Meet Zoey Tur: the pioneering trans helicopter pilot who filmed OJ Simpson’s infamous car chase

Composite image showing Zoey Tur on the left in a white top and glasses, and OJ Simpson at his famous murder trial on the right.

Do you remember where you were during OJ Simpson’s car chase through Los Angeles? Well, transgender broadcaster and pilot Zoey Tur can: she was in a helicopter flying overhead and filming it all.

Simpson passed away this week, on 10 April. His family announced that he had been battling prostate cancer.

30 years before his death, on June 17, 1994, Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti held a news conference to say that that former NFL player OJ Simpson had not surrendered to police to be charged with two counts of murder for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson, his ex-wife, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

OJ Simpson was thought to be on the run.

Tur told Fox News: “He was a fugitive. I turned to my crew and I said, let’s get in the helicopter. Let’s find him.”

Tur flew in the helicopter for over five hours and eventually found Simpson driving in a white Bronco and being chased by the authorities.

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“I looked down below us, and there on the freeway, there was a white Bronco. And within a matter of seconds, there was a police unit, a sheriff’s unit, another sheriff’s unit, highway patrol, and the white Bronco wasn’t stopping. We were on the air live ahead of anyone else for about 22 minutes,” she said.

After several hours, Simpson eventually drove to his home in Brentwood, where police negotiated to get him out of the car: “It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Tur was the first to televise a high-speed police chase, and the news agency she created with then-wife Marika Gerrard, Los Angeles News Service, was the first to use a helicopter to cover breaking news.

Tur has also been credited with reporting on the attack on a construction truck driver Reginald Denny during the 1992 Los Angeles riots as well as finding the crash site of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 after it was hijacked by a passenger.

Zoey Tur was married to Marika Gerrard, with whom she created the Los Angeles News Service, for 23 years.

Their marriage came to an end in 2003 but resulted in two children: Katy, a television news reporter and anchor, and James, a doctor.

Zoey Tur came out publicly as transgender in 2013 and underwent hormone replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgery in 2014.

Tur previously told People that while her son was extremely supportive, her daughter was “shocked”.

“She had a great deal of difficulty and we stopped talking for a long time,” Tur said.

Katy opened up about her reaction to Zoey’s gender transition on CBS Sunday Morning, saying: “My dad said, ‘I am a woman.’ and I said, ‘What? And my dad said, ‘I’m a woman. I’m transitioning, I’m going to become a woman.’ And I remember being at first puzzled and saying, ‘You gotta be joking. You’re kidding.”

“It was really just, it was a lot,” Katy added.

Tur has said that her daughter was estranged from her because of her transition, but Katy claims they “were not on speaking terms for a little while” but that it was not because of the transition.

Tur also dramatically accused her daughter of transphobia on Facebook, writing: “Truth is my daughter does not support the LGBTQ+ community. She’s Transphobic and fearful that it will hurt her career as a broadcaster in these alt-right times. Career before family. In the words of Paddy Chayefsky: She’s pure television.”

What is Zoey Tur doing now?

In 2016, Tur appeared in several episodes of the miniseries OJ: Made In America and has this week been called upon to discuss Simpson and her filming of his car case through Los Angeles, after Simpson’s family announced that he had passed away.

Tur founded a new media production company called NewsMediaFilms (NMF) in 2018 along with her friend Beth Youngblood, with NMF describing it as being “fuelled by their passion for filmmaking”.

Zoey Tur has continued to cover big news stories, including the August Complex fires that spread through California in 2020, and is the news director of NMF.

NMF’s website states that the company is “committed to finding, showcasing, and promoting stories worth telling”.