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In new special, WABC/7's reporters recall the night John Lennon was killed 40 years ago

Former WABC/7 reporter John Johnson is seen today

Former WABC/7 reporter John Johnson is seen today and in 1980, covering John Lennon's murder. Credit: WABC

And now this, from the New York TV station that broke news of John Lennon's murder nearly 40 years ago: WABC/7 will stream the film, "Eyewitness to the Death of John Lennon," on Apple TV Friday. (Ch. 7 viewers can watch it Sunday, Dec. 13, at 5 p.m.) According to Ch. 7, the film will feature "rare footage [while] viewers will be able to witness the firsthand account when ABC/7 was the first to confirm the murder of Lennon and broke the news to the nation."

That's the boilerplate from the news release, but the details behind this scoop are the stuff of local TV legend. Ch. 7 news producer, Alan Weiss, was coincidentally in Roosevelt Hospital the night of Dec. 8, 1980, after a motorcycle accident; a gravely wounded Lennon was wheeled into an emergency room just feet from where he lay on a gurney. Weiss, now an independent producer, would subsequently give confirmation of Lennon's death to his own newsroom.

In another remarkable coincidence, "Eyewitness" anchor Ernie Anastos had been out to dinner that night with a friend, and both had walked by the Dakota, Lennon's home, on Central Park West; that was at 9 p.m., and upon returning to the Ch. 7 studios for the 11 p.m. broadcast, Anastos would get word that Lennon had been shot.

ABC would not allow the station to break into the ongoing "Monday Night Football" broadcast, and so it was left to Howard Cossel to first report news of the shooting to a national TV audience. With a few seconds left in the game, Cosell announced "an unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City …"

Per Ch. 7 — which also spoke with veteran reporters John Johnson, Geraldo Rivera, Ernie Anastos and Doug Johnson, each of whom helped cover the story for WABC that day and in the days to follow — the special is available via the station's "streaming apps on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android TV." Viewers, it added, can search "ABC7 New York" in the app store.

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