NEW YORK — Just before Christmas 1984 — 35 years ago — Bernie Goetz opened fire on four black young men on a Manhattan subway train.
Fearing he was being mugged, Goetz shot them before jumping off the train and disappearing into the subway tunnel.
The media quickly dubbed him “The Subway Vigilante.” A week later, Goetz turned himself in and confessed that he acted in self-defense.
The incident sparked a racial firestorm and resonated with New Yorkers worn down by rampant crime.
Many New Yorkers hailed him a hero, praising the “vigilante” due to New York’s high crime rate.
Was the “Death Wish Gunman” or “Subway Vigilante” trying to protect himself, or were his actions racially motivated? PIX11’s documentary series Only in New York examined the iconic New York story.