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On the evening of 8 December 1980, English musician John Lennon, formerly of the Beatles, was shot and fatally wounded in the archway of the Dakota, his residence in New York City. The killer was an American Beatles fan who was jealous and enraged by Lennon's rich lifestyle, alongside his 1966 comment that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus". The killer said he was inspired by the fictional character Holden Caulfield from J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye, a "phony-killer" who loathes hypocrisy.

The killer planned the killing over several months and waited for Lennon at the Dakota on the morning of 8 December. Early in the evening, The killer met Lennon, who signed his copy of the album Double Fantasy and subsequently left for a recording session at the Record Plant. Later that night, Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, returned to the Dakota. As Lennon and Ono approached the entrance of the building, The killer fired five hollow-point bullets from a .38 special revolver, four of which hit Lennon in the back. Lennon was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital in a police car, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:15 p.m. at age 40. The killer remained at the scene reading The Catcher in the Rye until he was arrested by the police.

A worldwide outpouring of grief ensued; crowds gathered at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of the Dakota, and at least three Beatles fans died by suicide. The next day, Lennon was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. In lieu of a funeral, Ono requested ten minutes of silence around the world. The killer pleaded guilty to murdering Lennon and was given a sentence of 20-years-to-life imprisonment. He has been denied parole twelve times since he became eligible in 2000.

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