The Day John Lennon Was Shot
Man shot, One West Seventy-second” was the call on the police radio just before eleven p.m. Officers Jim Moran and Bill Gamble were in the third blue-and-white that screamed to a halt outside the Dakota apartment building. The man who had been shot couldn’t wait for an ambulance. They stretched him out on the back seat of their car and raced to Roosevelt Hospital, at the corner of Fifty-ninth Street and Ninth Avenue. They lifted the bloody body onto a gurney and wheeled it into the emergency room. There was nothing the doctors could do. They pronounced John Lennon dead at 11:07 p.m.
Howard Cosell picked up a feed from WABC-TV News in New York and announced the shooting on Monday Night Football. The news spread like a prairie fire. Within minutes, the small, brick-walled ambulance courtyard outside the emergency room was filled with at least 200 people who were staring dumbly at the closed double doors. The TV crews, with no visible targets, trained their whiter-than-white lights on a solitary young man kneeling in the courtyard.
“. . . and deliver us from evil. Amen,” he chanted. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus . . . . John, as we all heard, has been shot. I make this public not by will. I am here to pray . . . . I am just a fan of John’s . . . join me.” Even the TV crews got tired of him in a few minutes.
Some of the cabdrivers, who were depositing reporters at the rate of two or three a minute, joined the throng. One of them volunteered loudly that he had it from a good source that John Lennon had been dead on arrival. One young woman stood alone in the middle of Ninth Avenue and wept.
The crowd continued to grow. At about midnight, a woman with a very crisp manner marched out. The black name tag on her white lab coat said that she was A. Burton, the hospital’s director of public relations. The reporters hurled questions at her. “I’d rather have the doctor tell you,” she said. “He will be in the lobby, around the corner, between Ninth and Tenth.” She turned and marched back in.
The press corps took off in a footrace, wheezing and huffing their way around the corner, bursting through the lobby doors and slamming up short against a stairwell, jousting for position. An overweight cameraman was complaining: “I was in bed watching channel four news and I get a call — ‘Channel two says John Lennon’s been shot, get your ass over to Roosevelt.'”
“That’ll teach you to watch four,” a woman said.
“Well, I get bad reception on two.”
A. Burton reappeared at the head of the stairs and ignored the shouted questions. “The doctor is coming,” she announced in measured tones. “He is Stephan Lynn. He is director of the emergency-room service.” She had to spell his name five or six times. A couple of reporters hinted loudly that this might be a diversionary tactic, designed to keep the pesky press away from the emergency room while something important happened, but none of the press corps left.
Dr. Lynn faced the press at about ten minutes after midnight. “A little closer, doc,” a photographer yelled, and Nikon motor-drives started whirring and strobe lights began zinging him like darts. The doctor, in his spotless white lab coat, was nervous. He said, “John Lennon,” and then paused for at least twenty seconds. “John Lennon,” he continued, finally, “was brought to the emergency room of the Roosevelt, the St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, this evening, shortly before eleven p.m. He was dead on arrival.” There were gasps from the press corps. “Extensive resuscitative efforts were made, but in spite of transfusions and many procedures, he could not be resuscitated.”
“Where was he shot, doc, and how many times?” the corps demanded.
“He had multiple gunshot wounds in his chest, in his left arm and in his back,” Lynn answered. “There were seven wounds in his body. I don’t know exactly how many bullets there were. There was a significant injury of the major vessels inside the chest, which caused a massive amount of blood loss, which probably resulted in his death. I’m certain that he was dead at the moment that the first shots hit his body.”
“What about his wife?”
“His wife was with him at the time of the injury and indeed accompanied him to the emergency department.”
“Did you tell Yoko that Mr. Lennon was dead? What did she say?”
“I did tell his wife that he was dead. She was . . . most distraught at the time and found it quite hard to accept. She is no longer at the hospital.”
“Is Mr. Lennon still in the hospital?”
“His body is in the hospital.”
The press corps drifted back out to the emergency-room entrance. The kneeling saint was still going at it: “I have prayed previously in moments of crisis like this to Our Lady of the Rosary. I shall stay until the sun comes up to pray for the soul of our beloved friend and brother in spirit, John Lennon. I shall now pray the rosary and invite everyone to stay as long as they would like and join me.” A few persons did.
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