Subway Vigilante Flees New York City - 1984

Dec 23, 2012 - by - 0 Comments

Goetz

Bernie Goetz

by Michael Thomas Barry

On December 23, 1984, Bernhard Goetz, who shot four young black men on a subway car the previous day, flees New York City after becoming the central figure in a media induced frenzy. On the afternoon of December 22, Troy Canty, Barry Allen, Darrell Cabey, and James Ramseur reportedly approached Goetz as he was riding the subway and demanded $5. Goetz pulled out a .hand gun and shot each of the boys.

Goetz walked to the end of train, jumped onto the tracks, and disappeared. Immediately catching the public's attention, the case ignited serious media attention. While the so-called "Subway Vigilante" was on the lam, police discovered that three of the shooting victims had been carrying screwdrivers in their pockets during the attempted mugging and all had significant criminal records. Many observers immediately used this information as justification for Goetz's behavior, congratulating him for standing up to the boys. Goetz turned himself in to New Hampshire police on December 31th and was brought back in New York. He was initially indicted on only three counts of illegal gun possession, but prosecutors were dissatisfied with the insignificant charges, and a grand jury was reconvened in March. This time they charged Goetz with four counts of attempted murder. The victims also instituted civil suits. During the criminal trial, which began in December 1986, Goetz attempted to persuade jurors that he had acted in self-defense. To this end, the defense highlighted the fact that Goetz had been mugged in 1981 and the accused attacker was charged only with criminal mischief. Goetz was found not guilty on all criminal charges but was found guilty for violating one minor gun statute, for which he received a one-year sentence. However, in the civil trial, Goetz was found libel and ordered to pay a multimillion-dollar sum for paralyzing Darrell Cabey. 

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