Originally created 04/28/00

Gunman not to be released



Ten years of hospitalization at a mental health facility after shooting a man and then exchanging gunfire with officers had brought Oscar Moore to the brink of mental stability and release back into the community.

But a rambling, bizarre letter to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation prompted prosecutors to ask the judge not only to deny Mr. Moore's release from Georgia Regional, but also to rescind all privileges -- including weeklong visits in Augusta. And after reassessing Mr. Moore's mental condition, Georgia Regional doctors agreed his condition had deteriorated to the point he needed to remain in the hospital.

Richmond County Sheriff Charles Webster was surprised to hear that Mr. Moore was being considered for release from Georgia Regional and surprised that Mr. Moore had written a letter to the GBI, accusing police of being the criminals on Jan. 14, 1989.

"The only crimes committed that day were by him," Sheriff Webster said of Mr. Moore. "He was shooting at anybody he could see."

In his March 9 letter, Mr. Moore listed a notice of charges against the sheriff's department, including terrorism, arson, trespass and assault -- crimes he alleges officers committed that day when they rescued the man Mr. Moore shot and handcuffed before launching a nine-hour standoff with officers.

The letter also includes a reference to "death warrant ordered by Oscar Moore."

Prosecutors cited Mr. Moore's letter in asking Chief Judge William M. Fleming Jr. to cancel all of his privileges and home visits from Georgia Regional Hospital.

Mr. Moore's attorney declined comment Monday, but in an order signed Thursday by Judge Fleming, Mr. Moore's attorney and doctors agreed with the prosecutor's assessment.

Since receiving notice of the prosecution's request, Georgia Regional has suspended all of Mr. Moore's privileges, his doctor wrote to Judge Fleming. Mr. Moore again meets the commitment criteria -- that he poses a substantial risk of imminent harm to himself or others manifested by recent acts or threats of violence, or that he is so unable to care for his physical health and safety as to be in danger.

Ten years ago, Judge Fleming accepted a plea for Mr. Moore of "not guilty by reason of insanity," and signed an order committing him. In February, Judge Fleming was petitioned by Mr. Moore's attorney and doctors to grant him a conditional release from the hospital.

Under a conditional release, Mr. Moore would be able to live in the community under Georgia Regional's staff supervision for the first year. Doctors could petition the judge to commit Mr. Moore again if they believe it is necessary. After the first year, the supervision would end.

According to Georgia Regional doctors, Mr. Moore suffers from schizophrenia, a chronic, severe and disabling brain disease. But, they reported in February, he has consistently taken his medication and complied with all hospital rules.

Mr. Moore's treating psychiatrist testified Feb. 21 that Mr. Moore was symptom-free and in remission from schizophrenia and has been for more than two years.

That was before Mr. Moore's letter to the GBI surfaced. Sheriff Webster, who learned of the letter Monday, said it is a concern for him and his officers, especially because it wasn't the first such letter Mr. Moore wrote.

"How can Georgia Regional release him?" asked Bobby Wylds, whom Mr. Moore shot on Jan. 14, 1989. "I'm not so worried about myself as I am about him getting out and shooting someone else."

Mr. Wylds said he had been looking for one of Mr. Moore's neighbors on Gravel Pit Road and asked Mr. Moore that afternoon if the person he was looking for lived across the street. Mr. Moore, who had some type of badge looped around his neck, claimed to be a neighborhood security guard and asked Mr. Wylds for his driver's license, Mr. Wylds said. Then Mr. Moore shot him and handcuffed him to a tractor.

The bullet is still lodged in his back. "I live with this every day," said Mr. Wylds, who lost a kidney and his spleen and still suffers pain and occasionally temporary paralysis from a pinched nerve in his back.

"Somebody else may not be as lucky as me," Mr. Wylds said.

For nine hours, Mr. Moore was barricaded inside the house, exchanging gunfire with sheriff's deputies until they shot tear gas canisters into the house. Mr. Moore's house caught fire, and Mr. Moore was shot as he fled the house.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226.