this day in crime history: december 22, 1984

On this date in 1984, self-employed electronics repairman Bernhard Goetz just said no to subway mugging. Letting his gun do the talking, Goetz shot four unarmed men he claimed were trying to rob him. He fled the state after the shooting, but turned himself in nine days later in New Hampshire.

Goetz was tried for felony assault, attempted murder, and illegal weapons possession. He was acquitted of the assault and attempted murder charges, but convicted of the weapons charge, for which he served eight months in jail.

Following the criminal trial, Darrell Cabey, one of the men who was shot, filed a lawsuit against Goetz. The jury found Goetz liable for Cabey’s injuries and awarded Cabey – who was left paralyzed by the shooting – $43 million. Goetz responded by filing for bankruptcy.

Since the shooting, Goetz has run unsuccessfully for mayor of New York, and for public advocate. He also founded his own company, appropriately named Vigilante Electronics.

Further reading:

The Eighties Club – The Subway Vigilante

Wikipedia – Bernhard Goetz

Biography Channel  – Bernhard Goetz


5 thoughts on “this day in crime history: december 22, 1984

  1. They weren’t unarmed. At least one of them was wielding a “sharpened screwdriver”, according to news reports at the time. They allegedly panhandled him for five dollars, he refused, someone produced the weapon, and Goetz replied, “Yes, I have five dollars for each of you.” That’s why he was acquitted of the violent crimes, and only convicted of the weapon charge.


    • That screwdriver wasn’t a weapon, it was a tool. That young man was an aspiring electrician. Goetz only perceived it as a weapon because he was, you know, racist. And the jury only acquitted him on most of the charges because they were, you know, racist. 😛

      On a serious note, if that verdict happened today, there’d be riots in the streets. Facts be damned.


  2. John D.:
    Funny, when you mentioned on the previous post bout the Lennon shooting, I couldn’t help but think of Goetz.
    And now here we are…
    Yep, all the perps were not unarmed (and, imho, were asking to be shot…luckily Goetz had the remedy to the disease).
    I DO know that subway crimes went WAY down in the aftermath along the east coast.
    They never seem to talk about THAT.

    Good post.

    Roll safe out there.


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