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Lessons learned from Bernie Goetz

Discussion in 'Tactics and Training' started by DonCT, Jun 10, 2010.

  1. DonCT


    Oct 30, 2004
    Hi all. I posted this in the GATE Self defense forum, but I am reposting here for general discussion. I consider the Bernie Goetz shooting the single most well-known self-defense shooting ever. Fascinating that it is also poorly understood, even 26 years later. We (and Bernie himself) simply don't know exactly what happened but what we do know is interesting in and of itself.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the case, the recap is

    Many think this case turned the tide in favor of legal carry. My analysis:
    In my view, he did several things right: He had good situational awareness, he formed a plan and carried it out, he kept his cool and he won despite 4-1 odds and virtually no training or experience.

    He did plenty wrong too: He fled the scene, spoke to cops without a lawyer and made numerous conflicting and inflammatory statements.

    Also, despite being acquitted of criminal charges re: deadly force, he had a decade-long civil suit battle.

    Fascinating also that 26 years later we (and Bernie himself) have no clear story of exactly the sequence of shots, but that a comment he may or may not have made. "Here's another" came back to haunt him based on testimony from one witness 11 years later.

    Also note that, though they never explicitly threatened him, the four would-be mugger exhibited classic predatory behavior, i.e. they cut off a single sheep from the herd.

    Your thoughts?
  2. seanmac45

    seanmac45 CLM

    Apr 13, 2000
    Brooklyn, NY
    1. Bernie was and is an EDP flake and should not be held up as an example of a good CCW citizen.

    2. Between the time of the shooting and his arrest, robberies in the NYC transit system (which averaged 26 a day at that time) dropped to zero.

    3. If he hadn't surrendered he would have never been caught. If he had just shut up he would never have been collared. That's straight from a friend who worked the case.

  3. If he was that afraid of for his life, why didn't he move to another state with far more liberal gun laws? After all, he was not poor.

    And that is a lesson to learn from it.

    If in a bad place, and you can afford to move... move.

    Sadly, many can't move cause they don't have alot of money, and that' the same ones that can't afford expensive guns and expensive CCW licenses.

  4. steveksux

    steveksux Massive Member

    Jul 12, 2007
    Even EDP flakes have the right to self defense, what part of "Shall not be infringed" is unclear? :tongueout:

    Someone had to say it... :supergrin::wavey:

    I remember the case, but the details have faded over time... I did NOT remember the part about him turning himself in...

    Why DID he turn himself in? Did he think he was some sort of hero? What was his motivation? Was it the thought that they would go easier on him if he surrendered? Especially figuring he was a "victim" in the case, there woudn't be a jury likely to convict?

    Have to admit, it is kind of reassuring that someone like him was able to fend off 4 thugs, without a lot of sense, training, or skill.. That doesn't mean I'd like the idea of a whole bunch of EDPs carrying weapons.... I think that shall issue will undoubtedly result in some cases of that though. We've had a few cases of road rage with legally carried pistols that I can recall off the top of my head around here, and its really unavoidable unless the screening process includes qualified psychics.

  5. seanmac45

    seanmac45 CLM

    Apr 13, 2000
    Brooklyn, NY

    He surrendered because he knew the squad had come knocking on his door looking for him.

    Seems he called a female friend while on the lam and poured his heart out to her which she of course dutifully taped.

    Had he not opened his mouth and then surrendered it is a strong possibility he would never have been apprehended. But then again that goes for most mutts who wind up getting collared.
  6. MTPD


    Nov 9, 2005
    Bernie's on the scene comment is exactly why my advice has always been to not say anything when confronted by BG's. Why not say anything? Because whatever you say can and will be used against you (then and later). And no matter what you say, IT WILL BE MISCONSTRUED.

    I realize this isn't the advice most self-defense trainers give. Many in fact teach their students to yell certain things at attackers. So YMMV!
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  7. DonCT


    Oct 30, 2004
    These two comments seem in direct conflict. The police were apparently looking for him and had come to his apartment. They clearly knew who he was and it was a matter of time before he was caught. He wasn't going to disappear into the woods or go off the grid. He was going to get caught.

    To me, he also proved that mindset is the most important factor. Having the latest and best equipment is nice, but a 5-shot .38 got it done against 4 muggers because the shooter knew what he had to do and did it.
  8. seanmac45

    seanmac45 CLM

    Apr 13, 2000
    Brooklyn, NY
    Poorly worded; explained better in my post above.

    Had he not yapped to his female friend there would have been no detectives knocking on his door.

