OJ Simpson and the white Ford Bronco: The world's most famous police chase

OJ Simpson, a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back who was accused of, and ultimately acquitted, in the 1994 killings of his former wife and her fri
Ford Bronco OJ Simpson
File photo of Al Cowlings, with O.J. Simpson hiding, drives a white Ford Bronco as they lead police on a two-county chase along the northbound 405 Freeway towards Simpson's home on June 17, 1994, (AP)
Ford Bronco OJ Simpson
File photo of Al Cowlings, with O.J. Simpson hiding, drives a white Ford Bronco as they lead police on a two-county chase along the northbound 405 Freeway towards Simpson's home on June 17, 1994,

It was the car chase that brought a nation screeching to a halt.

On June 17, 1994, a white Ford Bronco containing a fugitive O.J. Simpson led a convoy of police cars down southern California's freeways -- and 95 million Americans couldn't take their eyes off it.

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Coverage of massive sporting events like the NBA finals and US Open was interrupted with footage of the chase, while Domino's Pizza reported record delivery orders from viewers unwilling to miss a single moment.

That moment captured by hovering TV helicopters and breathless newsmen, and broadcast around the world, remains an obsession for some.

But for one viewer, it held a particular fascination.

"We were all huddled around and watching, no one was breathing -- we just stood there in complete awe and fascination," recalled Kim Goldman, in a 2019 podcast marking the 25th anniversary of the chase.

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"It was weird because there (were) people hoping that he would kill himself ... And my dad and I just didn't - we wanted him to be brought in and held accountable."

Five days earlier, Goldman's brother Ron had been stabbed to death alongside Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.

Simpson was famously acquitted in 1995 by a Los Angeles jury in a case decried by many as a media circus which became known as the "Trial of the Century."

The former football star and Hollywood actor's acquittal was greeted with disbelief by many Americans, with opinion on the Black athlete's guilt divided sharply along racial lines.

Simpson was later found liable for the deaths in a 1997 civil suit and ordered to pay damages to Goldman's family totaling $33.5 million. The majority of that remained unpaid.

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‘Waiting for the collision’

Simpson maintained his innocence and always denied he was trying to flee during the famous Bronco chase, even though he ignored a police deadline to turn himself in.

He told a LAPD detective over the phone during the slow-speed pursuit to "let them all know I wasn't running," but rather visiting Nicole's grave.

A duffel bag containing Simpson's passport and cash -- as well as a gun -- found by police in the car led many to question this, but was never submitted as evidence by the prosecution.

For Geoffrey Alpert, a professor at University of South Carolina who studies police chases, Simpson's celebrity heightened a deep-rooted fascination with the idea of a dangerous pursuit.

"We're waiting for the collision. No one wants anyone to die but we certainly like to see some mayhem," he told AFP in 2019, comparing televised chases to wildly popular Nascar races.

"The media has a broader fascination with that kind of event in the States than anywhere else," he added.

"It goes back to the days of horseback riding when someone would rob a bank and the sheriff would jump on his horse and chase him."

The car itself - owned by Simpson's friend Al Cowlings, who was driving during the pursuit - is on display in a Tennessee crime museum.

A Los Angeles tour company reportedly explored the idea of offering rides in the vehicle up and down the same freeways.

To the disappointment of fans who gathered on overpasses along the chase route that day with signs saying "Run O.J. Run" and "Go O.J.," Simpson eventually surrendered.

But for Goldman, that did not lead to any closure.

Simpson was released from jail in 2017 after serving nine years behind bars for an unrelated armed robbery. At the time of his death this week, he was living in Las Vegas, where he was regularly spotted playing golf.

First Published Date: 12 Apr 2024, 08:03 AM IST

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