Viewers across the nation are glued to their television screens on this day in 1994, watching as a fleet of black-and-white police cars pursues a white Ford Bronco along Interstate 405 in Los Angeles, California. Inside the Bronco is Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson, a former professional football player, actor and sports commentator whom police suspected of involvement in the recent murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
The bodies of Brown Simpson and Goldman were found outside her home in the exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood shortly after midnight on June 13, 1994. Bloodstains matching Simpson’s blood type were found at the crime scene, and the star had become the focus of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) investigation by the morning of June 17. When police arrived to arrest Simpson at the home of his friend and lawyer, Robert Kardashian, they found that Simpson had slipped out the back door with his former college and Buffalo Bills teammate Al Cowlings. The two men had then driven off in Cowlings’ white Ford Bronco.
After a news conference–in which his lawyer, Howard Shapiro, announced that Simpson was distraught and might attempt suicide–the LAPD officially declared the former football star a fugitive. Around 7 p.m. PST, police located the white Bronco by tracing calls made from Simpson’s cellular phone. Simpson was reported to be in the back seat of the vehicle, holding a gun to his head. With news helicopters following the slow chase from above and cameras broadcasting the dramatic events live to millions of astonished viewers, vehicles from the LAPD and California Highway Patrol pursued the Bronco for about an hour as it traveled at some 35 miles per hour along I-405. Finally, after about an hour, the Bronco pulled into the driveway of Simpson’s Brentwood home. He emerged from the car close to 9 pm and was immediately arrested and booked on double murder charges.
The trial that followed gripped the nation, inspiring unprecedented media scrutiny along with heated debates about racial discrimination on the part of the police. Though a jury acquitted Simpson of the murder charges in October 1995, a separate civil trial in 1997 found him liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages to the Brown and Goldman families
In 2007, Simpson ran into legal problems once again when he was arrested for breaking into a Las Vegas hotel room and taking sports memorabilia, which he claimed had been stolen from him, at gunpoint. On October 3, 2008, he was found guilty of 12 charges related to the incident, including armed robbery and kidnapping, and sentenced to 33 years in prison. He was released from prison in October, 2017.