California photojournalist recalls covering OJ Simpson trial and infamous 'white Bronco chase'

Simpson died Wednesday of prostate cancer, according to his family. He was 76.

KABC logo
Saturday, April 13, 2024
Photojournalist recalls covering OJ Simpson trial and 'Bronco chase'
Roger Sandler, a veteran photojournalist known for his special assignment work and behind-the-scenes coverage, looks back at covering the O.J. Simpson trial and the infamous "Bronco chase."

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Many people remember O.J. Simpson from the infamous "Bronco chase."

In 1994, Simpson was charged with murder in deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Before surrendering, Simpson led police on a slow-speed chase across Los Angeles freeways.

The so-called "Bronco Chase," named for the white vehicle he rode in, was televised in prime time and became the first of many TV moments in the bizarre saga that engrossed America. It all ended at Simpson's Brentwood home on Rockingham Avenue where he eventually surrendered.

Roger Sandler, a photojournalist working for TIME and LIFE magazines, was inside the home on June 17, 1994, and even visited Simpson in jail.

Simpson, who died Wednesday at 76 of prostate cancer, immediately became a household name following the "trial of the century." Now, Sandler is recalling his time spent documenting it all.

Covering history

Sandler got into photography when he volunteered for the McGovern-Shriver campaign in 1972.

Most of his career assignments have been primarily for TIME and LIFE magazines, as well as Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Associated Press.

"I thought what those people did, covering history, was incredible," Sandler told ABC7. "I never thought I was going to go in that direction."

He remembers the first moment he met Simpson.

"I first ran into O.J. at some social events," said Sandler. "He was the most gregarious, affable man, big smile; he literally lit up the room."

Then, Sandler's work began.

"My bureau chief at TIME Magazine asked me to use a connection in the district attorney's office to find out whether or not O.J. was really a serious suspect," he said. "They were testing his blood, which I photographed in the LAPD lab."

"I knew from experience if anyone was going to go looking for him, it would be LAPD SWAT," said Sandler. "I called the lieutenant and asked if I could join up with them. My coverage began that Friday afternoon."

Simpson's trial lasted 16 months.

"In the moments in the courtroom, where I catch him ... that he looks strained, that he looks worried and concerned," said Sandler. "I think those are the moments that probably say what he was really feeling."

"My only thought is, 'What do I think of the situation? What do I want to capture of this person? My finger, I noticed, starts hitting the shutter before I decide to hit the shutter. So it reacts that way, and I've been very fortunate to have been able to do that throughout my career."

Simpson is survived by four children: Arnelle and Jason, from his first marriage, and Sydney and Justin, from his marriage to Nicole Brown Simpson.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.