Houston & Peach

Charges against ‘self-defense’ shooter no more, man struck in back not found for trial

Bruce Osborn Key is shown here in this 2014 file photo after he attempted to seek a warrant in Houston County Magistrate Court against the man he was accused of shooting in the back outside a Warner Robins residence. Key claimed self-defense. An indictment against Key has been dismissed after the prosecution was unable to locate the person shot.
Bruce Osborn Key is shown here in this 2014 file photo after he attempted to seek a warrant in Houston County Magistrate Court against the man he was accused of shooting in the back outside a Warner Robins residence. Key claimed self-defense. An indictment against Key has been dismissed after the prosecution was unable to locate the person shot. bpurser@macon.com

The case against a former Centerville man accused of shooting another man in the back outside a Warner Robins home has been dismissed.

Bruce Osborne Key, 53, was charged by Warner Robins police with aggravated assault in the shooting of Thomas Allen Gooch in the back outside a Briardale Drive home on Aug. 24, 2014.

Key attempted to have an arrest warrant sworn out against Gooch in Houston County Magistrate Court. Key told the judge the “action” he took was in self-defense after Gooch allegedly struck him with a tire jack.

Key was indicted by a Houston County grand jury on one count of aggravated assault and one count of possession of a firearm during a felony. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

Monday, the indictment against Key was dismissed by the prosecution, according to Houston County Superior Court records.

The reason cited in the dismissal was the inability to locate Gooch after numerous attempts.

“You can’t really go ahead and prosecute an aggravated assault if you don’t have the person who was assaulted in court,” Houston County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Dan Bibler said Thursday.

Bibler said that there’s “always a chance” the case could be resurrected.

“It depends on whether or not we are able to locate the victim … If he makes himself available to us, we’ll talk to him and decide what to do next,” Bibler said.

Angie Coggins, an assistant public defender who represented Key, said that she and Key are “very happy” that the prosecution dismissed the indictment.

“I’m hopeful that it’s over ... But if the district attorney wanted to bring it back up at some point, I think they would be entitled to do that,” Coggins said.

She said there was a “viable self-defense issue.”

“The 911 call and Mr. Gooch’s own statements confirm that he started the altercation by striking Mr. Key in his face and causing an injury that required stitches,” Coggins said.

Bibler declined to comment on the prosecution’s case, but noted that the indictment was not dismissed based on the defense’s position.

Key, a retired computer sales territory leader, told The Telegraph in October 2014 he had pulled up outside of Gooch’s home to collect $20 he said Gooch owed him.

Key said Gooch asked him if he “wanted some more” after Gooch allegedly struck him with the tire jack while Key was sitting in his car. Key said that he was in fear for his life when he fired in the direction of Gooch’s voice.

Key said in an email, “I am relived that justice finally prevailed.” Gooch could not be reached for comment.

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser

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