Twenty-eight years ago today, Bernhard Goetz was riding the 2 train when he was confronted by four teens who he said were trying to mug him; Goetz fired five times at them with his unlicensed Smith & Weston, injuring 18-year-old James Ramseur and friends Darrell Cabey, Barry Allen and Troy Canty, all 19. The dramatic shooting sparked a national conversation about vigilante justice—even in high schools. Below, watch a vintage video of a high school news show asking students about it.
Ramseur, who had been holding a screwdriver, lapsed into a coma. Goetz was acquitted of attempted murder, but served eight and a half months for gun possession charge. Last year, Ramseur died in an apparent suicide 27 years after the incident. Goetz had told us in an e-mail: "It sounds like he was depressed."
He added: "It must have seemed weird to him, being raised with violence, spending 25 years in prison, and then coming back to a changed New York. Maybe his suicide was a statement, but I haven't figured it out." Goetz was apparently referring to the many years Ramseur served for raping, sodomizing and robbing a pregnant woman in 1986.