Bernhard Goetz


Bernhard Goetz is known as the “subway vigilante”.  In 1984 he was approached by four young African-American men on a subway in Manhattan, and asked for money.  After a previous mugging on the subway, Goetz had purchased a 38?caliber handgun in Florida.  When the four men approached him Goetz took out the gun and fired five shots seriously wounding all four.  The incident sparked a national discussion about crime and firearms.  It is credited with causing politicians to start cleaning up crime in New York which had become rampant.


Goetz was acquitted of most of the criminal charges against him.  However he was sued by the victims in a civil case.  That case went to trial in 1996, 11 years after the incident.  The jury found that Goetz had acted recklessly and had deliberately inflicted emotional distress on one of the victims.  The jury awarded that victim $43 million.  Goetz filed for bankruptcy stating that the legal expenses had left him with nothing.  He was not able to discharge the $43 million jury award against him but was able to discharge his other debts.  He continues to reside in Manhattan and once ran for political office.