Va. man charged with killing Army vet in supermarket found not guilty by reason of insanity

The scene of the shooting and Brian Hicks (WAVY/Bill Cole//Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

JAMES CITY COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — A retired Air Force veteran was found not guilty by reason of insanity Tuesday in a deadly shooting at a Farm Fresh last April.

Brian Hicks was accused in the shooting death Gabriel Maness.

Investigators said Hicks, 55, randomly picked out Maness inside the grocery store and opened fire. He shot Maness several times in the middle of an aisle on the morning of April 17, according to police.

Maness died at the scene. The 34-year-old served in the Army for three years before getting a medical discharge.

Hicks was taken in to custody, after he surrendered to police. Investigators say he was armed with a .45-caliber handgun and had two loaded magazines in his pocket.

No other customers or workers were hurt in the shooting.

Hicks pleaded not guilty last October.

The case came down to Hicks’ mental state at the time that he fired the gun.

Prosecutors highlighted conversations Hicks had with police after the shooting, in which he appeared calm and able to answer questions. A doctor who evaluated Hicks said she believed he was going through a manic phase at the time.

The judge called the shooting an “unthinkable tragedy.” He said there was no question Hicks shot the victim, but the defendant was unable to distinguish right from wrong.

Outside court, defense attorney Brandon Waltrip said his client would undergo an evaluation and was due back in court in June. It is likely his client will go to a mental health hospital, he said.

“We think it was the right outcome. Obviously, our hearts go out to the victim’s family. A win in the courtroom doesn’t bring this gentleman back, it doesn’t help Mr. Hicks’ family deal with the tragedy and his ongoing mental illness but we think it is the right outcome, so we’re happy about that,” Waltrip said.

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