LaGRANGE — The man accused of shooting his coworker inside the Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia plant in West Point pleaded guilty by reason of mental illness Thursday afternoon in Troup County Superior Court.
Gabriel Kendrell Raines, 39, of Newnan was charged with aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Raines shot Gary Swanson Jr., 29, of Newnan in the left leg inside the assembly plant then walked outside and sat on a sidewalk until law enforcement officers took him into custody, stated Troup County Senior Assistant District Attorney Lynda Caldwell.
She told presiding Superior Court Judge Quillian Baldwin other colleagues coaxed Raines to toss the gun away from him. Law enforcement officers also discovered prescription drugs, amphetamine salts, natural pain killers and another magazine belonging to the gun he used to shoot Swanson inside his car.
Defense lawyer Barry Hazen told the court Raines was a devoted father of four children and worked at Kia on the assembly line since 2010. But in 2014, Raines started having paranoid delusions and was placed on medical leave by Kia three different times.
“He thought his coworkers were watching him … he covered the red lights on the coffee machine and TV at home because he thought they could see him through that,” Hazen stated. “He covered the mirrors in his home … he thought his coworkers were bugging his phone … and had him under surveillance.”
Hazen said Raines was given medication for depression and bipolar disorder instead of anti-psychotics, though he did see a psychotherapist.
On the last medical leave, Raines returned to work the day before he shot Swanson, said Hazen.
“This was not someone who shot someone out of sheer meanness or hatred. This was because of mental illness,” said Hazen. “I know this is a serious case. I feel for Mr. Swanson. He was the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time … and I know if there was one moment that Mr. Raines could take back in his life, it would be when he shot Mr. Swanson.”
April Raines, Gabriel’s wife, was one of three people who spoke on his behalf during the hearing. She told Judge Baldwin she already called local outpatient treatment centers who said they would assess her husband’s needs and get him into their program.
She broke down in tears when asked if her husband was ever violent towards her or their four children.
“I’ve known Gabriel for 20 years … and I’ve never known him to be a violent man,” she said between sobs. “He loves all four of our children and he’d never harm any of them.”
But the victim, Gary Swanson, painted a very different picture of Raines. He stated the man had been acting strange and at one point was talking to himself.
Swanson said while he was checking his schedule on an assignment board, he was suddenly knocked to the ground. He looked up to find Raines staring down at him with a gun in his hand.
“He stood over me … after he shot me, he said, ‘You better tell me who’s talking about me at work,’” Swanson remembered. “Then he pointed the gun at my head and said, ‘You’d better tell me!’ … I had to beg for my life. I closed my eyes and turned my head away. When I opened my eyes again, he was gone.”
Swanson said the bullet hit an artery in his leg. He was airlifted to a Columbus hospital for treatment. Doctors were able to save his leg, but the damage from the gunshot was severe, some of it is permanent.
Swanson has 25 screws in his leg, two metal plates in his knee, nerve damage, numerous numb spots on his foot and toes and cannot fully extend his left leg. Doctors told him he will probably never be able to run again and must walk slowly because of the numbness in his foot.
“My wife has to help me get dressed in the morning. I can’t put my socks on … my kids take turns tying my shoes for me,” Swanson told the court. “… My everyday life is gone. No more football or basketball with my children … I heard my children say, ‘Don’t ask daddy to play anymore because you know he can’t run anymore because that guy tried to kill him.’”
Only recently has Swanson ventured back outside on his own but said he is constantly looking over his shoulder. He stated he suffers from depression and anxiety and has not returned to work since the shooting.
Raines entered his guilty plea as a blind plea. The state recommended he receive 25 years to serve 15 in a state penitentiary housed with the mentally ill and not with the general population.
Baldwin decided to sentence Raines to 25 years to serve 12 behind bars. He also stated 90 days after Raines is released from prison he must pay $100 a month to Swanson in restitution for whatever bills he cannot pay on his own.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.