A Chesterfield County man who was declared insane when he fatally shot an Army officer during a bizarre encounter at a local Wawa store was committed indefinitely to a state mental hospital on Wednesday after experts determined he still presented a danger and his schizophrenia was not amenable to outpatient treatment.
Chesterfield Circuit Judge Edward A. Robbins Jr. accepted the recommendations of two experts in ordering George Thomas Buschmann, 35, to continue to receive in-patient treatment at Central State Hospital for at least another year. Under Virginia law, the court is required to review his case annually for the next five years.
Buschmann appeared heavily medicated when he appeared in Chesterfield Circuit Court but indicated in responses to the judge that he was aware of what the experts had recommended in his case.
“He understands and appreciates what has happened, where he is and why he’s there — in that he’s not surprised by the recommendations of both of the experts,” Randy Rowlett, one of Buschmann’s attorneys, said after the hearing. “He anticipated that and he accepts that. He didn’t look forward to today’s date thinking, ‘Hey, I might get out.’ That was never an expectation of ours, his family’s, or him.”
In August, Buschmann was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the Jan. 8 killing of Robert Gooch IV, 34, after two clinical psychologists who evaluated Buschmann — one each for the prosecution and the defense — agreed in their assessments that Buschmann was insane at the time and that his mental state negated any criminal liability.
In a chance encounter, Buschmann and Gooch — who had never before met — had driven to the same Wawa store in the 16000 block of Otterdale Station Way off Hull Street Road on the evening of Jan. 8. Buschmann became fixated on Gooch when Buschmann observed him with his 13-year-old daughter after they had driven to the store to buy popcorn.
Buschmann was delusional at the time and believed Gooch wanted to “rape and kill” the girl, and he felt compelled to “eliminate the threat,” according to testimony and evidence in the case.
Surveillance video footage showed Buschmann retrieving a rifle from his car and firing at least twice at Gooch in the Wawa parking lot. The second shot came after Gooch struggled to his feet after being shot the first time. After Gooch fell to the pavement, Buschmann got into his car and drove away without haste.
It was later determined that Gooch had been struck three times, including two fatal wounds to his stomach. His daughter escaped unharmed after running back into the store after the first shot.
Dr. Laurence Levine, a clinical psychologist with the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, and Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, a medical doctor and director of the Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute, agreed in separate assessments that Buschmann’s mental illness requires in-patient treatment based on his psychiatric history, risk of aggressive behavior and amenability to out-patient supervision and treatment.
“They believe he is still a danger because his illness is such that it presents him as a dangerous person and he can’t be treated on an out-patient basis,” Rowlett explained. “That’s not suitable in this case, given the nature of his illness, history and what he’s done.”
Buschmann has struggled with mental illness for most of his life and had been treated professionally, but he had not always complied with his doctor’s orders regarding prescription medication. Rowlett said his client was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital in Charlottesville about 10 years ago, and Buschmann’s sister said he was hospitalized in Charlottesville about six months before the Wawa shooting for trying to kill himself in an overdose.
When he was eventually arrested after the shooting while driving a stolen 2007 Toyota, he was found with a .22-caliber Ruger semiautomatic rifle — believed to be the murder weapon — and a 30-30 bolt-action rifle. Buschmann told detectives that he had taken the firearms from his father’s house in Buckingham County.
Gooch graduated from Manchester High School and joined the Navy, but later was commissioned into the Army as an officer after earning his bachelor’s degree. He had been stationed at Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia and would have retired the same week he was killed. He had survived deployments to Afghanistan.
After the hearing, a member of the Gooch family requested permission to meet with Buschmann face-to-face to express forgiveness. But Rowlett said he had no means to accommodate the request since he had no authority to make it happen while Buschmann is in custody.