'Subway Vigilante' back in court a decade later

Bernard Goetz

April 8, 1996
Web posted at: 9:05 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK (CNN) -- More than 11 years after being catapulted into the national spotlight by shooting four black youths on a New York subway, Bernard Goetz, the so-called "Subway Vigilante," was back in court Monday.

Ever timid and with his hair graying slightly, Goetz hugged the hallway in the Bronx County Courthouse as news crews crowded around him. Goetz is being sued for $50 million by one of the teens he shot, Darrell Cabey, who was paralyzed in the shooting.

Darrell Cabey

Cabey's attorney, Ronald Kuby, said the shooting amounted to "racist violence," and said the case "has to be pursued."

But in his confession in 1984, Goetz said the shooting was warranted. "I was a monster," he said. "But I wasn't a monster until several years alone in New York."

At the time, Goetz called New York a lawless city, and admitted shooting Cabey and the others, even to going back and shooting Cabey a second time. "You seem to be doing all right,'" Goetz recalled telling the young man. "'Here's another.'"

Bernard Goetz says he fired in self-defense, but Darrell Cabey's attorney says Goetz was motivated by racism.
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Goetz has always argued that the four were out to beat and rob him and that the shooting was self-defense. A jury believed him, and acquitted him of attempted murder in 1987. He served eight-and-a-half months for possession of an illegal weapon.

"The verdict in the Goetz case the first time was a racial verdict," said Kuby. "It was white America saying that white people could use whatever force they want against black people." (94K AIFF sound or 94K WAV sound)

Goetz has admitted to making racial slurs three years before the shooting. But, he recently told NBC, he was using drugs at the time. "I wasn't using that to excuse saying those words," Goetz explained. "And I've apologized for saying it."

Ed Koch was mayor of New York at the time. "I was denounced by black leaders for believing that he had engaged in self-defense," Koch said. "I believed it then, I believe it now." (174K AIFF sound or 174K WAV sound)

Goetz has said that he would do the same thing again under the same circumstances. But he admits these are different times.

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

From Correspondent Mary Ann McRae


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