I bet some of you kids don’t know about or recall Bernhard Goetz.
Bernie was a New Yorker who went Charlie Bronson on a few Urban Yutes during his ride on the subway one day. Bern had one too many run ins with the local diversity and even applied for a CCW, which the city of course rejected. He went and bout a snubbie and carried anyway.
“I decided to shoot as many as I could as quickly as I could. I did a fast draw, and shot with one hand (my right), pulling the trigger prior to the gun being aligned on the targets. All actual shots plus my draw time occurred easily within 1.6 seconds or less. This is not as difficult to do as some might think, and occasionally I give a description of the technique along with a re-enactment. The first shot hit Canty in the center of the chest. After the first shot my vision changed and I lost my sense of hearing. The second shot hit lightning fast Barry Allen in the upper rear shoulder as he was ducking (later the bullet was removed from his arm). The third shot hit the subway wall just in front of Cabey; the fourth shot hit Cabey in the left side (severing his spinal cord and rendering him paraplegic). The fifth shot hit Ramseur’s arm on the way into his left side. I immediately looked at the first two to make sure they were “taken care of,” and then attempted to shoot Cabey again in the stomach, but the gun was empty. I thought Cabey was shot twice after reading a media account no shots missed; I had lost count of the shots and while under adrenaline I didn’t even hear the shots or feel the kick of the gun. ‘You don’t look too bad, here’s another’, is a phrase I came up with later when trying to explain the shooting while I was under the impression that Cabey was shot twice. Cabey, who was briefly standing prior to the shooting, was sitting on the subway bench during all attempted shots. The others were standing. Shortly after the shooting my vision and hearing returned to normal.”
From a contemporary NYT article.
A Manhattan man surrendered to the Concord, N.H., police yesterday, saying he was the gunman who wounded four teen-agers on a subway car 10 days ago, police officials said.
They said the man, Bernhard Hugo Goetz, 37 years old, of 55 West 14th Street, had already been identified as a suspect in the shooting, which took place after the teen-agers approached him and asked him for money.
The police said Mr. Goetz, a slim man with blond hair, matched a police composite drawing of the suspect, who escaped into the subway tunnel after the shooting.
Hundreds Expressed Support
A special telephone line that police set up to receive tips to lead them to a suspect instead attracted hundreds of callers who expressed support for the gunman’s actions. Some people offered to help pay legal expenses and others suggested that he run for Mayor.
In response, Mayor Koch condemned the gunman’s act, declaring that ”vigilantism will not be tolerated in the city.”
Yesterday the police described Mr. Goetz as a self-employed electronics specialist who had no criminal record. They said he had been mugged three years ago and had afterward applied for, and been denied, a gun permit.
Neighbors said Mr. Goetz was an outgoing man who had been active in community affairs and concerned about crime in his neighborhood. He had organized several petition drives to improve police protection on his block, between 5th Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas, including a recent one after a doorman in the building had been beaten up.
”But it didn’t really help,” said a neighbor, Scott Sedita, who said he had known Mr. Goetz for about four years. ”And I think that made him upset.”
According to the police, Mr. Goetz, wearing jeans and a sports shirt, walked into the red brick headquarters of the Concord police yesterday about 12:30 P.M and told the officer on duty, ”I am the person they are seeking in New York.”
The officer, Lieut. Robert Libby, then questioned Mr. Goetz and called the New York police. According to the Concord Police Chief, David Walchak, Mr. Goetz gave Officer Libby details of the shooting that have not been reported publicly.
Formal charges, to be drawn up by the Manhattan District Attorney, have not been filed.
Chief Walchak declined to say why Mr. Goetz, who operates his own company, Electrical Calibration Laboratories, out of his home, had gone to New Hampshire. The chief said he did not think that Mr. Goetz had relatives or a residence in the state. He said Mr. Goetz was not armed when he entered the police station and was ”relatively calm.”
According to the police, the shooting occurred about 1:30 P.M. on a southbound No. 2 train just north of Chambers Street. The man, neatly dressed and wearing wire-rimmed glasses, had been approached by the teen-agers, who asked for the time and then for a match.
‘$5 for Each of You’
The police said the teen-agers – one of them sitting next to the man, and the others clustered around – then asked for $5.
”Yes,” the teen-agers have said he responded, ”I have $5 for each of you.” He then stood and fired at each of the teen-agers, hitting all of them in the upper body.
The man reportedly told a conductor who rushed into the car that the teen- agers had ”tried to rip him off.” He then helped the conductor get a frightened woman to her feet before jumping onto the tracks.
The police said that the four teen- agers all had arrest records and that three of them were carrying long screwdrivers in their jackets. They lived near each other in the Bronx and apparently were friends.
Tenants and employees of Mr. Goetz’s building, a residential building with a green awning and a uniformed doorman, described Mr. Goetz as being very involved with trying to get drug dealers out of the neighborhood.
German Brito, the doorman on duty last night, described him as ” a very nice guy who was usually quiet but got very excited whenever there were drunks outside the door.”
“Speed is everything,” Goetz said in a videotaped statement made after he surrendered nine days later. He told police that while still seated, he planned a “pattern of fire” from left to right. He then stood, stepped clear of Canty, drew his revolver, turned back to Canty, and fired four shots, one at each man, then fired a fifth shot. At the civil trial years later he said, “I was trying to get as many of them as I could.” Other sources repeated Goetz’s statements to New York City police as to the sequence of shots: Canty was shot first, then Allen, then Ramseur, then Cabey. In the related proceeding People v. Goetz, the New York Court of Appeals summarized the incident:
It appears from the evidence before the Grand Jury that Canty approached Goetz, possibly with Allen beside him, and stated “Give me five dollars.” Neither Canty nor any of the other youths displayed a weapon. Goetz responded by standing up, pulling out his handgun, and firing four shots in rapid succession. The first shot hit Canty in the chest; the second struck Allen in the back; the third went through Ramseur’s arm and into his left side; the fourth was fired at Cabey, who apparently was then standing in the corner of the car, but missed, deflecting instead off a wall of the conductor’s cab. After Goetz briefly surveyed the train scene around him, he fired another shot at Cabey, who then was sitting on the end bench of the car. The bullet entered the rear of Cabey’s side and severed his spinal cord.
According to his statements to police, Goetz checked the first two men to make sure that they had been “taken care of,” then upon seeing that the fourth man, Cabey, was now sitting down and seemed unhurt, said, “You seem to be all right, here’s another,” and fired at him again. Cabey was hit only once, a fact not made known to Goetz or his attorneys until shortly before the trial. One bullet missed, fragmenting on the steel cab wall behind Cabey — this missed shot would also be the basis of a charge of reckless endangerment of other passengers.
The case was defended by Barry Slotnick and Mark M. Baker. Slotnick argued that Goetz’s actions fell within the New York State’s self-defense statute. Under Section 35.15, “A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person … unless … He reasonably believes that such other person is committing or attempting to commit [one of certain enumerated predicate offenses, including robbery].”
Goetz was tried before a Manhattan jury of 10 whites and 2 blacks, of whom 6 had been victims of street crime. He was acquitted of the attempted murder and first-degree assault charges and convicted of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree – carrying a loaded, unlicensed weapon in a public place. He was sentenced to six months in jail, one year’s psychiatric treatment, five years’ probation, 200 hours community service, and a $5,000 fine. An appellate court affirmed the conviction and changed the sentence to one year in jail without probation. The order of the appellate court was affirmed because the trial court had not erred in instructing the jury that, if it found the People had proved each of the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, it “must” find the defendant guilty. This was not a directed verdict. Goetz served eight months.