Max Holleran reviews 'Fortress America: How we embraced fear and abandoned democracy' by Elaine Tyler May

On a Saturday afternoon shortly before Christmas in 1984, Bernhard Goetz was riding the New York City subway. Goetz, who is white, was approached by four black screwdriver-wielding teenagers who asked him for five dollars. Goetz drew a 0.38 pistol from his jacket and shot each of the boys once, then turned to one of them on the floor of the subway and said, ‘You don’t look so bad, here’s another,’ firing again into the boy’s chest. He was convicted only of the most minor charge (possession of a handgun) and served eight months in prison. In a city increasingly gripped by fear, Goetz quickly became a New York folk hero: a real-life civilian Dirty Harry.

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Published in May 2018, no. 401

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