with the introduction of a new album, "Double Fantasy," which, Lennon said at the time, was an extension of his family life, as the songs were direct celebrations of enduring love and the pleasures of home and hearth.
On December 8, 1980 at around 5 p.m., John and Yoko left their apartment in the historic Dakota on Central Park West in New York City to go to their recording studio to supervise the transfer of some of the "Double Fantasy" album numbers to singles. David Geffen, their record producer and friend, said that more than 700,000 copies of the album had already been sold up to that time.
As they were leaving the Dakota, they were approached by several people who were seeking autographs. Among them was a man who would be later identified as Mark David Chapman. John Lennon scribbled an autograph on the cover of "Double Fantasy" for Chapman.
The Lennons spent several hours at the studio on West 44th Street, returning to the Dakota at about 10:50 p.m. They exited their limousine on the 72nd Street curb even though a car could have driven through the entrance and into the courtyard.
Three witnesses--a doorman at the entrance, an elevator operator and a cab driver who had just dropped off a passenger--saw Mark David Chapman standing in the shadows just inside the arch.
As the Lennons walked by, Chapman called, "Mr. Lennon." Then he dropped into "a combat stance" and fired four pistol shots. According to the autopsy, two shots struck John Lennon in the left side of his back and two in his left shoulder. All four caused internal damage and bleeding.
According to police, Lennon staggered up six steps to the room at the end of the entrance used by the concierge, said, "I'm shot," then fell down.
The first policemen at the scene were Officers Steve Spire and Peter Cullen, who were in the patrol car at 72nd Street and Broadway when they heard a report of shots fired at the Dakota. The officers found Chapman standing "very calmly" where he had been.
The police said he had dropped the revolver after firing it, and said Chapman had a paperback book, J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye," and a cassette recorder with 14 hours of Beatles tapes.
The second police team at the Dakota, Officers Bill Gamble and James Moran, took Lennon to Roosevelt Hospital. Officer Moran said they stretched Lennon out on the back seat and that the singer was "moaning." He said he asked, "Are you John Lennon?" and that Lennon had moaned, "Yeah."
Dr. Stephen Lyman of Roosevelt Hospital said Lennon was dead when the policemen arrived with him. He was pronounced dead at 11:15 p.m. Dr. Elliott M. Gross, the Chief Medical Examiner, said after the autopsy that Lennon had died of shock and loss of blood and that no one could have lived more than a few minutes with such injuries.
Yoko Ono, crying "Tell me it's not true," was taken to Roosevelt Hospital and led away in shock after she learned her husband was dead. David Geffen later issued a statement in her behalf: "John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him."
Within minutes of the first broadcasts of the news of the shooting, people began to gather at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of the Dakota, reciting prayers, singing Lennon's songs and burning candles.
On December 14, all around the world, people paused to stand alone or come together in silence, heeding a plea from Yoko Ono that they take 10 minutes to remember the former Beatle.