John Lennon: How we first learned about his death 40 years ago

John Lennon - What you need to know

John Lennon, who rose to unimaginable fame first as one of the Beatles, then as a solo songwriter and activist, was shot and killed outside of his home in New York City 40 years ago Tuesday.

His murderer, Mark David Chapman, who was described at the time as a “local screwball,” waited outside of Lennon’s home for the star to return from a recording studio session then shot him five times as his wife, Yoko Ono, looked on.

Earlier in the day, at that very spot, Lennon had autographed an album cover for Chapman.

Content Continues Below

Lennon was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival, really having no chance to survive such devastating injuries.

Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life for Lennon’s murder. At a parole hearing several years ago, he apologized for the killing saying, “I am sorry for being such an idiot and choosing the wrong way for glory.” Chapman remains in prison.

John Lennon would be 80 years old today if he had lived. Fans find it hard to imagine a senior citizen Lennon. Would he still be politically active, or would time have mellowed the crusading Beatle?

We can never know.

Now, some 40 years later, all we do know for sure is what happened on that day.

Here is how various news outlets reported the Dec. 8, 1980 death of John Lennon.

(To read the full stories, click on the links).

The Associated Press

Former Beatle John Lennon, who catapulted to stardom with the long-haired British rock group in the 1960s, was shot to death late last night outside his luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, police said.

Authorities said Lennon, 40, was rushed in a police car to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving.

Doctors said he suffered seven severe wounds in his chest, back and left arm, but they did not know how many bullets had hit him. Dr. Stephen Lynn said, “I am sure he was dead when he was shot.”

Police said the shooting occurred outside the Dakota, the century-old luxury apartment house where Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, lived. It is across the street from Central Park.

Police said they had a suspect and described him as “a screwball” with no apparent motive for shooting Lennon.

Lt. John Schick said he expected the man, in his mid-20s, to be held through the night.

Lennon’s wife was not hurt. ...

The New York Times

John Lennon, one of the four Beatles, was shot and killed last night while entering the apartment building where he lived, the Dakota, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A suspect was seized at the scene.

The 40-year-old Lennon was shot in the back twice after getting out of a limousine and walking into the entrance of the Dakota at 1 West 72d Street, Sgt. Robert Barnes of the 20th Precinct said.

“Obviously the man was waiting for him,” Sergeant Barnes said of the assailant. The suspect was identified as Mark David Chapman, 25, of Hawaii, who had been living in New York for about a week, according to James L. Sullivan, chief of detectives of the 20th Precinct. …

The New York Times Obituary

The Beatles united a generation of young people with their songs, their attitudes and their sense of style, and John Lennon was the thinking man’s Beatle. Of the four, he was the Beatle who wrote books, the Beatle who embroiled the group in a potentially disastrous controversy by suggesting in an interview that they were more popular than Jesus, the Beatle who embraced the poetic innovations of Bob Dylan in the mid-1960′s and shocked Beatles fans by jumping into performance art, happenings and political protests in the late 60′s and early 70′s.

He was the Beatle who announced in one of his first solo albums after the breakup of the Beatles that “The Dream is Over” – the dream of community through peace, love, mysticism and psychedelic drugs that the Beatles had encouraged and advertised.

And yet, paradoxically, Mr. Lennon never lost sight of that dream. “The media are saying that the 60′s were stupid and naive,” he remarked only a month before his death. “But look at how much of what was sniggered about in the 60′s has become mainstream – health food, therapies and all the rest. And love and peace weren’t invented in the 60′s. What about Gandhi? What about Christ? The naivete is to buy the idea that the 60′s were naive.” ...

The New York Daily News

Former Beatle John Lennon, the 40-year-old lead singer of the most popular rock group in history, was shot to death last night as he stepped from a limousine outside his home in the Dakota, an exclusive apartment building on Central Park West and 72d St.

Police arrested a suspect, “described as a local screwball,” minutes after the shooting and charged him with Lennon’s murder. The “smirking” suspect, identified as Mark David Chapman, 25, of Hawaii, was seen in the vicinity of the Dakota for several hours before the shooting and reportedly had hounded Lennon for an autograph several times in the last three or four days.

Lennon and his Japanese-born wife, Yoko Ono, were returning to their apartment from a recording session when the shots rang out.

Lennon was taken to Roosevelt Hospital in a police radio car and was pronounced dead on arrival in the emergency room. ...

The BBC

Former Beatle John Lennon has been shot dead by an unknown gunman who opened fire outside the musician’s New York apartment.

The 40-year-old was shot several times as he entered the Dakota, his luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, opposite Central Park, at 2300 local time.

He was rushed in a police car to St Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he died.

His wife, Yoko Ono, who is understood to have witnessed the attack, was with him.

Shots heard

A police spokesman said a suspect was in custody, but he had no other details of the shooting.

“This was no robbery,” the spokesman said, adding that Mr. Lennon was probably shot by a “deranged” person.

Time Magazine

“Just a voice out of the American night. “Mr. Lennon.” He started to turn around. There is no knowing whether John Lennon saw, for what would have been the second time that day, the young man in the black raincoat stepping out of the shadows. The first shot hit him that fast, through the chest. There were at least three others.”

From Monday Night Football

From NBC News

John Lennon performs “Imagine.”