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Who is Bernard Goetz?

Sherry Holetzky
Sherry Holetzky

Bernard Goetz, after suffering a brutal beating by muggers and receiving no justice, later took the law into his own hands. Dubbed the Subway Vigilante in the press, Bernard Goetz shot four teens that he described as thugs. He said he believed they intended to attack him because they surrounded him in a threatening manner and told him to give them money.

He believed he was literally in the process of being mugged. They claimed they were simply panhandling. Because the teens were black and Bernard Goetz was white, there was also racial tension associated with the case.

Bernard Goetz shot four teens in New York.
Bernard Goetz shot four teens in New York.

Bernard Goetz stated that he was “offended” by the system, a system that allowed the public to be preyed upon, but then treated him as a criminal for defending himself. That the system invested so many resources to prosecute him but little to protect the public and assist victims was incomprehensible to him. Many people supported his position. Others believed him to be a racist or no better than a thug for having shot the boys.

Goetz felt that the New York Subway, and New York City itself, were dangerous and lawless at the time. He said people could not expect help from the authorities and that the police were told not to make arrests because the courts and the jails were overburdened. He refused to live in fear or to endure another brutal beating without fighting back. He said he didn’t regret what he did. He admitted that it hadn’t been good for his life but at the same time, he felt it was a turning point for New York and that good had come of it.

While it is not advised for people to become vigilantes, many agreed that the actions of Bernard Goetz forced authorities to act. Some even offered money to help pay for his defense. Bernard Goetz was acquitted of attempted murder but was convicted for carrying a weapon. The jury found he had the right to use the gun but did not have the right to carry it. Goetz served eight months in jail for carrying the gun.

Discussion Comments


Reply to 37351: Mr. Goetz instigated this incident because he sat near these guys on an otherwise empty subway car? Are you nuts? It may have been smart to sit as far away as possible from these criminals but to say he somehow disrespected them for sitting in a certain seat is crazy to me.

It's the subway! People invade others' personal space routinely in the subway. These guys got what they had coming to them. All states should allow conceal and carry firearms so law abiding citizens can reasonably protect themselves if needed.


anon37351 posts the typical liberal point of view that criminals are victims and the victim of their crime is somehow responsible. Wrong.

In the mid 80's I was mugged on a subway by a single assailant. Unfortunately for the assailant, I was well versed in combat martial arts and quickly broke both of his arms and cracked a few of his ribs. To avoid Bernie's fate, I escaped the subway at the next stop, making sure I shielded my face on the way out. There were no transit police anywhere on the train or in the station. It was not particularly late at night.


I only hope there were more people like Bernard Goetz, perhaps with cloning we could make doubles of him. Station them at our borders and anywhere else where they would be needed to enforce "Our rights to exist".


If there were more Bernard Goetzs around maybe those thugs out there would think twice about robbing honest people, and I really believe that the crime rate would substantially go down.


Having been a victim of a violent hate crime that was perpetrated by african americans, I have a lot of sympathy for the actions of Bernard Goetz. There are tons of gangs that roam the streets of brooklyn at night unchecked by the police. I and my friends have been viciously attacked while alone by gangs spewing out the projects that we pay for. It is not right that honest american citizens have to arm themselves to save their lives because the police are forced to be politically correct.


Goetz,is a hero. on a subway you don't have no space, and they were crimina's and got what they deserved. go for head shots next time. Thanks Mr. Goetz, and God bless.


I remember what the New York subway system and streets were like back in the 80's. And while I sympathized with Goetz I suspect he was perhaps looking for a reason to use his gun and get a bit of revenge for his earlier mugging, or at the very least having that gun made him a bit too cocky and reckless. He (wittingly or unwittingly) made the mistake of invading those guys' personal space when he sat down right next to them. When you walk into a train car that's almost completely empty with plenty of available seats around, you don't go all the way to the end of the car and sit down right in some stranger's face, especially if he's part of a seedy looking group. That's just common etiquette as well as common sense, and Goetz ignored that universal unwritten rule. When you don't respect somebody's space, it's just asking for trouble. I realize they weren't exactly angels and they may or may not have been intending to rob Goetz, but he initiated the confrontation by needlessly antagonizing them, and he could easily avoided it in the first place.


Why does the author of the article keep calling the predators "boys" and "teens"? The predators were four black men, young men, but all four were considered legal adults in this country. All four were wanted on warrants, one for felony assault. One raped, sodomized, and beat a teenage girl shortly after being released from the hospital. Too bad for her that this predator survived his botched robbery of Goetz.

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    • Bernard Goetz shot four teens in New York.
      By: Mihai Simonia
      Bernard Goetz shot four teens in New York.