How Being Held At Gun Point As A Child Changed James Comey

"What it created for me... was a tremendous sense of empathy."

Former FBI Director James Comey recounted the frightening experience of being held hostage by an armed home intruder when he was a teenager during a CNN Town Hall on Wednesday. Comey, who also wrote about the experience in his new book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadershipsaid that the intruder, known as the Ramsey rapist, known as the Ramsey rapist, locked Comey and his brothers in the bathroom, repeatedly threatened to execute them and held a gun to their heads. The encounter, Comey said, had a profound effect on the kind of empathy he had for victims of crime. 

Recommended

"I wasn't hurt," Comey told Anderson Cooper during the town hall. "Think about the people beaten, raped, assaulted, shot. What have they experienced and what are their lives like? And so it changed me in a lot of ways."

In Comey's recounting of the event, which occurred in 1977, he convinced the man to lock him and his brothers in the bathroom rather than kill them. They tried to escape, but he caught them leaving their home on his way back from visiting the house next door. 

"He was livid at me and started saying he was going to kill me," Comey recalled. "And again I thought I was going to get executed. And then a chaotic scene ensued, where a neighbor intervened, and a neighbor's dog, and we escaped again."

Police reports would later indicate that the man had come for Comey's sister, who wasn't home at the time. The criminal terrorized Bergen County, New Jersey in the 1970s with multiple alleged rapes and robberies.

"Ultimately he fled into the woods as the police arrived," Comey said. "We survived that night and I wasn't hurt. But I thought about the Ramsey rapist every night before I went to bed for five years... And what it created for me, Anderson, as a prosecutor and investigator, was a tremendous sense of empathy."

Cover photo: Shutterstock / mark reinstein

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.