The Trial of Bernhard Goetz: Goetz's Videotaped Confession

The following excerpt from the interview is included in The Trial of Bernhard Goetz (Aae Films, 1988).

On December 31, 1984, after turning himself in to Concord, New Hampshire police, Bernhard Goetz was subjected to two lengthy interviews.  The first was an audiotaped interviewed with Concord police detectives and the second was a more contentious two-hour videotaped interview with three New York City police detectives, Susan Braver, Michael Clark, and Dan Hattendorf....This excerpt from what is commonly called Goetz's "confession," reveals Goetz to be--at least at the time of the interview--in a highly disturbed state of mind.

Braver: Mr. Goetz, I am assistant district attorney, Susan Braver from the New York county town of Manhattan district attorney’s office, this gentlemen are Mr. Hattendorf of the transit police squad and Detective Clark of the New York Police Department...Now, you indicated earlier to us that you. You indicated earlier to the detective here that you would to speak with us about this incident.

Goetz: Oh God, when I hear Manhattener’s speak, I didn’t want to.

Braver: Mr. Goetz, this is all on video tape.

Goetz: Sure, sure.

Braver: Nothing that is said in this room is off the video tape.

Goetz: That’s..that’s that’s….

Braver: For your protection and for ours.

Goetz: That’s fine. I don’t,  I don’t want to be rude but I just don’t want to speak to you. I have nothing to say.

Clark: Bernard.

Goetz: You don’t understand.

Clark: Bernard

Clark: Could I talk to you?

Goetz: Sure.

Braver: Before they do that....I want to be sure you understand that you have all your rights in connection with speaking to us.

Goetz: Okay.

Braver: Okay?

Goetz: Okay.

Braver: If you will let Detective Clark….please let Detective Clark tell it to you, okay

Clark: Bernard, could I just explain some things to you....Sit back..first of all I would like for you to just try and relax a little bit, okay?...Sit back…just sit back.

Goetz: Nothing I’ve got to say is going to make sense.

Goetz: In order for…I know, in order I…I…I… you want this to end  huh? 

Clark: I know you want this to be over.  I know you came in voluntarily.  This thing must be weighing heavily on your mind.

Goetz: That’s not important.  That’s not important.  Get to the point, get to the point.

Braver: The point…the point. The point is Mr. Goetz right off the bat, I 'm going to tell you I want to be sure you understand exactly what it is we’re doing here, okay? Now, you have the right to remain silent--do you know that?

Goetz: Okay, okay

Braver: Do you understand?

Goetz: I…I… just don’t know what to say to you.

Braver: Do you understand that you don’t have to talk to us?

Goetz: Yes, okay…My, my...I .. I don’t want to talk to you.  I don’t want to talk to you. All right, all right, all right. I can’t, I can’t believe I’m saying this, I... I... I... I apologize for it but I... I... I... just, I just I don’t want to talk to you.

Braver: Would you like a cup of coffee or something?

Goetz: No, I’d like to get out of here.

Braver: Are you cold?

Goetz: No, I’m not. I just, I would just like to get out of this room.

Braver: We would like to resolve this.

Goetz: Okay, good you would like to resolve it.  I know you would like to.

Braver: And I know you would.

Goetz: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah isn’t that great?  I apologize I know, I know I’m not being civil because for you this is all business that’s, that’s, that’s what this is for you, all business, you know.  I... I... I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t want to be rude to you, I’m, I’m, I’m sorry, I just, I just, I just, I just you, you, you, say I have the right to remain silent?

Braver: Yes.

Goetz:  That’s what I prefer to do, that’s, that’s what I prefer, I'm sorry.  I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I’m not hiding behind this thing but, but, just when I hear I... I... I... I don’t know how I can explain this to you as individuals, but just when I hear people from the Manhattan business world talk and, and, and their tone of voice, Manhattan.

Braver: We all live in Manhattan

Goetz: Yes and its, its, its, its, its, it makes, I.., I.., I.., I.., I.., I can’t stand it, just, just, just the sound.  It’s, it’s, it’s it’s it’s, it’s all, you know how, how if, if, if, if, if you, if you want the information I’m I’m giving you all the information and, and, and  if you want to know something the worst that was said about me is true.  For a period of time I was a cold-blooded murderer. Now, they didn’t, I mean that may not even come to pass but that’s what I really really was, okay. Now, now all those things there I’ll, I’ll sign it. You have, you have all the facts and and what you want to do with it but but hearing people saying all the time what is right and and and what is wrong and and people don’t people they don’t even know, they, they, they don’t even know.  Is this what they typed? Is this what they typed?

