The four youths who were shot by the "subway vigilante" had no intention of stealing from him but were on their way downtown to break into video arcade game machines, one of the four said today.
Barry Allen, a slightly built youth, said none of the group threatened Bernhard Hugo Goetz, 37, the electronics specialist accused of shooting them on the subway on Dec. 22.
Allen said one of the group, whom he identified as Troy Canty, asked Goetz for $5. "But we wasn't planning on robbing him. We had no intention of robbing him," he added.
In an hour-long interview while walking through his South Bronx neighborhood and hitching a ride to Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital, Allen described his life as a high-school dropout, a cocaine addict, an unwed father and a convicted offender who has served time in jail. He said he had learned "a lesson" from the shooting.
The four youths live in Claremont Village, a public housing project in the heart of the burned-out, rubble-strewn South Bronx. Thirty grim-looking brick high-rises house an overcrowded population, about 70 percent black and the rest Hispanic. "Those projects are some of the worst in the city," said a policeman at the 42nd Precinct.
Hugh Williams, a police officer in charge of community affairs in the neighborhood, said, "Kids here are involved in all kinds of crime. We get everything -- murder, stabbings, truancy, petty larceny."
Allen, who turned 19 today, said he is the oldest of five children of Mary Allen, a former switchboard operator who has been on welfare since the birth of her now 11-month-old daughter. All but two of the children were fathered by different men. "I never knew my father," Barry Allen said. "He left when I was a little boy."
His 17-year-old brother, Benjamin, is an "A" student, he said, and two sisters, Tanya and Patricia, 14 and 15, also are good students who stay out of trouble. When his mother found out about the shooting, he said, "She was saying she hopes it teaches us a lesson."
Dressed in blue jeans, an Army jacket and a black woolen cap, Allen said he dropped out of the ninth grade in a high-school equivalency program two months ago to try to get into a drug rehabilitation program but had not had a chance to apply.
He said he has been robbing video arcade machines for a year and a half, making as much as $500 on a good day, and serving two short jail sentences in 1982 and 1983.
"I've seen about four G's or five G's," he said. "All of it went on cocaine. I bought some clothes. But I'm addicted to cocaine. That's why I wanted to get in a drug program. I wanted to go right, to get a job, to step down from all this crime."
Allen said he is the father of a son, Jason, a year and a half old, but that the child lives with his mother, Allen's former girlfriend.
Allen said that he and his three companions had boarded a bus on Third Avenue and transferred to the subway on the afternoon of Dec. 22. "We was going to get money off the pinballs," he said. "Break into video machines. Everyone in the block do that."
Canty asked Goetz for the $5 to play video games, Allen said -- an account confirmed by Canty's lawyer and by police. "Only one person approached him," Allen said. "He had no reason to be scared."
But Goetz replied, according to Allen, " 'I'll give it to you,' and he pulled out a gun and started shooting. I tried to run. People started screaming."
While Goetz has become a popular symbol around the country of resisting crime, Allen said: "He ain't no hero. That man took the law into his own hands, man. He got to be punished."
Canty, a wiry 19-year-old who lives in the same building as Allen, accompanied him in a reporter's car for part of the interview but repeatedly interrupted him, urging him not to reply to questions. Canty said both youths had sold their story to the National Enquirer for $300 and had allowed the Enquirer to take pictures of their bullet wounds. His attorney later confirmed there was such an arrangement with the Enquirer, which has not yet published its story.
"The Enquirer robbed me," Canty said angrily. "My lawyer said I could have gotten at least $1,000." He added that his brother Carl had sold his story to the New York Post for $125, allowing the Post to interview him while he was free-basing cocaine. Carl allowed the Post to take pictures of Troy's room plastered with tabloid stories about the incident. New York Post metropolitan editor Steve Dunleavy said his paper does pay for stories, but in this case "did not, to my knowledge."
Carl Canty also told the paper that his brother was high on drugs and was on his way to rob video machines when the incident occurred.
According to Troy Canty's attorney, Howard R. Meyer, Canty, who has served two 20- and 30-day jail sentences for petty larceny, has been arrested six or seven times for shoplifting or breaking into video arcade machines. The two screwdrivers police say he was carrying were not weapons, Meyer said.
"My guy never had crimes against individuals," Meyer said. "He puts holes in video machines, not in people . . . . He had two screwdrivers. These kids get a lot of money from video machines using screwdrivers to open them."
He confirmed that Canty was the one who approached Goetz: "He walked over as any panhandler does in the city. That's not considered a crime . . . although I sense it was a threat in the mind of Mr. Goetz."
While three of the youths are out of the hospital and recovering from their wounds, Darryl Cabey, 19, who was paralyzed from the waist down, remained in a coma tonight and was suffering from pneumonia and empyemia, a chest infection.
In a hallway of Cabey's apartment building on East 168th Street this afternoon, a dozen people surrounded a reporter and began arguing heatedly among themselves about the incident. Mothers with babies came to their doors in bathrobes. Cabey's high-school classmates spoke about what a nice kid he is, and said his indictment on armed-robbery charges last October was a false arrest for a youth who generally stayed out of trouble.
But many of Cabey's friends, victims of crimes themselves, were sympathetic to Goetz.
"The neighborhood is bad," said Yvette Green, 18. "Everybody robbing people. There's a lot of drugs, cocaine, robberies. People get killed in these projects. Sometimes you get so frustrated that you can't help it. You begin to feel, 'Hey, get them before they get me.' I've been robbed. I know. If I'd had a gun, I would have shot him."
Darryl Singleton, 24, called Cabey, one of six children, "a sweet person," but added, "If I didn't know him, I would say he got what he deserved. I've been robbed in the projects before and if I had a gun, I would have shot the guy . . . ."
On Wednesday, Goetz eluded all but a WNEW-TV crew and a New York Post editor who trailed him to Union, N.J., where he ate at a diner, United Press International reported. The station issued the following statement from Goetz: "I owe the people of New York a statement and I am thinking of doing that. I hope some good will come from this incident."
In the Courtney Restaurant near his 14th Street apartment today, Goetz reportedly told the Post, "I'm amazed at this celebrity status. I want to remain anonymous . . . . I would like to not be taken notice of."