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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – Geraldo Rivera was working as a journalist for ABC News the day John Lennon was shot, on December 8, 1980.

His connection to John Lennon and Yoko Ono actually began years earlier.

Rivera had won a Peabody Award for his work investigating abuse of people with intellectual and physical disabilities at Willowbrook State School in New York in 1972.

John Lennon saw his report and they worked together to put on the “One to One” concert in New York City to raise money for the Willowbrook patients.

John Lennon and Geraldo became friends and neighbors.

“I distinctly heard the shots”

Geraldo says he still remembers the gunshots.

In 1980 he was living about a quarter-mile away from where John Lennon was shot in the back.

“I distinctly heard the shots,” he told FOX 8’s Wayne Dawson.

John Lennon was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital that night, and Geraldo got a phone call from work.

“Your friend has been killed. John Lennon has been killed,” Geraldo said they told him.

“It was a shocking moment to me. My knees buckled.”

Geraldo said he had just seen John and Yoko and their child, Sean, three weeks prior.

“It was one of the most difficult broadcasts I ever had because I had a hard time focusing and a hard time reporting, being a reporter, not being a friend, not being someone who had a personal loss,” Geraldo shared.

“He was a friend and I miss him still,” he said.

“Imagine all of the music we missed because this brute murdered him that night forty years ago.”

Mark David Chapman was sentenced in 1981.

He’s incarcerated at the Wende Correctional Facility in New York.

“Imagine all the people living life in peace,” Yoko Ono posted on the anniversary, quoting Lennon’s “Imagine.”