Braver: This is what I was handed here in New Hampshire.

Goetz: Okay, I’ll sign it. Sure yeah, this is it. This is, this is it.

Braver: Um…if you want us to take this as your statement I have to know what it says, it’s what you said.

Goetz: What, what, ah, oh, oh, okay, sure, sure, sure, ah that’s, ah that’s true. Ah that’s true.

Braver: Sir, I’d like you to careful and and and look at it.

Goetz: That’s true.

Goetz: What is this "yah, yah"? I never said "yah yah." I said yes. I might of said "yeah yeah, the train was moving," I never said "yah yah." Yah, yah....Maybe somebody else said...

Clark: Maybe in New Hampshire a New York "yeah "is a New Hampshire "yah"-- a "yeah" in New York is a New Hampshire "yah."

Braver: Are you um, um are you looking at that?

Goetz: Yes, I am.

Braver: You can read that quickly?

Goetz: Well no, I’m not reading every line but these are ah these are these are all phrases every I.. I.. I.. I just spot things and I … this is true, this is true.

Braver: Would it really be a hardship for you to read that every line?

Goetz: If you insist.

Braver: It’s important to you.

Goetz: If you insist.

Braver: It’s better, you could, um, talk to me or you could read every line if you say this you talking to me.

Goetz: That’s that’s that’s so important for the technicalities isn’t it?

Braver: No.

Goetz: Oh yes it’s...It’s for you....All of this has be formalities and and by the rules...

Braver: No, it’s for you.

Goetz: Oh yes, yes, for my protection.

Braver: It’s for your protection.

Goetz: Do you know how sick your legal system makes me Miss? Miss, I.. I.. I just don’t want to talk to you again. New York city is a system that knows so much and is so good you decide what you decide what is right and wrong.

Braver: The people will.

Goetz: Oh you’re so competent the people will...God, the people will the people will.

Braver: This has to go the grand jury, Mr. Goetz.

Goetz: This has to go to the grand jury.  Isn't that wonderful?  It’s it’s a part of your system.  It’s just great, it’s just great.  I.. I.. I  tell you the government in the city is--it’s a disgrace and if you don’t now look I may be the biggest piece of bleep in the world and you can drag me through the dirt, I don’t care, but there is a bigger issue and that is the government of New York city is a disgrace.  I’ve heard things said about me--that I am uncivilized, okay or I acted in an uncivilized way, in the most, if you think this is vicious, if you know what is in my mind is the most vicious thing that I can think of is that person who said that, I.. I wish they were sitting there in that seat instead of me, that would have been beautiful. I mean, I wish I was never there and they were there--that would of been great. People talk about law and order and, you know, and and... and lawlessness, you talk you talk about lawlessness. This city doesn’t care about lawlessness.  You talk about anarchy that’s what there is now.  I don’t care what you do to me--it doesn’t matter. You see I’m not hiding anything but but all this is it’s it’s like a dam and water is building up behind the dam and eventually and this is just a crack in the dam or a little hole that’s in the dam and eventually something. What I did down there was, let’s say it’s wrong, that doesn’t bother me, but what this did is it showed the system as being a sham. That’s why the city so vehemently attacked the Guardian Angels--because...because...because the sham showed the city for it is. It showed the legal system for what it is.  It is a sham.

Braver: How does it show the legal system for what it is?

Goetz: Because because people who are violent are just like let back out on the street again and again and they’re charged with nothing.  Do you do you understand that?  If, if..if..if...if...if a person has to be reduced to this kind of animal to survive in the city--I mean if you take a rat, okay, I was vicious, I don’t deny it, if, if, if, if you take a rat and you corner it and you, ah let’s say just one time you start poking it with red hot needles and the rat, the rat, doesn’t know how to react when do you this okay and you wind up doing it again or you know perhaps again and if once in awhile the rat turns viciously on you and becomes a...a...a...a...a totally vicious killer--which is which is really what I was--then don’t don’t go passing statements of morality saying "ah, well this was not warranted" or "this was ah or you know he should have done this or all he had to do was show the gun."  I’ve been situations where I’ve shown the gun.  What happened here is I snapped, show them the gun at one point would ah…

Braver: How come you didn’t show the gun the other times and this time you did?  Was there anything that that...

Goetz: You don’t, you don’t, weren’t there, you weren’t there--what okay I’m going to give give you an honest answer, you don’t you don’t understand.  The threat, when I was surrounded at at that point showing the gun would have been enough but when I saw this one fellow, when I saw the gleam in his eye and and the smile on his face and and and they say it’s a joke and lot of them say it’s a joke…

Clark: Was he the one that ask for the money?

