On Sunday, March 19, 1978, a fifteen year-old boy named Willie Bosket was riding the subways, looking for someone to rob. He'd been in and out of court on various charges since he was nine, and he'd learned that there was little force behind the dispositions rendered in Manhattan's Family Court.
He faced a hearing on attempted robbery, and knew that a loving couple had started proceedings to adopt him as a foster child, since his own father was in prison and his mother had little to do with him. Because the state needed time to process the adoption papers, Willie was out roaming around.
One evening, he'd found $380 in the wallet of a sleeping passenger on the subway train and he'd used it to buy a gun from Charles, the man currently living with his mother in Harlem-a man who told him that using a gun would get him respect on the streets. Charles sold him a .22 for $65. Willie bought a holster and strapped it to his leg. Wearing it made him feel powerful.
At 5:30 in the afternoon that Sunday, he found himself alone with another rider on a number 3 IRT train. The passenger, a middle-aged man wearing a gold digital watch, was asleep. Willie kicked him, and getting no response, began to work the watch off his wrist. He noticed that the man was wearing pink sunglasses as well, which reminded Willie of a counselor from juvenile detention whom he had despised. It irritated him.
The man suddenly opened his eyes, and Willie reached for his gun and shot him through the right eye of the sunglasses, piercing his brain. Then the passenger threw up his hands in defense and screamed. Willie panicked at the thought that he might not die, so he shot him again in the temple. The man fell back against the wall and then slumped to the floor.
As the train pulled up to its last stop near Yankee Stadium, Willie took his victim's watch, found fifteen dollars in his pants pocket, and also slipped a ring off his finger, which he sold on his way home for twenty dollars.
The shooting victim was identified as Noel Perez, 44, who worked in a hospital and lived by himself. The papers called it a random shooting with no apparent motive. Little could be done to find the culprit.
For Willie, the fatal encounter was his destiny. He'd lived much of his life toward this moment, to know what it was like to take a life. Even more empowering was the fact that no one saw him. He even told his sister what he had done, yet there were no immediate consequences. He'd gotten away with murder and felt that it was no big thing to kill a man. Now he was "bad," as bad as he'd told everyone he'd be one day.