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Alleged Stop & Shop shooter planning to use psychiatric defense, court papers say

Stop & Shop fatal shooting suspect Gabriel DeWitt

Stop & Shop fatal shooting suspect Gabriel DeWitt Wilson, middle, arrives at Nassau County Police Headquarters in Mineola Tuesday April. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Stop & Shop cart attendant who is accused of opening fire with a handgun inside his West Hempstead workplace in April, killing a manager and wounding two co-workers, is planning to use a psychiatric defense at his trial.

An attorney for Gabriel Wilson, 31, filed court paperwork Tuesday indicating he will argue his client was experiencing an extreme emotional disturbance during the April 20 shooting.

Under New York law, a successful extreme emotional disturbance defense would mean Wilson would be guilty of committing first-degree manslaughter but not guilty of murder. Wilson’s attorney, Brian Carmody, would have to prove his client snapped and experienced a profound loss of self-control at the time of the shooting.

In June, the defendant pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder, assault and weapon charges after a grand jury’s nine-count indictment.

Carmody said in an exclusive interview Tuesday that he will use the extreme emotional disturbance defense in connection with the murder charge and still is evaluating how he will defend the other charges against Wilson.

The Garden City lawyer also said that Wilson previously suffered a traumatic brain injury and it was that condition that figured into his violent reaction after a supermarket manager failed to act on another request from Wilson to be transferred to a different Shop & Shop location.

Police have said Wilson spoke with management about transferring to a different store about 40 minutes before the shooting at the supermarket at 50 Cherry Valley Ave.

"A third of his brain is missing so he acted out inappropriately but with extreme emotional disturbance because of his traumatic brain injury. So it's unique to him, not a normal extreme emotional disturbance," Carmody also said Tuesday.

The violence wasn't sparked by something dramatic, but rather "it was just the lack of action by the store manager in dragging it out for months that just got up a head of steam in his head ... because it was his whole life," the defense lawyer added of Wilson.

The defendant lost part of his brain after being shot in the head at age 19, according to Carmody. The attorney previously has described his client as "slow" and "sort of like a little boy in a big man body," saying Wilson suffers from epilepsy and has an I.Q. of 61.

Carmody also said Tuesday that he decided on the defense approach after having both a psychiatrist and psychologist examine Wilson, who is remanded without bail at Nassau's jail. Tuesday's court filing paves the way for the prosecution to now have their experts examine Wilson, he said.

Law enforcement officials have alleged Wilson used a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun to shoot at five Stop & Shop co-workers, killing manager Ray Wishropp, 49, of Valley Stream, and wounding a 26-year-old Bay Shore woman and a 50-year-old Bethpage man. Wishropp was a divorced father of seven and new grandfather who had worked for the supermarket chain for about three decades, his best friend previously told Newsday.

Authorities said two 47-year-old female employees also were present when Wilson allegedly opened fire but were able to escape harm. Police said they recovered seven shell casings, but not the weapon after Wilson fled from the store.

Police arrested Wilson about four hours later, after law enforcement officials zeroed in on his location at a Hempstead apartment building using surveillance video and tips that flooded in from the public after authorities named him as a person of interest in the case.

Wilson told police ‘Go ahead, shoot me,’" then cursed and told them to shoot again before speaking in what authorities believe was Arabic before his arrest, according to the Nassau District Attorney's Office.

Carmody has said Wilson is a Muslim and prays in Arabic.

District attorney’s office spokesman Brendan Brosh declined to comment on Tuesday’s filing.

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