Goetz: What?

Clark: Was he the one that asked for the money?

Goetz: [Sighing]..I don’t care about the technicality. Asking for the money is bullshit.  The guy--his his exact words were "Give me five dollars"--that’s bullshit. The robbery had nothing to do it.  When I saw, when I saw his smile and the look in his eye and and can’t understand this how can people like you be familiar with violence?  If okay--if...if you have a skull with a glass globe in the center, people can come up to that skull and break the teeth and and break the jaw and whatever right and ah.  What the city will do is they will help you wire up the jaw together and and put the teeth in and and patch up and and the glass globe inside is is shattered still and on the outside everything everything is fine so as long as things on the surface are patched up the city says fine everything is okay and it’s not like that.  If...if...if the city doesn’t change eventually the city is going to reap it’’’’s going to reap the harvest that it sowed, okay? And and and sign

Braver: Mr. Goetz why these four? Why these four?

Goetz: Oh...oh...oh isn’t that beautiful? You you ask the question in in in an intellectual way: "Why these four?"

Braver: Why these four?

Goetz: I didn’t pick out these four. I never met those guys. I told you guys in here I...I never met them.

Braver: But why these four though, I mean…

Goetz: Because, because, because I saw what they were intending to do with me, Miss.  They were intending, they were intending to play with me like a cat plays with a mouse. Now, you’re not familiar with violence ah [sighs].  There, there are so many details.  It’s all, it’s all in here.  There so many things that happen afterwards it would it would take it would take 10 minutes, 20 minutes to describe I’ve been through it and it’s so painful to go through it again and again.

Clark: I know but we’re just trying to verify that what you did is what you said you did....But, but but what about the five shots did that come out the newspaper? Well which victim did you...

Goetz: Victim! Victim! You call him the victim? Okay...okay...I...I...I accept, I...I...I acceptI...I accept that, I accept that they are the victims. I’m not going to contest anything, I’m not going to contest anything.

Clark: Bernard which one was he in the sequence of the shooting?

Goetz: Okay, okay he would have been, he would have been sequence is, not a simple sequence...

Clark: Okay, as best you can just tell me which one would have been up...

Goetz: In my mind I what  what frightens me is either I missed somebody once, and that means I shouldn’t have been shooting at all. That doesn’t bother me. I, ah...Let me say I wanted to I told those guys here already. I wanted to kill those guys.  I wanted to maim those guys. I wanted to make those them suffer in every way I could--and you can't understand this because it’s a realm of reality that you’re not familiar with.  If I had more bullets I would have shot them all again and again. My problem was I ran out of bullets. Do I have to go this route? Do do do you want to hear it one more time?

Braver: What?

Goetz:The whole story?

Braver: We’d love to this way we could satisfy...

Goetz: Okay, I just want to give a little background about me and violence.

Braver: Sure.

Goetz: Okay, start with I’m...I’m no nice guy you’re going to be able to drag me through the dirt, I don’t care about that.  I’ve got plenty of faults,...Several years ago I got, ah, I got jumped about 2:30 on Canal Street--2:30 in the afternoon during the week. I was jumped by three guys, now.  They deliberately went after my knee and they got it. Like, ah, like I got kicked in the knee and then, and then, and what hurts you is that they didn’t have weapons and people you don’t have to maimed with a weapon what what really, what really, hurts you is is the sidewalk.  They tried to push me through a plate glass door and I’m in good physical shape--I... I can do, you know, push-ups standing on my hands.  I pushed as hard as I could and when I hit that door I still hit that door so hard, that door with my hands, I still hit that door so hard--the glass. the glass hard--the glass didn’t break, thank God, you know because that that that would have been it, but the, but the, handle--yeah, yeah, yeah, the handle--it it hit my chest and and afterwards now I...I...I was a wreck.  I was hyper hyperactivity for about four days after that.  I went up to Connecticut to work and everything and four days later I check into a emergency room and my chest was messed up.  It took about six months to heal and I had a bad knee--a permanent bad knee from that.  Since then, since then, prior to this incident I was, I was, attacked, I was attacked.  The next day I was carrying I was carrying a gun.  Now this particular incident I...I was in the middle of a project.  I got disgusted with it.  I was working on a piece of equipment.  I said well I better take a break. I...I went downtown. I got on the train.  When,when, the first, the fellow, one of the fellows who was lying down there were four fellows in there. He lied down, and he and he was lying down and, ah, he looked at me and said, “How are you doing?”

