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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Bernhard Goetz: I Did Good



GOETZ: I DID GOOD.

December 19, 2004 -- Twenty years after his name became synonymous with gun violence, unrepentant subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz said the infamous shooting was "just what the doctor ordered for New York City."

The Dec. 22, 1984, incident on a downtown IRT train "forced the city to address crime," Goetz said Friday on "Larry King Live."

"I don't regret pulling the trigger," said Goetz, adding, "I guess feeling guilty is not one of my strong points."

And he'd do it again.

"People should not take crap from other people," the skinny electronics engineer said.

"I would not get a beating again. I would without any hesitation, shoot a violent criminal again."

In the 1984 incident, Goetz, then 37, pulled a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson from his jacket and opened fire on four confrontational black teens. When the dust settled, Barry Allen, 18, Troy Canty, 19, James Ramseur, 19, and Darrell Cabey, 19, all were wounded.

After shooting Cabey, Goetz said, "You don't look too bad, here's another," and shot him a second time.
UPDATE: CNN LARRY KING LIVE: Interview with "Subway Vigilante" Bernhard Goetz.

GRACE: Bernhard, I'm going to take you back to that night, to that afternoon.

GOETZ: Afternoon. It was at 1:30 in the afternoon.

GRACE: Yeah. And I want to ask you that now, nearly 20 years later, do you still remember that moment when you pulled the trigger and opened fire?

GOETZ: I don't think about it much. But I can -- I recall the details. If I -- I don't even try to think about it. But I can recall.

GRACE: Why don't you ever think back on it?

GOETZ: I don't find it particularly interesting. There are other things in my life that I'm a lot more interested in now, than that incident or crime.

GRACE: A lot of people are very interested in that and in you. So, let me take you back, 1984. You get on the subway, the number 2 train. What happened?

GOETZ: Train came into the station, only 10 or 15 seconds after I reached the station. The doors opened up on the subway car. I went in.

GRACE: Like you always did.

GOETZ: Yeah. I found a car that had a lot of seats available, which was near where I was standing and I sat down. And as I was sitting down, there was a group of teenagers in the vicinity. And one of them looked at me and said, how are you doing? I said fine. I just kept looking down.

GRACE: Middle of the day?

GOETZ: It was Saturday afternoon, before Christmas about 1:30. There were, perhaps, 15 to 20 other people in the subway car. And they seemed like they were troublemakers. But I knew I was getting off on the next express stop. So, I didn't think there would be any trouble.

GRACE: So you only had to ride the train one stop.

GOETZ: That's correct, one express stop. I was in a rush. I was late for a meeting with some people. We were going to have some drinks before Christmas. I hadn't seen them for a while. And after the doors closed and the train started moving, two of the guys, they were originally sitting down -- they were doing some play fighting with each other but they were generally sitting down. Two of the fellows came over to my left. And one of them just stuck out his hand and casually said, give me $5. And when -- I knew that was -- that was a mugging.

So, I said casually, what did you say? I pretended I didn't know what he was saying. He said give me $5. I said I'll give you $5. I'll give all of you $5. I forget my exact words and I stood up. I had a fast draw gun. And I did a (INAUDIBLE) holster and I did speed shooting. And speed shooting is where you pull the trigger before you aim. And you can get off -- that was a five-shot gun. You can get off five shots -- I figured I got off all five shots in about 1.5 seconds. And --

GRACE: Now, Bernhard. What about their demeanor made you feel threatened?

GOETZ: They were just thugs. They were just typical street thugs. You get to know them. I spent lots of times, lots of time on the streets of New York.

GRACE: Four of them. One of you?

GOETZ: Yeah. That was common at the time. We had, in New York City, we had groups of teenagers who were go around --

GRACE: A pack?

GOETZ: Day and night - yes, threatening people, being loud, intimidating people, doing violence on people and basically, the police couldn't do anything.

GRACE: Or wouldn't or didn't do anything.

GOETZ: There was a police policy. At the time, if you were a cop and you arrested somebody and you brought them into the precinct, the cop would be reprimanded by the superior. The superior would tell them the courts are overcrowded. The prisons and jails are overcrowded.

GRACE: Handle it on the street.

GOETZ: Don't bring in people.

GRACE: What I'm trying to find out is what they did, if anything, to make you feel threatened to the point you had to shoot them.

GOETZ: Very simple. They surrounded me. They were right on top of me. They were acting in concert. They had blocked off my retreat. It was all over with. There was going to be a confrontation at that point. They didn't even have to say anything. It was just by their positions. If people are over in a certain area and then two of them come around and there are two on your left and two on your right, you're surrounded. You're basically --

GRACE: With the wall at your back?

GOETZ: Yes. I had nowhere to go.

GRACE: After the shooting, you stepped off the train and blend blended in.

GOETZ: Well, yes. I talked to a few people on the train, a couple women, the subway conductor. They did the standard procedure in New York City, if there's a shooting on a subway, they will stop the train between stations, whether the train is underground or if it's above ground so the people involved can't get off the train. And I sat there -- after I finished talking to the people, for about 30 seconds. And I was thinking -- if you're going to run, you had better run now. You know, you better not wait because in a few minutes, it will be too late. And so, I got up, climbed down between the cars, ran to the next station, climbed up on the subway tracks and kind of -- I would sometimes walk, sometimes run out of the station. I just started walking on the street. Sirens were going off everywhere.

GRACE: So you are walking down the street, while the sirens were going and cops were converging. And you just kept walking?

GOETZ: That's right. If I had left the train maybe a minute later, the police would have caught me. The police responded very quickly.

GRACE: If you acted in self-defense, why did you leave the scene?

GOETZ: Well I knew I would be in trouble at the time in New York and we still have it. Carrying a gun in New York City, even if it's for self-defense, has a one-year mandatory sentence. It's a felony. I just didn't want to be --

GRACE: So, in you're mind, the irony was, they were robbing you. And you were running from the cops.

GOETZ: Yes. Actually, as a result of that incident, even though they were robbing me, they committed perjury -- the only person who has a criminal record as a result of that incident and you have a assistant district attorney of course suborning perjury -- the only person who has a criminal record is me and that's for carrying a gun.

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