Year
1984
Month Day
December 22

Bernhard Goetz shoots four youths on the subway

On the New York City subway, Bernhard Goetz, a 45-year-old white male, shoots four young black men after they surround him and ask for $5. After wounding three of the unarmed men, Goetz pointed his gun at 18-year-old Darrell Cabey, who was not wounded but cowering terrified in the subway car, and said, “You don’t look too bad, here’s another.” Goetz then shot Cabey in the back, severing his spinal cord. Three of the youths recovered, but Cabey was paralyzed and suffered permanent brain damage.

Goetz, who fled the scene of the crime, turned himself in to police in New Hampshire nine days later. During his subsequent interrogation, Goetz admitted on videotape that when one of the threatening young men smirked at him, he wanted to “kill them all.” The seemingly racially motivated shooting caused considerable controversy in New York and around the country, especially after Goetz pleaded innocent to charges of attempted murder in the subsequent criminal trial.

Goetz’s lawyers argued that the men were trying to rob him and that he was only acting in self-defense, while the prosecution maintained that the four young men were merely panhandling. The case proved particularly divisive in New York City, where racial tensions were high. In 1987, Goetz was cleared of murder and assault charges, but was convicted of illegal gun possession and served 250 days in prison. In April 1996, Darrell Cabey won a civil lawsuit against Goetz and was awarded $43 million by a Bronx jury. Goetz declared bankruptcy soon after the rulings.

In 2001, Goetz made an unsuccessful bid for New York City mayor. In 2013 he was charged with trying to sell marijuana to an undercover police officer. The charges were dismissed by a judge in September 2014 for lack of a speedy trial.

 

Tags
terms:
Crime

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Dreyfus affair begins in France

French officer Alfred Dreyfus is convicted of treason by a military court-martial and sentenced to life in prison for his alleged crime of passing military secrets to the Germans. The Jewish artillery captain, convicted on flimsy evidence in a highly irregular trial, began his ...read more

Romanian government falls

The Romanian army defects to the cause of anti-communist demonstrators, and the government of Nicolae Ceausescu is overthrown. The end of 42 years of communist rule came three days after Ceausescu’s security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Timisoara. After the army’s ...read more

First gorilla born in captivity

On December 22, 1956, a baby gorilla named Colo enters the world at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, becoming the first-ever gorilla born in captivity. Weighing in at approximately 4 pounds, Colo, a western lowland gorilla whose name was a combination of Columbus and Ohio, was the ...read more

Julie Nixon marries David Eisenhower

On December 22, 1968, Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower, both progeny of United States presidents, tie the knot in New York City. Julie Nixon was the daughter of Richard M. Nixon, who was president-elect at the time of the wedding. Her groom was the grandson of Dwight D. ...read more

John Wayne Gacy confesses to dozens of murders

On December 22, 1978, John Wayne Gacy confesses to police to killing over two dozen boys and young men and burying their bodies under his suburban Chicago home. In March 1980, Gacy was convicted of 33 sex-related murders, committed between 1972 and 1978, and given the death ...read more