Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

O.J. Simpson Bronco Chase

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O.J. Simpson Bronco Chase - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

The O. J. Simpson murder case was a criminal trial held in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Former National Football League (NFL) player, broadcaster and actor O. J. Simpson was tried and acquitted on two counts of murder for the June 12, 1994, slashing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. Simpson became a person of interest after police found a bloody glove behind his house and was formally charged with the murders on June 17. When he did not turn himself in at the agreed time (having previously been released after perfunctory questioning by police detectives), he became the object of a low-speed pursuit in a white 1993 Ford Bronco SUV owned and driven by his friend Al Cowlings. TV stations interrupted coverage of the 1994 NBA Finals to broadcast the incident. The pursuit was watched live by an estimated 95 million people.

Los Angeles streets emptied and drink orders stopped at bars as people watched on television. Every television showed the chase; ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN, and local news outlets interrupted regularly scheduled programming to cover the incident, watched by an estimated 95 million viewers nationwide; only 90 million had watched that year’s Super Bowl. While NBC continued coverage of Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden, the game appeared in a small box in the corner while Tom Brokaw covered the chase. The chase was covered live by ABC anchors Peter Jennings and Barbara Walters on behalf of the network’s five news magazines, which achieved some of their highest-ever ratings that week. The chase was broadcast internationally, with Gascon’s relatives in France and China seeing him on television.

Thousands of spectators and onlookers packed overpasses along the route of the chase, waiting for the white Bronco. In a festival-like atmosphere, many had signs urging Simpson to flee. Spectators shouting “Go, O.J., go”—the famous slogan from Simpson’s Hertz commercials — and encouraging the actions of a possibly suicidal murder suspect outraged Jim Hill, among those broadcasting pleas to their friend to surrender. Jack Ferreira and Mike Smith were among those watching the chase not knowing why; they felt part of a “common emotional experience”, one author wrote, as they “wonder[ed] if O. J. Simpson would commit suicide, escape, be arrested, or engage in some kind of violent confrontation. Whatever might ensue, the shared adventure gave millions of viewers a vested interest, a sense of participation, a feeling of being on the inside of a national drama in the making”. Simpson reportedly demanded that he be allowed to speak to his mother before he would surrender. The chase ended at 8:00 p.m. at his Brentwood estate, 50 miles (80 km) later, where his son, Jason, ran out of the house, “gesturing wildly”, and 27 SWAT officers awaited.

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