On this day in 1977 musician John Lennon was shot dead while approaching his lodgings in New York City following a recording session. The culprit was a mentally ill fan named Mark David Chapman.

In the years preceding the attack, Chapman suffered from depression and attempted suicide while on vacation in Hawaii. He became fixated with Lennon after reading his biography. Chapman was also obsessed with J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye. Ultimately, Chapman came to regard Lennon as a “phony” (a la Holden Caufield) and planned to kill the musician in order to gain fame for himself.

Chapman ambushed Lennon outside his hotel, shooting him five times with a .38-caliber revolver. After the shooting, Chapman surrendered his gun to the building’s doorman and waited quietly for the police to arrive.

Chapman was initially deemed psychotic. However, in 1981 he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

According to one source,

When Mark David Chapman fired bullets into John Lennon’s back on December 8, 1980, he not only destroyed an icon of his generation, but also announced the arrival of a new kind of murderer: the celebrity killer.

The Crime Book, DK Publishing, Page 240.

The same source says that at least three fans committed suicide after hearing of Lennon’s death.