Civil Suit Nears; Goetz Says He Would Shoot Again

From Reuters

Subway gunman Bernhard H. Goetz, who shot four teenagers he says were mugging him and who came to symbolize a frustrated New York City fighting back against crime, said Monday he would do it all over again.

But Goetz, facing a $50-million lawsuit filed by one of the teens he shot 11 years ago, said: “New York is different now. The same thing wouldn’t happen today.”

The mild-mannered Goetz became known as the “subway vigilante” after firing at the youths who demanded $5 on a Manhattan train three days before Christmas 1984.


Goetz’s victims argued they were panhandling, but Goetz claimed he was being mugged.

Goetz was cleared of assault and attempted murder but served eight months for carrying an illegal weapon.

The most seriously injured of his victims, Darrell Cabey, filed a civil lawsuit in state Supreme Court. Jury selection begins Wednesday.

Cabey was shot twice by Goetz, who allegedly said to him after the first bullet: “You don’t look too bad. Here’s another.”

Goetz, now 48, said Monday, after pretrial motions in the case, that he could not recall uttering those words. “I don’t know if I said it, but I was thinking it.”

Goetz lives in the same Greenwich Village apartment and makes his living servicing electronic equipment. But he said he and New York City have changed since that winter day.

“It’s not the same city. I’m not the same person,” he said. “I’m older. I have less hair. I don’t shoot off my mouth as much to the press.”

Asked if he would react as he did on Dec. 22, 1984, he said: “Under those same circumstances, I would think so.”

The shooting came at a time when many New Yorkers felt under siege and at a loss to battle crime, which rose throughout the 1980s but has recently dropped.

To those who sympathized, Goetz was the New Yorker who fought back in self-defense. To his critics, he was a racist taking justice into his own hands.

Cabey, now 30, is brain-damaged and in a wheelchair. He did not appear in court Monday.

Goetz’s attorney, Darnay Hoffman, said he will call Cabey to the stand, saying he questions the extent of his injuries.

“He has always hidden behind this mystique of being a mental vegetable, which we don’t believe,” said Hoffman.

Goetz did not testify in his criminal trial in Manhattan but will take the stand this time, his lawyer said.

Cabey’s attorney, Ron Kuby, maintains Goetz fired at the teens out of racism. Goetz is white and his victims black.

“Bernhard Goetz is proud of what’s he’s done,” Kuby said.