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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Doctor Recalls Night Lennon Died

Even now, many John Lennon fans can vividly recall the helplessness and frustration they felt on Dec. 8, 1980 -- now 25 years ago -- when the singer was shot outside the Dakota apartment building in New York.

So can Dr. Stephan Lynn, who was running the emergency room at New York's Roosevelt Hospital that night. He felt Lennon's death firsthand: He was the one who grasped Lennon's heart, massaging it to try to force it to pump again. It never did.

"There was just nothing left to pump," Lynn recalled in an interview. "There was so much damage to the major blood vessels leading from the heart" that his blood just leaked out.

Lynn, 58, is still an emergency physician at Roosevelt. He stood in the bustling emergency room in his scrubs one recent morning and recalled the night 25 years ago when the police carried the singer in. Lennon's vital signs showed that he was already dead when he arrived at the emergency room, and after a 20-minute battle to resuscitate him, Lynn and two other doctors officially declared him dead.

"All the nurses broke out in tears, and most of us said, 'What just happened here?'" Lynn said. "There was a sense we had all just witnessed a major event."

That Lynn would have a bit part in history was not immediately apparent when he rushed to the emergency room that night. He had been called back to work to treat a man with three gunshot wounds to the chest. The patient had a pierced lung and no pulse. He was not breathing or moving and had lost a lot of blood. He was gaunt, and his hair was a mess. He was not wearing any glasses.

"When someone said it was John Lennon, I thought it was a bad joke," Lynn said. "But then they found his ID in his pocket, and he had something like $1,000 in cash on him."

Lynn recalls that he was too busy to let the news sink in. He and two other doctors cut open Lennon's chest to find blood flooding his chest cavity. "The bullets were amazingly well-placed," he said. "All the major blood vessels leaving the heart were a mush, and there was no way to fix it."

Lennon was pronounced dead at 11:15 p.m. Lynn was faced with the task of delivering the news to Yoko Ono.

"When I told her, she said, 'You're lying; it can't be true. He's not dead. I don't believe you,'" he recalled. "She threw herself down on the floor and began banging her head on the ground. I was afraid we'd have a second patient. But after two minutes, she accepted it and asked me to delay announcing the news to the media for 20 minutes because her son, Sean, was home watching the news, and she wanted to tell him first."

The commotion surrounding Lennon's treatment at the hospital caught the attention of another patient, Alan Weiss, a producer for WABC-TV who was being treated for a head injury from a motorcycle accident.

After seeing Ono and hearing the police talking about Lennon, Weiss called the station, which relayed the news to sportscaster Howard Cosell to announce during "Monday Night Football." A thicket of reporters and fans gathered outside the hospital. Lynn walked out to them, blood spattered on his white coat, and told them that John Lennon had just been pronounced dead.