5 surprising facts about O.J. Simpson’s slow-speed chase
(CNN) — Shortly after O.J. Simpson was charged with the slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, gruesome killings turned into a manhunt.
Simpson — a Heisman Trophy winner, NFL Hall-of-Famer and actor — was missing.
Police declared Simpson a fugitive, and hours later, the infamous low-speed chase began.
Approximately 6:45 p.m. on June 17, 1994, police saw Simpson on the expressway in a white Ford Bronco driven by his best friend and former teammate, Al Cowlings. Simpson was riding in the back, and he reportedly had a gun.
With the cavalcade of police cars in pursuit, TV helicopters swooped in to join the chase. The 60-mile, low-speed pursuit through southern Los Angeles would go down in television history.
Nearly 20 years later, here are five things that might surprise you about the chase.
1. The Bronco chase and subsequent “not guilty” verdict are among the most memorable TV moments in the past 50 years.
The Simpson verdict was the third most “universally impactful” televised moment of the last 50 years behind the September 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to a survey by Nielsen and Sony.
Simpson’s white Bronco chase came in sixth, behind the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the death of Osama bin Laden.
The survey scored each big televised event based on how many people viewed the event live, how many could recall details about where they were during the event and how many people who could remember talking about it with other people.
2. The Bronco chase dominated sports coverage on a day with major sports news.
On June 17, 1994, legendary golfer Arnold Palmer played his last round at the U.S. Open, the World Cup opened in Chicago, the Rangers celebrated winning the Stanley Cup, the Knicks played game five of the NBA finals against the Houston Rockets, and Ken Griffey Jr. tied Babe Ruth for the most home runs hit before June 30.
ESPN covered the other big sporting news, but jumped back and forth for frequent updates on the chase. NBC continued coverage of the NBA finals, but the game appeared in a small box in the corner while Tom Brokaw anchored coverage of the Bronco chase.
3. Domino’s Pizza reported record sales of pizza delivery during the chase.
Presumably because people were glued to the TV set, not wanting to miss anything, they ordered pizza.
“It was a record night at the time. It was dinner time on the West Coast and 9 p.m. on the East. People were fascinated and didn’t want to miss it. It was as big as a Super Bowl Sunday up to that point,” said Tim McIntyre, vice president of corporate communications for Domino’s Pizza.
4. Robert Kardashian, father of Kourtney, Kim, Khloé and Rob, was O. J. Simpson’s friend. He read a note by Simpson on the day of the chase and served with his defense team during Simpson’s murder trial.
When Simpson failed to turn himself in on the day of the case, Robert Kardashian read a letter by Simpson to the media. This letter was interpreted by many as a suicide note:
“To whom it may concern, 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. Please think of the real O.J. and not this lost person. Thanks for making my life special. I hope I helped yours,” he read.
5. O.J. Simpson said he was not running, but he had some interesting items with him when the chase ended.
During the chase, on the phone with LAPD Detective Tom Lange, Simpson said, “…you let the police know, you let them all know, I wasn’t running.”
When Cowlings pulled into Simpson’s driveway, police were waiting. The sun set, and Simpson was still holed up in the car. Police didn’t approach the Bronco. Simpson had a gun, and they wanted to avoid a potentially violent end. Finally, two hours after police first spotted him, Simpson emerged from the Bronco. Clutching family photos, he staggered out of his car and collapsed into officers’ arms.
In Cowlings’ pockets, police found almost $9,000 in cash. In the Bronco, police found a fake goatee and mustache with a bottle of makeup adhesive and receipts from a beauty store, along with Simpson’s passport and the gun.
Where were you during the O.J. chase? Tell us what you remember in the comments below.