    If he had kept his mouth SHUT and not surrendered he would have stood an excellent chance of not being apprehended.
  9. hagar

    hagar Millennium Member

    Sep 7, 1999
    Columbia, SC
    The last S in SSS is for shut-up...:whistling:
  10. PEC-Memphis

    PEC-Memphis Scottish Member

    Oct 19, 2006
    Doh ?
    I don't know Mr. Goetz - but I know several people who knew him long before, and long after, this incident. He used to perform calibration and certification of electrical laboratory equipment in several of the labs I do business with in the NE US.

    If he is/was an EDP, and I'm not saying one way or the other, there is a rational reason for him to be in this condition. He had previously been robbed - and had previously been seriously assaulted requiring hospitalization. His attacker didn't serve any time - and actually spent less time at the police station than Mr. Goetz.

    After the incident, Mr. Goetz actually stopped to check to see if a couple of people in the train people were Ok. Then, I'm sure, panic set in. He was carrying a firearm in NYC, he had just shot four criminals*. His life had just been turned up-side-down - a natural reaction is to flee.

    Of course, Mr. Goetz didn't do himself any favors by his comments before and during the criminal/civil trials, by indicating that he had done society a favor by shooting these criminals.

    *All four had criminal records - and at least two have committed violent crimes since this incident. Between the four who confronted Mr. Goetz, there were three (3) weapons (screwdrivers were commonly used in NYC as weapons). Cabney - who had committed at least one armed robbery in before this incident - was awarded $43 million dollars for picking the wrong guy to rob.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2010
  11. DonCT


    Oct 30, 2004
    Cabey, I believe, was the most seriously injured mugger, permanently paralyzed. Also, according to the Wiki article in the OP, Goetz declared bankruptcy, citing a mountain of legal bills. He also said he has never paid a dime on the lawsuit, so sometimes the good guys win.

    Just to further stoke the convo, here is Mas Ayoob's comments from my original GATE post:

  12. HollowHead

    HollowHead Firm member

    May 16, 2005
    Where the buffalo roam
    The best lesson to be learned from the Goetz incident is to never, ever say, "You don't look so bad, here's another!" to an assailant (Caby) you've just shot...just before shooting him again. HH
  13. PaulMason


    Feb 10, 2010
    Bernie is a very white guy. At the time - 1984 - the city was bottoming out of its financial problems but was still a mess. The IRT line was/is a particularly ugly line and I think it was coming into Manhattan from Brooklyn - very rough at the time. So it was a frightening time to be on the Subway. If, he was a minority; the shooting wouldn't have made the news. If, he was a woman, she would have been hailed as brave.

    That he was mugged previously and other citizens were fed up with the crime in city probably kept him out of jail.

    The statements he made really hurt him. Without them, more people would have been on his side.

    I don't think the above statement is true. I lived in NYC at the time and there was no such talk or movement from it.

    The above is wrong. Any New Yorker would have kept walking to another car (at that time a person could walk between cars - I don't know the situation now) or sat as far away from them as possible (the 4 were at the end of the car), after seeing the scene below.

    "At the 14th Street station, Goetz entered the car through the rearmost door, crossed the aisle and took a seat on the long bench across from the door. Canty was across the aisle from him, lying on the long bench just to the right of the door. Allen was seated to Canty's left, on the short seat on the other side of the door. Ramseur and Cabey were seated across from the door and to Goetz's right, on the short seat by the conductor's cab."<sup id="cite_ref-Lesly_7-1" class="reference"></sup>

    Also, the situation could have gone very wrong if at a different time more passengers were on the train and an innocent one was shot.

    The best thing to learn from Bernie, is to keep your mouth shut and get a lawyer ASAP.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2010


    Aug 2, 2009
    South Florida
  15. PEC-Memphis

    PEC-Memphis Scottish Member

    Oct 19, 2006
    Doh ?
    Did you see the Ayoob comment? (below)

    (I’ve actually been in an incident where people just made up events in the incident – enough people repeated them and they became the “truth”. After each was questioned, their story fell apart at the seams – it was obvious that they conspired together to make their much embellished perjured stories match.)

    Nail on the head.

    I wouldn’t say that Mr. Goetz won – he just didn’t loose more.
  16. And could have lost alot less..... either by remaining silent or getting better lawyers to push the Doctrine of Necessity defense. He did neither.

  17. Mamaluke


    Aug 23, 2006
    What's an EDP flake?
  18. English


    Dec 24, 2005
    Any fool know it an electronic digital processor on a flake of silicon. Or is it an Eastern Distict Prosecutor, or an every day patsy. Now I've got myself confused! I am sure it is one of those. Actually the american obsession with initials is a real pain.

  19. GameGlocks

    GameGlocks G19

    May 12, 2010

    I think the person meant an emotionaly distirbured person. I think. lol
  20. PEC-Memphis

    PEC-Memphis Scottish Member

    Oct 19, 2006
    Doh ?
    That's different than a eastern district prosecutor?