Simply drawing the gun would have been enough deterentTo the Editor:
I've had all that I can take of people like Bernhard Goetz, Simson Garfinkel and Richard Herrmann! Anyone (including the jury) who thinks that Goetz was justified in shooting those kids is wrong, plain and simple.
Now, don't misunderstand me, I don't think for one minute that the poor kids were just down on their luck and forced to solicit financial aid from strangers. I firmly believe that they were urban punks who would just as soon break my arm as look at me. I also firmly believe that Goetz would have been robbed if he hadn't done something.
Anyone who thinks that four kids are going to take on a man with a drawn gun (even if two of them have screwdrivers) is wrong. Anyone who thinks that three kids are going to attack a man with a gun who has just shot one of their friends is also wrong. Anyone who thinks that two kids running from a man who has just shot two of their friends represent an immediate and lethal threat to the man with the gun is not only wrong, they are crazy.
Goetz, like everyone else, has the right to defend himself. But this right has limits. Clearly, if Goetz killed everyone in New York he would feel safer on the subway, but we can't allow that. We can't allow him to kill all people who wear leather either. We can't even allow him to kill everyone who asks him for five bucks. The only people that Goetz is allowed to kill are those that make a concerted effort to kill him.
The fact is that Goetz was never presented with a lethal threat against which to defend himself. The threat that he did face could have been easily countered simply by drawing his gun. If he had whipped out the gun and played Dirty Harry while the punks groveled in the corner, I would have joined with the rest of the country in feeling that his action was justified.
If he had shot one of the youths and told the others, "Watch it, or you're next!" I would have felt that he was perhaps understandably overzealous but should still be punished (albeit relatively mildly) for his crime.
What Goetz actually did was inexcusable. It was the equivalent of putting out a match with a fire hose. I would never have done it, and I certainly hope that most other people would not have done it.
Thomas D. Steiger '86->