How the Media Covered O.J. Simpson’s Chase
The slow-speed chase was watched by millions.
On the evening of Friday, June 17, 1994, people headed home across the country to settle in after a long week, possibly watch the NBA Finals or enjoy the early summer weather, but then everything came to a halt.
The nation was captivated by a slow-speed car chase in Los Angeles that played out on live TV across every network.
In the white Ford Bronco? Former NFL star Al “A.C.” Cowlings and his best friend, football icon O.J. Simpson, who was wanted for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
The Run of His Life
The chase came five days after the two were found slain at her Los Angeles home in the ritzy Brentwood section of the city.
The murders shocked the nation and caused a media frenzy around Los Angeles as camera crews camped out in front of Simpson’s Rockingham Estate as well as outside Brown Simpson’s home as detectives searched the crime scene.
The football hero was a person of interest in the slayings nearly immediately and did not turn himself into police for questioning. He tried to keep a low profile, but days later, the entire country watched as he was on the run of his life.
In the slow-speed chase, more than a dozen cop cars followed the Bronco, bringing Los Angeles to a standstill.
One of the first people to notice the chase was helicopter pilot and journalist Zoey Tur, who immediately began broadcasting the incident to her network. Soon after, nearly every network had a camera in the sky to track Simpson’s every move inside the SUV.
“This was a real emotional, heart-wrenching story,” Tur, who was going by Bob at the time, told Inside Edition days after the chase. “Here we had O.J. Simpson accused of a capital crime and it was tragic.”
Simpson was nowhere to be found during the early morning hours of June 17 and many believed he had taken his own life.
His best friend and attorney, Robert Kardashian, held a press conference in which he read a letter Simpson wrote him. “Don’t feel sorry for me, I have had a great life, great friends, please think of the real O.J. and not this lost person," the letter said.
“It appeared to us it was a suicide note,” Tur told Inside Edition. “At that point, we decided to get into the helicopter and take a look at canyons to see if we could find O.J.”
By this point, Simpson had been spotted in the Bronco. As Tur heard the calls come through on the dispatch, she managed to get her helicopter over to the freeway to find the wayward vehicle.
“Within a matter of minutes we were overhead, we found him, the police found him and there was one patrol unit and within a minute, there were literally 20 patrol units behind him,” Tur recalled.
During the pursuit, Cowlings also called 911, famously saying, “This is A.C. I have O.J. in the car.”
Cowlings pleaded with 911 dispatchers to tell the police “to back off,” and explained Simpson had a gun to his head and just wanted to see his mother.
Taking It to the House
The motorcade would travel nearly 60 miles in over two hours, going through two counties on three freeways, and the networks could not get enough.
Due to the amount of cameras broadcasting in the air, many frequencies of television networks were crossing over. For instance, if viewers were watching the chase on CBS, they might get the feed from ABC, or if they were watching it on FOX they might get the NBC reports.
Famed sports journalist and commentator Bob Costas was giving updates on air during the NBA Finals between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, taking attention away from the important match.
“It was an incredible sight, thousands of people lined up giving Simpson support and what we were watching on live television was almost like a funeral for a fallen friend,” Tur said.
As the media attention around the chase grew, Simpson’s friends rushed to the networks to try and plead with the former Buffalo Bills star to just give himself up and cooperate.
Simpson’s friend Vince Evans begged his buddy to “please stop, in Jesus’ name, please stop.” NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton also urged his friend to turn himself in.
“O.J., it is the fourth quarter and this is the last play of the game and there is no time on the clock,” he said.
L.A. sportscaster and former NFL star Jim Hill, who also was a close friend of Simpson’s, got on local news to beg his friend to cooperate, hoping the men in the white Bronco were listening.
“O.J., if you can hear me, Al, if you can hear me, whoever is in that truck, if you can hear us, please, gentlemen, please, just pull over and stop,” Hill said.
Hill spoke to Inside Edition following the chase and recalled his pleading was “just one of those things that comes from the heart and when it comes from the heart, you hope you are able to reach out and touch someone to help someone.”
In one of the more disturbing twists, some spectators acted like they were at a sporting event and cheered Simpson in front of his home as the SUV was pulling into the estate. Fans swarmed the car, making it difficult to enter the property.
“I don’t know what they were doing, what they were even thinking,” Hill said of the fans.
Simpson stayed inside the SUV as Cowlings went back and forth from inside Simpson's house to the Bronco on behalf of his friend.
The former Heisman Trophy winner eventually got out of the Bronco and entered the home. Once inside, Simpson reportedly used the restroom, had a glass of orange juice and called his mother.
“When you are at the end of the line, the end of the rope, you try and tie a knot with that end of the rope to try and hang on – you start calling for mama,” Hill said.
A short time after entering the home and making his call, Simpson was arrested.
He was later tried and acquitted of double murder in a case dubbed “the trial of the century.” He was later found responsible for Brown Simpson and Goldman's deaths in a civil lawsuit.
The white Bronco is currently on display at the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, along with artifacts that belonged to Brown Simpson.
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