WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Twenty years after Hall-of-Fame running back O.J. Simpson captivated the country during his infamous white Ford Bronco police chase, local residents can still recall the incident as if it happened yesterday.
Simpson, being driven by former teammate and friend Al Cowlings, took police on a 90-minute slow-speed car chase through Los Angeles while he held a gun to his head and threatened to kill himself in the backseat on June 17, 1994.
The bizarre incident was shown on live television, even going so far as to have a split screen of the chase during Game 5 of the NBA Final between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets.
Bronxville resident Chase Scott, who was 8 years old at the time of the chase, says that it was the first major news event that he can vividly recall.
“I feel like the O.J. chase is one of those moments where anyone old enough to remember can pinpoint where they were. It’s like September 11, or the Kennedy assassination for the older generation,” he said. “I was too little to fully grasp what was happening, but looking back, I sure remember watching.”
June 17, 1994 was a seminal day for sports fans. America was hosting its first World Cup, legendary golfer Arnold Palmer was playing his final round in a U.S. Open, New York Rangers fans were celebrating their Stanley Cup victory and the Knicks and Rockets were embroiled in a hotly contested series, yet Simpson stole the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
“That was one of the stranger moments I can remember witnessing,” Mount Vernon resident George Cooper, 54, said. “You really had no way of knowing what exactly was going on. Some thought he was going to kill himself, but you had no way of knowing. Strange is the only way to describe it.”
During the slow-speed chase that saw dozens of police cars pursuing the Bronco, fans of Simpson crowded the streets to wave and cheer the beleaguered running back. The chase ended in the driveway of his Los Angeles home, where police took him into custody without incident.
Infamously, Simpson would be acquitted by a jury who determined he was not guilty of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. Simpson, now 67-years-old, was sentenced to 33 years in prison after he was found guilty of armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas in 2007.
“I’m a lifelong Knicks fan, but I remember that we actually turned off the game to watch the white Bronco,” Jordan Smith, 48, said in Mount Vernon. “We just couldn’t believe that O.J. Simpson was being chased by the police.”