John Lennon Fans Protest in Central Park Ahead of Killer's Parole Hearing

The singer was killed in front of his Manhattan apartment building in 1980.

Demonstrators staged a rally Wednesday to protest the possible release of John Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, who is up for parole for the 10th time next week.

New York politicians and fans gathered at Strawberry Fields, Lennon's living memorial inside Central Park directly across from where he once lived. 

“This is something that crosses generations, crosses cultures and so I'm glad to stand here with fellow fans who believe the same, that Mark Chapman should stay behind bars,” Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said at the rally. 

Chapman fatally shot the 40-year-old Lennon on Dec. 8, 1980, outside the singer’s famed apartment building, the Dakota, located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. 

Chapman was sentenced to serve 20 years to life in prison for second-degree murder in 1981 and has been behind bars ever since. 

The killer, 63, has been up for parole nine times and denied at each hearing, with the most recent having been in 2016.

“He's in jail. He's been given a free life in jail. He's not even been locked up properly. His wife's been in and stays with him, and God knows what. It's wrong. He hasn't even been put away properly. He should never see daylights again,” Lennon fan Geoff Bowell told APTN at the rally Wednesday. 

“I think that it's just terrible that someone who killed a member of the Beatles is going to potentially be let out of prison. It's just horrible,” another fan, Alexandra Sherer, told APTN. 

Also appearing at the rally was local radio personality Jim Kerr of Q104.3, who urged fans to let the parole board and New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo know that Chapman should stay behind bars. 

“If you want the definition of a senseless killing, this is it. Mark David Chapman took the life of an individual who changed the course of modern music and who loved our great city and the creative energy it emits,” he said. “He also took the life of a man whose constant refrain was ‘give peace a chance.’ Killers like Mark David Chapman belong behind bars and I urge Beatle fans everywhere to call the parole board and the governor’s office and let their voice be heard.” 

Following the rally, Malliotakis spoke to about why she is urging the public to speak up to the parole board following the recent releases of some high-profile criminals. 

"I am a big John Lennon and Beatles fan," she said. "I have been speaking out about other killers and cop killers getting parole. We have seen a left turn from this parole board.... Any attention we can bring to these bad decisions by the parole board is important." 

In April, New York State Parole Board granted parole for cop killer Herman Bell, who murdered two officers in 1971. The release enraged Malliotakis and she has since become a champion for tougher hearings. 

"Anything can happen with this parole board," she added. 

In 2017, spoke to the officers who were the first to arrive on the scene at the Dakota moments after Lennon was shot. 

Retired NYPD Officer Tony Palma said that the officers on scene treated Lennon’s shooting “like a cop was shot.” Officer Peter Cullen, along with his partner, Officer Steve Spiro, transported Chapman to the police station. Spiro formally arrested Chapman at the Dakota.

While in the patrol car, Cullen turned to Chapman and asked, “Are you out of your f***ing mind? You just threw your whole life away!”

Chapman said something Cullen will never forget

“He said there is a little person inside of him, a big person, and that night, the little person won,” Cullen said. 

Lennon was transported to nearby Roosevelt Hospital by police car because the officials at the scene believed an ambulance would take too long to get to the building. 

The surgeon who operated on Lennon, Dr. David Halleran, compared the urgency to treating the singer to “a rugby scrum” when he spoke to last year.  

“It looked like we weren't getting anything back," Halleran recalled. "We weren't getting a pulse back, we weren't getting a blood pressure back, we weren't getting pupil response back.

"He was very much gone.”

Halleran said that he and his team did everything they could to save Lennon.

“You do this for anybody,” he added. “They brought in a mortally wounded patent and you go for it. I wish we had a better outcome.” 

Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, chose to have the singer cremated. No funeral service was held. She still lives in the Dakota.