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 tried to rob him, resulting in his conviction for illegal possession of a firearm. He 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 praised and vilified in the media and in public opinion.
He 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.