At 11 a.m. on June 17, 1994, OJ Simpson was expected to surrender to police in connection with the brutal murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
When the ex-football star didn’t show up as promised by his lawyers, police issued a warrant for his arrest and declared Simpson a fugitive.
Just before 6 p.m. Simpson was spotted in a white Ford Bronco driven by his best friend and former teammate Al Cowlings. Simpson was in the backseat reportedly with a gun to his head. Cowlings, who was worried that Simpson might shoot himself, was on the phone with Los Angeles Police throughout the pursuit asking them to back off.
A cavalcade of police cars began chasing the Bronco at speeds that never topped 60 mph. Soon news helicopters were also following the surreal chase beaming the footage back to TV networks that carried the whole thing live.
As more and more people caught on to what was going down they gathered at the side of the road and on highway overpasses to cheer and wave signs in support of Simpson.
ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN carried the chase that lasted about 2 hours. NBC which was airing an NBA playoff game between the Knicks and the Rockets showed a split screen of the game and the pursuit.
95 million people stopped to watch the unforgettable chase making it one of the most watched TV events in history. People gathered around televisions in homes, bars, restaurants and other public places to watch the spectacle. It has become an indelible “where were you when …” cultural moment.
The pursuit finally ended when Cowlings drove to Simpson’s Brentwood mansion and parked in the driveway out front. Police negotiated with Simpson who finally surrendered just before 9 p.m. The chase was over but the spectacle of Simpson’s trial was yet to begin.
The white Bronco driven by Cowlings was eventually bought by Simpson’s former agent Mike Gilbert who kept it in storage until 2012. Gilbert did get a few offers from people who wanted to buy the vehicle — one offer was as high as $500,000 — but he turned them all down.
A man representing the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas found out about the Bronco and immediately wanted to use it in a memorabilia show. The two sides worked out a deal, and at some point in 2012, the Bronco went on display for the first time since O.J.’s chase.
In 2017, Gilbert attempted to sell Cowlings’ Bronco for $1.3 million to Rick Harrison on the TV show Pawn Stars. Harrison said the truck was in amazing condition but the price was just too high so he turned it down. The Bronco is back in storage in Gilbert’s garage. You may remember that Simpson had an identical white Bronco was became crucial evidence in the case after police found police splatters on the console, door, steering wheel and carpeting. It was destroyed after Simpson’s trial.
This month Ford Motor Co. began production of a new version of the classic SUV Bronco which was last made in 1996.
For more stories from the 1990s, including the what happened on the day of Simpson’s verdict make sure to check out my podcast “History of the 90s” on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at Curiouscast.ca