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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor


VIDEO: Epic OJ Simpson white Bronco car chase kickstarted reality TV

OJ Simpson's infamous car chase on the Los Angeles freeway in 1994 was watched live by almost a 100 million Americans.


The death of former American football star OJ Simpson on 10 April set the internet ablaze with searches for THAT white Bronco Los Angeles freeway chase which kept the American nation glued to their television screens on in 1994.

Almost 30 years later, the 90-minute-long chase remains an iconic TV moment when the NFL megastar went on the run following the double murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Brown and her friend, waiter Ronald Goldman.

The passing of Simpson at the age of 76 from prostate cancer reignited memories of the “slow-speed chase” watched by 95 million Americans, and the sensational “Trial of the Century” that followed.

OJ.. Simpson
In this file photo, OJ Simpson sits in the Superior Court in Los Angeles on 8 December 1994 during an open court session. Photo: POOL/ AFP

Simpson’s murder trial — during which he was represented by a so-called “dream team” of attorneys — was the first court trial followed by a mass international audience in real time.

OJ Simpson: The day of the Bronco car chase…

The day of the Bronco chase and arrest started with police announcing that the former champion football running back-turned-actor was the chief suspect in the murder of his ex-wife and Goldman.

This followed the grim discovery of their bloodied bodies four days earlier outside her Brentwood condo.

Hours later, Simpson was located driving along the freeway outside Los Angeles with his football friend Al Cowlings. The star was armed with a gun which authorities feared he would use to kill himself.

The unfolding real-life drama was transmitted by several TV stations and unsurprisingly it was also the busiest day Domino’s Pizza ever had, according to The State Journal-Register.

“There are some watershed moments in American culture that kind of transform the way we view the world, and I think that chase was certainly one of those moments,” legal expert Marcellus McRae told AFP.

‘It was a reality show’

“It was a surreal spectacle. It was almost Shakespearian. It was a reality show,” he added.

According to McRae, TV viewers were hypnotized by the story because “it’s not Hollywood, it’s real life and it’s someone that you actually know”.

Real-time, round-the-clock TV coverage was in its infancy three decades ago. , according to journalist Jim Newton, who covered the Bronco chase from a helicopter for The Los Angeles Times.

“It was a precursor of the reality show,” journalist Jim Newton, who covered the Bronco chase from a news helicopter for The Los Angeles Times, told AFP.

Television news helicopters followed the pursuit all the way to the gates of Simpson’s house, where he gave himself up after hours of negotiations with police.

WATCH: OJ Simpson Bronco chase

Simpson acquitted of murder

The high-profile trial, which began in January 1995, lasted for nine months and left the world with some iconic moments, including when the former sports star tried on a bloodied glove found at the scene of the crime.

The glove turned out to be too small, undermining a key prosecution claim.

This official booking photograph released by the Los Angeles Police Department shows OJ Simpson as the former professional football star is booked for murder on 17 June 1994. Photo: Los Angeles Police Department/ AFP

A whopping 145 million people tuned in on 3 October 1995 to see him declared not guilty on all charges.

Variety reported that although Simpson was not found guilty of the deaths, three years after his criminal trial he was found liable in a civil suit brought by the victims’ families.

ALSO READ: OJ Simpson’s lost murder ‘confession’ resurfaces

Hype around true-life crime mysteries is born

Simpson’s televised murder trial led to a growing obsession with true-life crime mysteries with the showing of Ryan Murphy-Brad Falchuck’s 10-part The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story on FX in 2016.

The series provided a dramatised behind-the-scenes look of the period between the heinous crime and Simpson’s exoneration.

Overlapping that, OJ: Made in America by producer–director Ezra Edelman shows Simpson’s decline into debauchery in Florida, using cocaine.

“Whatever one thinks of the murder, I found myself feeling sorry for the guy as he slid further and further off his greatness,” the former Los Angeles reporter Newton told Vulture when asked about his take on the documentary.

“Another revelation [was] the idea that he was signing all this memorabilia while in custody. I know there was a reference to it in the fictional version, but [Made in America] talked about millions of dollars he made while he was in custody. I had no idea,” Newton said.

WATCH: Trailer of OJ: Made in America

No escape from the law: OJ Simpson gets jail time after all

In 2007, the former NFL football player who also starred in several movies, was arrested along with a group of men for alleged armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas.

Simpson was found guilty and sentenced to between nine and 33 years behind bars.

He eventually served nine years of his sentence.

ALSO READ: Disgraced OJ Simpson will be released from prison

Death of a former football star

Simpson’s family took to his official X account on Thursday, announcing his death:

“On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren…”

  • Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse