Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon on December 8, 1980 outside of the Dakota building where Lennon lived in Manhattan. Chapman had flown from Hawaii where he’d been living with his wife specifically to kill Lennon according to transcripts of Chapman’s August 19, 2020 parole hearing published by WSB radio.
According to the website, History, Chapman was waiting outside the Dakota building for hours, even getting Lennon’s autograph on a record earlier in the day before shooting the former Beatle four times at close range with a .38-caliber rifle. After the shooting, he hung around fully ready to take responsibility for the murder.
The Guardian reported:
In 2018, he spoke of an internal “tug of war” over whether to carry out the killing, which he did hours after he had met Lennon and got a record autographed. “I was too far in,” he said. “I do remember having the thought of, ‘Hey, you have got the album now. Look at this, he signed it, just go home.’ But there was no way I was just going to go home.”
He wasn’t going to leave because “a small voice,” urged him on, the New York Times reported in 2000.
Chapman Said ‘A Small Voice’ Told Him to ‘Just Do It’
In 2000 Chapman had his first parole hearing after being sentenced to 20 years to life for the murder of the 40-year-old musician. According to excerpts of that interview published in the New York Times, he told the parole board that he’d had the compulsion to kill Lennon for several months, even flying from Hawaii to New York in the months prior for that purpose, but was unable to go through with it. Yet the urge persisted.
He said the idea to kill Lennon came one day when he was in a Library:
I was in the library . . . and I came across a book called One Day at a Time, and I saw him there with photographs in front of his residence, the Dakota, and I was full of anger and resentment. I took it upon myself to judge him falsely for — for, you know, being something other than, you know, in a lotus position with a flower. . . . So it started with anger, but I wasn’t angry the night I shot him.
Chapman told the parole board in 2000, “I was feeling like I was worthless, and maybe the root of it is a self-esteem issue. I felt like nothing, and I felt if I shot him, I would become something, which is not true at all,” according to the New York Times.
In 2010 Chapman had another parole board hearing. According to The Guardian, that year he said, “I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody, and instead of that I became a murderer, and murderers are not somebodies.”
The Guardian reported he would’ve killed a different celebrity if he couldn’t get to Lennon but the musician “‘seemed more accessible to me’ as his apartment building wasn’t as ‘cloistered’ as other celebrities,’” Chapman said.
“If it wasn’t Lennon, it could have been someone else,” he said.
In Chapman’s 2020 Parole Hearing He Said He Killed Lennon for ‘Glory’
In the transcript of Chapman’s most recent parole hearing, the board asked him again to talk about the reasons he killed Lennon.
This time, Chapman said, “It was just self-glory, period. It was nothing more than that. It boiled down to that…There was some confusion there obviously, but I knew what I was doing. I knew it was wrong and I did it for glory. One word, just glory. That’s it.”
He also alluded again to seeing Lennon in a book at a library and feeling jealous. Chapman said he saw photos of Lennon in his apartment and deemed him a “phony.”
He told the parole board:
At the time my thinking was he has all of this money, lives in this beautiful apartment and he is into music representing a more cautious lifestyle, a more giving lifestyle. If you look at some of the lyrics — I don’t want to quote them but that’s how I was taking them. It made me angry and jealous compared to the way I was living at the time. The was jealousy there.
Chapman said he’d had training on how to shoot a gun from when he worked as a security guard, according to the transcripts. The company he worked for had police who trained the guards. He bought his gun in Hawaii and brought it with him to New York, and used hollow bullets to shoot Lennon. He fired five times. Four bullets went into Lennon’s body as his wife, Yoko Ono, watched in horror.
A parole board member asked Chapman if he felt a sense of accomplishment after the shooting. Chapman said he felt “the opposite of that.”
The parole board member then asked Chapman about his actions immediately after the shooting saying, “You didn’t flee? You just stood there and then I know that the doorman took care of the gun and you just sat and then opened up the book [redacted] and started reading? I don’t know how you could’ve been reading during a moment of such chaos. Where an unbelievable man is laying there about 30 feet from you dead by your hand.”
The book Chapman was reading was Catcher in the Rye. According to The Rutherford Institute, “Chapman was fascinated with J. D. Salinger’s phenomenally successful novel, The Catcher In The Rye. Chapman believed that he would become Holden Caulfield, the young protagonist of the novel when he killed Lennon.”
In 2020 Chapman told the parole board, “I identified with that character’s isolation, loneliness. I got very wrapped up in that book.”
John Lennon would have turned 80 on October 9, 2020. Chapman is 65. He has been denied parole 11 times since being sentenced to twenty years to life in prison in 1981. Chapman has served 40 years and is now in the Wende correctional facility according to the New York Department of Corrections.
He is eligible for parole again in August 2022.