Seattle JCC Trial and the Legacy of Bernhard Goetz

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[h/t to Jewlicious]

A judge declared a mistrial Wednesday in the case of a man who stormed into a Jewish center two years ago and shot six women, killing one, as he ranted against Israel and the Iraq war.

Jurors had indicated in questions posed to the judge that they were hopelessly deadlocked and struggling to determine whether Naveed Haq, 32, was not guilty by reason of insanity, as he claimed….

“There is no argument Haq killed Pam. There is no argument he viciously shot five others. There is no argument that he made anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements. Somehow, all this was not enough,” Jewish Federation President Richard Fruchter said.

Reading the comments following the article, Ephraim makes the following point:

Only in America could a Muslim invade a Jewish building, gun down Jews while shouting “Death to the Jews” and somehow the jury can’t decide if he’s guilty. We should do what the Russians do: shoot the fucker. It would save us all time, money, and embarrassment.

To be clear, Ephraim felt the police or armed guards at the facility (if they had been present) should have shot the attacker. He does not support vigilantism. However, I added:

Bernhard Goetz said it best:

“I would, without any hesitation, shoot a violent criminal again.”

and:

“You don’t look too bad; here’s another.”

If you are not familiar with the man, Bernhard Goetz shot four thugs in self-defense on the 2 Express (NYC subway line) back in 1986. Dubbed the “subway vigilante,” defended by the Guardian Angels and Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), decried by Al Sharpton, Goetz was a divisive figure at the time and remains so today.

As Lloyd Cohen notes:

The salient fact about the four individuals he shot was not that they were black, or young, or male, but rather that they were attempting to rob him. These young men had all committed serious crimes prior to their attempt to rob Goetz, were en- [Page 1265] route to other crimes when they tried to rob Goetz, and have all, save Cabey who remains paralyzed, committed serious crimes since recovering from the wounds inflicted by Goetz. James Ramseur, for example, was later convicted of a particularly brutal rape, sodomy, robbery, and beating of Gladys Richardson, a pregnant nineteen year-old.

I’ve long held respect for the man and still do. I hope I would have acted the same in his situation, if I was lucky enough to be armed. The importance of Goetz’ actions was not that he made people aware NYC was a crime-ridden cesspool—that was painfully obvious for anyone living here—the importance was a single man standing up to “crime.” Crime, presented as nameless and faceless statistics, is impossible to combat. But you can defeat a criminal by pulling the trigger in self-defense. Goetz’s actions were important because they were a demonstration of a moral act. As Cohen argues:

Goetz supporters, like myself, have a deep and real affection for the civilized life afforded by the rule of law. When, however, the state abdicates its proper role and does not provide an adequate system of criminal justice, the political and moral obligations to defer to the state are no longer operative… Rather than fanaticism, it seems that despair is what has motivated admiration for Bernhard Goetz. Many support Goetz’s vigilanteism because they have come to the sad conclusion that there is no system of criminal justice in the United States worthy of its name.

The murder rate in NYC has decreased 50 percent from the 1980s. But in low-income communities, shootings and other violent incidents are not treated with the same severity as in middle-class communities. Crimes that simply would not be accepted by the police or community are getting more frequent. It is in this context that a black Bernhard Goetz may potentially emerge.

The charge of “excessive force” against his assailants was often leveled against Goetz. But the level of force was necessary to let criminals know thuggery can be a hazardous occupation. Again quoting Cohen, “Goetz sent that message more dramatically than anyone in recent memory, and it was precisely the ‘excessiveness’ of the force he used that underscored it.” Witnesses of the events, including African American witnesses, agreed. Andrea Reid, a young African American woman who was in the subway car with her husband and baby told Goetz to “give those punks what they deserve.”

If one person, a guard or even a patron had been armed, we very well could have avoided this tragedy and this trial.

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3 responses »

  1. Interesting piece NC. You wrote:

    “Crimes that simply would not be accepted by the police or community are getting more frequent.”

    This is one of the sad reasons I ended up pulling away form the left’s national political arguments. You hear a lot of folks complaining about the police in low income communities (and some of that criticism is justified), but by making excuses for criminals and letting working communities slide into crime ridden ghettos, I don’t know exactly who the left thinks they are benefiting with their soft on crime approach.

    The real crime is how poor communities are held hostage by thugs, and the fact that their struggle to raise kids and have a decent life in an affordable community is not championed by the left.

  2. Bernhard Goetz is simply a hero. He simply did what had to be done under such circumstances. It was just a matter of protecting oneself, racism has absolutely nothing to do.

  3. Kudos to Bernie!! He is a true hero, that until he was unfortunately talked in to turning himself in, he placed the fear factor on the crooks for a change. I truly believe that he even had some silent support from the “blue collar” NYPD cops. I know, cause I happen to be an ex police officer still in the crime fighting field.

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