Bernard Hugo Goetz, publicly known as Bernhard Goetz or as Bernie Goetz, is an American best known for shooting four young men who he said were intent on mugging him, resulting in his conviction for illegal possession of a firearm. Goetz came to symbolize New Yorkers’ frustrations with the high crime rates of the mid 1980s. The incident occurred on the Seventh Avenue 2 express subway train in Manhattan on December 22, 1984. It sparked a nationwide debate on vigilantism, the perceptions of race and crime in major cities, and the legal limits of self-defense.
Goetz fired an unlicensed revolver five times, seriously wounding all of the would-be muggers. The initially unknown shooter, dubbed the "Subway Vigilante" by the New York press, was both exalted and vilified in the media and in public opinion.
Goetz surrendered to police nine days later and was eventually charged with attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, and several firearms offenses. A Manhattan jury found him not guilty of all charges except an illegal firearms possession count, for which he served two-thirds of a one-year sentence. The incident has been cited as a contributing factor to the groundswell movement against urban crime and disorder, and successful National Rifle Association campaigns to loosen restrictions on the concealed carrying of firearms.