Trial by Media: After the 1984 Subway Shooting, Here Is Where Bernhard Goetz Is Today

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Episode two of Netflix’s docuseries Trial by Media is dedicated to the 1984 New York City subway shooting and Bernhard Goetz. Goetz, who became known as the Subway Vigilante, shot four Black teenagers in a subway car in 1984 after claiming they were going to mug him. After the shooting, some praised him as a hero for using self-defense and playing a vigilante role, but many called it a racial hate crime.

On the night of Dec. 22, 1984, Goetz was on a New York City subway train in lower Manhattan when four teenagers boarded his train: Barry Allen, Troy Canty, Darrell Cabey, and James Ramseur. Goetz, who had been mugged a few years earlier and carried a gun because of it, claimed they asked him for $5 but he saw a certain look in their eyes and assumed he was about to get mugged. He pulled out a gun and shot them all before making an escape.

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In Trial by Media, Goetz can be seen giving a damning confession when he turned himself in nine days after the shooting. In his confession, Goetz said: “I wanted to kill those guys. I wanted to maim those guys. I wanted to make those them [sic] suffer in every way I could.”

He was charged with attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, and several firearms offenses and went to trial. He ended up only being sentenced to a year in prison but was released after eight months. One of the victim’s families took him to court in 1996 to sue for $43 million in damages and won, but it doesn’t look like Goetz has been able to pay much if any of it. And thought Goetz didn’t kill any of the victims during the shooting in 1984, one of the teens, Ramseur, was found dead exactly 27 years later, according to CNN. New York Post reported at the time that he died of an apparent drug overdose.

Goetz chose not to be a part of the Netflix docuseries, but a snippet at the end of the episode notes that as of 2017, he was still living in the same apartment on 14th Street as he was back in the 1980s. He has run for public office twice in recent years and currently spends his time advocating for legal marijuana and playing with squirrels. Trial by Media even mentions that Goetz still rides the New York City subways regularly.

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