Clark: What were you feeling when he said how were you doing? What were you thinking then? What was your impression of how are you doing? What, what were you feeling?

Goetz: These were just kids kidding around.

Clark: Okay....

Goetz: That’s...that’s...that’s...that’s all.  It could have just been kids kidding around but but it’s just a possible warning, just a possible warning. is wasn’t even a possible warning, it was a prime but then two of them stood up--okay--and they walked over to my left, okay.  Now there were two of them to my right and and and two on my left.  Now, I...I...I knew at that point I would have to pull the gun. I’m, going say this.  At that time I was going to pull the gun. But I wasn’t going to kill them. And that’s what I wound--what I wound up trying to do, but I had no intention of killing them at that time.

Clark: Well, what was your intention?

Goetz: Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen.  What my intention was at that time was just to follow the situation as closely as I could.  The one on my left, he asked me, he didn’t ask me...What he according to the papers he asked me, “Give me five dollars”--and he said it with a smile and his eyes were bright.  I knew I had to pull the gun, but it was the look.  And now you cannot understand this.  It was, it was, it was, his eyes were shiney. He had a smile on his face.  I saw the smile on his face and and and the shine, the shine is his eyes, that he was enjoying this. I knew what they were going to do. Do you understand? Okay, do you understand now? At that point, now. For combat you have to be cold blooded and I was.  And it was at that point I decided to kill them after all, murder them all, do anything.

Braver: What did you think they were going to do?

Goetz: Laughing…How can you ask a question like that? What what what they were going to do is they were going to they were going to have fun with me with me, Miss.

Brabver: What do you mean by that?

Goetz: What do you mean?

Braver: What is your interpretation of that? I can’t get inside your head.

Goetz: Beat the shit out of you.  What they were going to do was  is is enjoy me for awhile.  They were going to beat the fucking shit out of me, okay.

Clark: Did you feel trapped?

Goetz: Did I feel?  What do you think?  Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, I felt free, I felt free. You know I was enjoying Fun City. 

Clark: I see what you were felt at the time.

Goetz: I was just whistling Dixie, okay?   I was in fear.  And that’s good, because that helps that helps you think. That helps you think. But when I saw his eyes, up to that point my state of mind changed and you go through a different state of mind where reality totally totally changes. So I had my pattern of flight laid out. It was obvious and what you do is is is you don’t think.  You just, you don’t think, just act. Speed is everything, speed is everything.  You just think of speed and the count. You don’t need verification.  When he said, “Give me five dollars,” I pulled out the piece I just started firing. Now its...its...its on point to look at what your firing at.  You just target images in your mind.  You aim for the center of the mass, you keep moving. All you have to do is be ah...ah faster than they are.  Now, perhaps they’re, you don’t know what is happening on your right hand side, but it doesn’t matter. You do what you have do as quickly as possible. You don’t think.  You live you live for the fraction of the moment to the fraction...fraction of the moment. The ah...the ah...the ah...the the you just react, you just react, you forget everything that happened the instant before and you site. You don’t understand: I’m explaining what happened.  You site, listen, listen, listen, listen you site your target.  That was number one, I got rid of number one. Got number two.

Got rid of number two. They say I shot him in the back. That doesn’t even matter.  I wasn’t even aiming for the back.  You aim for the center.  One of the fellows looked like he was trying...I...I...I...I don’t know. I don’t know if he was facing from the front or the back, whatever.  But it seemed as if he was trying to get through the steel wall of the subway car.  But he couldn’t.  I let him have it and I let of the other guys have it.  The one who that was pretending he wasn’t with them, and I ran up to the first two to check them.  Who were on the ground.  The first two that I had shot and they were taken care of.  It was all very cold-blooded, Miss.  And this is going to offend everyone.  And I went back to the other two to check on them.  I wanted to know if I had missed and I, but I...I...I...I went to them a second time and I looked at him and--he can’t verify this because he was probably out of it by then, if I shot him or not, I don’t know--and I said, “You seem to be doing all right, here’s another.”

People are looking for a hero or they are looking for a villain. And neither is…neither is nothing is the truth.  What you have you have here is nothing more…What you have here is nothing more than a vicious rat.  That’s all it is is.  It’s not Clint Eastwood.  It’s not…its not taking the law in your own hands.  You can label that.  It’s not being judge, judge, jury and executioner.

Clark: Bernard, can we get back…

Goetz:  What this is--what this is, what this is--listen, I'm going to tell you what this is, and you won't understand.  This is--this is, this is--survival instinct, okay?  And...and...and you can condemn it all you want.  I...I...I...I...I...I...just don't care anymore....