The Chambers Street connection to Bernhard Goetz

James posted a comment a while back with a link to a Daily News story from 1998, reflecting on the day that Bernhard Goetz — the Subway Vigilante — shot four teens on the downtown 2 train. It was three days before Christmas, 1984, and what I did not remember from that time — I was a college freshman in Vermont — is that Goetz fled from the Chambers Street station and the police search started here. (It ended nine days later when Goetz turned himself in at a police station in Concord, NH.)

After seeing James’ comment, A. sent a picture of the flyer above, which she saved all these years. She found it on the ground near the token booth inside the station on that very day.

The incident on Dec. 22, 1984, ended with four men shot, one of them paralyzed for life. A grand jury refused to indict Goetz on the more serious charges, issuing indictments only for criminal gun possession. Goetz was then re-indicted by a second grand jury on more serious charges. At a later jury trial he was found guilty of one count of carrying an unlicensed firearm, for which he served eight months of a one-year sentence.

The Eyewitness News report below summarizes the events of those next days.

But the event started like this, as told by Bob Kappstatter in the Daily News:

“Car No. 7657, seventh in a 10-car southbound IRT Seventh Ave. express train, would become the symbol of everything that everyday law-abiding citizens felt about everyday urban thugs, all the rage, all the disgust, all the impotence all the fear.

“Aboard No. 7657, a bespectacled, mild-seeming white man found himself surrounded and intimidated by four black youths who asked him first for the time, then for a match and finally for $5.

“‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I have $5 for each of you.’

“Then he stood up, pulled the unlicensed .38 from the waistband of his jeans and started firing.

“As more than a dozen other passengers gasped, his four tormentors went down.

“With the sounds of the shots still ringing off the car’s metal walls and the smell of cordite rising in the air, the gunman walked over to one of the fallen young men. ‘You don’t look so bad,’ he mused, then calmly shot him again.

“As the train lurched to a stop in the Chambers St. station, the gunman leaped onto the tracks and fled into the tunnel.

“It would be nine days before the world knew the shooter’s name, and it would be more than a decade before Bernhard Goetz would manage to slide back into obscurity.”

In November 2013 Goetz was arrested for allegedly selling marijuana; the charges were dismissed in September 2014. He is still living in the city, and last year, Netflix produced “Trial by Media” including Goetz’s trial among five others that captured the city’s media attention in the “if it bleeds it leads” tradition.

As for Goetz’s victims, Barry Allen and James Ramseur both went to prison on unrelated matters, Ramseur for a brutal rape that sent him to jail for many years. Ramseur died in 2011 of a drug overdose at the age of 45. Troy Canty shortly landed in a drug treatment program. And this from the Daily News: “Darryl Cabey had no further brushes with the law, but then, he was in a wheelchair, paralyzed for life. In 1996, Cabey’s lawyers William Kunstler and Ron Kuby filed a civil suit against Goetz, and the jury awarded Cabey $43 million – $18 million for pain and suffering and $25 million in punitive damages. He’s never collected the money.”



  1. Thanks Pam for publishing the poster and for the continued research. Time flies….

    Last I heard he was feeding pigeons in Union Square.

  2. Wow those were some of the best newscasters. I always fancied bill buetle. By the way loved how society new Bernard was right in his actions. Not this criminals have rights BS

  3. Fascinating look back.

  4. A lot of time has passed since this event on the #14.

    The cost to all parties was very high and we all grew from it. NYC came out on top in the end, being one of the safest systems in the world.

  5. Election of Eric Adams in part illustrates that thoughts of crime in NYC continue to sway public opinion and rightly so.
    Despite what some may think, reality still is not what most of us wish it to be.

  6. Curtis Sliwa is a better choice than Eric Adams if you want law and order restored

  7. Great story of the early 80s! We are heading back in that direction with crime in the city. Always watch your back especially now while taking the train. This is the reason why people don’t want to go back to work. This so called mayor destroyed our city. It didn’t feel like there was a hatred for law informant back then. It was a fight against the citizens and the criminals in our city. I pray either Eric Adams or Curtis will clean this beautiful city up. I don’t care either one will do! We need to get rid of bail reform. This is the problem letting criminals out to do the crime dozens of times over.