Bernie Goetz, Squirrel Vigilante
New York’s infamous subway shooter is on an unorthodox mission to save the city’s squirrels—even if that means putting their snouts in his mouth.
Illustration by Colleen Frakes
Bernie Goetz is a tall, slight man with thinning gray hair. He carries a large bag of peanuts with him as he walks through the expansive Peter Cooper Village housing development in Manhattan. He clicks his tongue before throwing a handful of peanuts that clatter on the cold ground around thick-trunked trees. He is here to feed the squirrels. His passion for these animals brings him to Peter Cooper often. But lately he has had less time to visit his small furry friends. He has been too busy taking care of the family of squirrels that were recently born in his home.
Yes, this is that Bernie Goetz. In December 1984, Goetz infamously shot four young black men in a subway car after they allegedly tried to mug him. While all four survived the shooting, one of the men’s injuries left him severely brain damaged. Goetz’s image was in every major news publication and ignited fierce passions throughout New York, with some people praising him as a vigilante hero takin…