While everyone is focusing on today being the 19th anniversary of O.J. Simpson being chased by the LAPD, we can’t help but think about two things: (1.) O.J. had a cellphone; (2.) O.J. had a really, really good cell phone signal.
Listening to the call O.J. had with LAPD Detective Tom Lange, there were no noticeable signal issues even as Lange tried to get O.J.’s attention while A.C. Cowlings talked the Juice out of killing himself.
According to the book, Evidence Dismissed: The Inside Story of the Police Investigation of O.J. Simpson by Tom Lange, there were a couple of times during the chase where calls were either ended by Juice or the White Bronco was hitting a dead cellular area.
They talk for a few minutes. A couple of detectives, who hear about Lange’s contact with Simpson, are already starting to pass him notes, offering advice as to how to keep Simpson on the line and how to keep him talking. “Remind him about his kids. . . . Tell him that his mother wants to see him
again. . . . ”
Then Lange’s phone goes dead. Simpson has either hung up or is out of his cellular area.
Word quickly spreads around Robbery/Homicide: Lange has reached Simpson. Everyone in the room becomes very quiet; many crowd around Lange’s desk. Vannatter, who has been frantically making calls on his own telephone, puts down his receiver. He wants to listen to his partner’s side of the conversation.
Lange calls back. Once again, Simpson answers. They continue their conversation until the phone goes dead.
A little nervous, Lange is thinking to himself, “What the hell am I doing in the middle of this?”
As Lange calls again, a technician from the LAPD’s sound lab, who has just heard that Lange has reached Simpson, sprints into the office with a tape recorder and a telephone hookup.
This time, just as Simpson answers, the technician switches on the recorder. Once again, the sound of numerous whining sirens is in the background.
This is what a 1994 Nokia cell phone looked like. There were 24,000,000 cellphone users in 1994; that number swelled to 33,758,661 by 1995. It’s possible that O.J., via this chase, helped fuel a cellular revolution.
In 1992, the L.A. Times wrote that California was “the mobile communications capital of the nation.”
The state was unknowingly ready for this major cellular moment that wouldn’t have been possible in most parts of the United States.
CNN picks up the coverage.