When Bernhard Goetz was approached on a New York subway by four young black men demanding $5, he drew a revolver and fired all its dum-dum bullets at them. Two were hit in the back; one remains paralyzed and comatose in a hospital. A month later a grand jury indicted Goetz for the illegal possession of a weapon, the least serious charge that could be returned.
Some of the reactions to the shooting were predictable. The unspeakable New York Post and its visual counterpoint, television news shows, seized upon and exploited the public’s immediate approval of Goetz and its gloating attitude toward his victims. Nor was it surprising that Mayor Koch initially condemned “vigilantism” in strong terms. After all, it would take a notably irresponsible public official to even suggest condoning such behavior....
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