20 years ago: O.J. Simpson's Bronco chase

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
20 years ago: O.J. Simpson's Bronco chase
Tuesday marked 20 years since O.J. Simpson led Los Angeles police on a slow-speed chase in a white Ford Bronco.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It was one of the most watched news stories in Los Angeles history.

Tuesday marked 20 years since then-murder suspect O.J. Simpson led Los Angeles police on a slow-speed chase through the streets and freeways of Southern California in a white Ford Bronco SUV.

After an exhaustive investigation which included interviews of dozens of witnesses and a thorough examination and analysis of the physical evidence, both in Los Angeles and in Chicago, Los Angeles police sought and obtained a warrant for Simpson's arrest on June 17, 1994, charging him, with the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

That same morning, O.J. was supposed to surrender to police. Dr. Henry Lee, a forensic scientist and member of Simpson's defense team, was there.

"When the police officer showed up and the lawyer knocked on the door and said "O.J., let's go!" and they can't find him, of course we were shocked," Lee said.

In a strange twist, the actor and former football legend was missing and seemed to be on the run.

"The Los Angeles Police Department, right now, is actively looking for Mr. Simpson," LAPD Cmdr. David Gascon said, during a news conference.

Now, that same day I had a hunch O.J. Simpson might show up at Nicole Simpson's grave site at the Ascension Cemetery in Lake Forest. A cameraman and I were driving around the cemetery when we suddenly heard on the police scanner that they had spotted a white Ford Bronco on the 5 Freeway.

Very early on in the chase, Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Larry Pool, along with his sergeant, managed to get Simpson's longtime friend, Al Cowlings, to pull over on the 5 Freeway, just south of Grand Avenue. But neither Cowlings nor Simpson would get out of the car.

"At that point in time, the suspect appeared angry and quite agitated, actually violent," Pool said. "He pounded his fists on the outside of the driver's door, shouted a few expletives and said, "no, I'm not going to turn the car off."

They were less than a miles away from us. So within minutes, we got on 5 Freeway and became part of the now infamous slow-speed chase - right behind the white Ford Bronco.

I filed live reports of the chase by cellphone while AIR7 HD got video above the pursuit. From the news van, I was so close I could see a silhouette of O.J. inside the white Ford Bronco, and, at one point, he appeared to point a gun to his head.

Dispatcher: "What are you reporting?

Cowlings: "This is A.C. I have O.J. in the car.

Dispatcher: "OK, where are you?"

Cowlings: "Please, coming up the 5 Freeway. Right now, we OK, but you gotta tell the police to just back off. He's still alive, but he's got a gun to his head."

LAPD detective Tom Lange had O.J.'s cellphone number and called him in the white Ford Bronco. The transcript of the call reveals there was talk of suicide.

Lange: "O.J., it's Tom again. How you holding up?

Simpson moans.

Lange: "Hey, it's gonna be better tomorrow. Get rid of the gun. Toss it. Please."

Simpson: I'm just gonna go with Nicole. That's all I'm gonna do. That's all I'm trying to do. I went to do it at her grave. I want to do it at my house."

Lange: "You're not gonna do anything. Too many people love you."

Robert Kardashian, O.J.'s friend and attorney, read a note O.J. left to the media.

"First, everyone understand, I had nothing to do with Nicole's murder... Don't feel sorry for me. I've had a great life, great friends," Kardashian read.

People reacted in a way no one had seen before. They crowded onto freeway overpasses, on the medians, on streets in West Los Angeles - all to catch a glimpse of the white Ford Bronco. You could hear people yelling... as if Simpson were running for a touchdown in a USC football game.

My heart was pumping, adrenaline rushed through me. It was a 60 mile two-hour long chase in rush hour traffic, but it felt like only 10 minutes had passed.

It was sundown, nearly 10 hours since O.J. was supposed to turn himself in. Three freeways later, the white Ford Bronco pulled into the driveway of Simpson's Brentwood home on Rockingham Avenue.

It took almost one hour of negotiation, but finally, O.J., holding family photos stumbled out of his car and collapsed into the officers' arms and was taken into custody.

"I can't express the fear I had that this matter would not end the way it did. I would also, at this point in time, like to ask all members of the public to please reserve any judgment on this case, until the evidence is reviewed, and presented, in a court of law," Robert Shapiro, lawyer for O.J. Simpson, said.

Later, after a search, police found almost $9,000 in cash, a fake goatee and mustache, a bottle of make-up adhesive, O.J.'s passport and his gun. What came next in the L.A. court of law soon became what has since been called the trial of the century.