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OJ's Slow Speed White Bronco Chase, 20 Years Ago



(WBEN/CBS Sports) Twenty years ago, on June 17, 1994, O.J. Simpson captivated the American public by leading the LAPD in an hour-long police chase around Los Angeles


 
 
AP Photo
  A June 17, 1994 photo  from  KCOP-TV video, O.J. Simpson, center, stands handcuffed during his booking on murder charges, after the chase through L.A.   (AP Photo/KCOP, File)
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On The WBEN Liveline: 

WBBZ 's  Phil Arno,  former LA news photog | Pete Demetriou KNX Newsradio

Earlier : Remembering the day the crime scene was discovered
More with Demetriou | Attorney Paul Cambria

 
Simpson had been charged with the double-murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, but police gave Simpson the chance to turn himself in.

After failing to meet the LAPD's timeline, the police issued an all-points bulletin. Recognizing he was probably trying to flee after a tip to police from a motorist, law enforcement began tracing his cell phone and eventually tracked him down at 6:45 p.m.

Former football player Al Cowlings was driving the white Ford Bronco while he told police that Simpson was in the backseat threatening to kill himself.  

PHOTO: Simpson's "suicide" note

A band of police tailed Cowlings and Simpson back to Simpson's home in Brentwood around 8:00 p.m. where Simpson would eventually surrender. And above, news helicopters sent the signal live nationwide to a captivated audience afraid of seeing a suicidal celebrity end it all.
 

 As we look back, a former TV news director talks about how "The Chase"  changed media coverage of live events.

"When the OJ chase came along, it gave viewers the ability to see it unravel live," says Tim Clark of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission and former Channel 7 news director. "It really defined what news operations can do now and it kept viewers riveted to the sets."

Clark says live news coverage benefits the news consumer who prefers information as it happens, but there is a checks and balances needed.

"Controversy surrounding some of the live events, first of all,  and there has to be a gatekeeper who can basically decide analyze and determine this is worth breaking into programming to show you," says Clark.

Clark says there's an inherent risk in live coverage.

"If something had gone wrong in the OJ chase where he had an accident or did something to himself, that's the risk because you don't want to show that kind of graphic reality to the people at home," notes Clark.

 
 
Remembering The Chase: Local TV station owner Phil Arno hovered over Bronco in helicopter, camera in hand
"The door (to the helicopter) was open. We had a rope around my waist and a rope around the camera, and we were hanging out above the chase with nothing between us and the Bronco."

--   Phil Arno, owner/operator WBBZ TV, a KNX News Photographer in 1994


"It went through the area on the freeways, and then worked its way on to West L.A, and Sunset, because his house was off the top of Sunset Boulevard... then it went through some residential areas and ultimately ended at his house," says  Arno, then a news photographer with KNX in Los Angeles.

" We were kind of hovering over the house for a long time, before they got out of the car, " says Arno, a Buffalo native who now owns and operates WBBZ TV channel 67.

All three major networks abandoned what they were airing to follow the pursuit, including NBC, which cut away from Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Rockets and Knicks.

  O.J. Simpson
1973 photo, the year Simpson set an NFL  season rushing record as a Buffalo Bill

"We had heard that he was going to hurt himself, there was kind of keen knowledge of the case when that story broke,"  says Arno adding that "it was a little bit of a conflict for me because I had interviewed him in his house in Amherst when I was still working in Buffalo and he was playing with the Buffalo. So I was a little conflicted on this story."

Earlier Coverage:  SEE PICTURES    The Murder Scene Discovered- June 13 1994
 


From the Original AP story on the Simpson Arrest: :

O.J. ARRESTED IN SLAYINGS OF EX-WIFE AND HER FRIEND

LOS ANGELES (AP) - O.J. Simpson was hunted down and captured in his driveway Friday night after running from charges of murdering his ex-wife and her male friend and leading police along 60 miles of freeways and city streets.

"I can't express the fear I had that this matter would not end the way it did," said Simpson's attorney, Robert Shapiro, who had worried earlier that the former football great would kill himself.

   READ THE ENTIRE STORY HERE



After a lengthy trial, Simpson was acquitted of the double-murder charges that prompted this highly-watched chase.

In 2007, Simpson would later find himself in trouble again. He was arrested and later convicted on charges of armed robbery and kidnapping for a Las Vegas hotel-room raid when he and several other men attempted to retrieve memorabilia Simpson claimed had been stolen from him.

Simpson, now 65, is currently serving 9 to 33 years in a Nevada prison but has appealed for a new trial.


In this June 17, 1994 file photo, a white Ford Bronco, driven by Al Cowlings carrying O.J. Simpson, is trailed by Los Angeles police cars as it travels on a Southern California freeway in Los Angeles. Cowlings and Simpson led authorities on a chase after Simpson was charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. (AP Photo/Joseph Villarin, File)

This June 17, 1994, file photo shows the first page of a four-page letter written by O.J. Simpson concerning charges against him . (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

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