Former FSO William Anthony Gooch: No Mercy for Broken Men?

On May 12, 2012, William Anthony Gooch, 52, was sentenced to 12 years in prison – the maximum he faced under a plea agreement in the Nov. 7, 2010 episode, in which Gooch rammed a Jeep into his estranged wife’s home before setting it ablaze.

What was not widely reported is that he’s a former Foreign Service officer.

In the July/August 1998 issue of State Magazine, he was listed as an “FS Specialist Intake.”  In the February 2003 issue of the same magazine, he was listed under “Foreign Service Retirements”

There is no public catalog of what happened to him after he left the Foreign Service. But apparently in 2005, while visiting Roswell, Ga., Mr. Gooch broke into his brother’s gun safe and ended up in a standoff with police where he begged to be shot.

In 2008, he reportedly shot himself in the chest, narrowly missing his heart. The suicide attempt led to a period of sobriety, and a seeming improvement, according to unnamed relatives cited in local reports.

In August 2009, Mr. Gooch was arrested after a six-hour standoff. This time, he also had a gun and was threatening suicide.

In 2010, El Paso County sheriff’s deputies told local news that Mr. Gooch crashed his car into the Black Forest home of his estranged wife, set the house on fire and then barricaded himself inside.  He was reported to be in critical condition in the burn unit at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, according to hospital officials cited in local reports.

On May 12, 2012, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison – the maximum he faced under a plea agreement in the Nov. 7, 2010 episode.

Colorado Springs’ The Gazette had a write up on the hearing that details the unraveled life of former foreign service officer.  Excerpt below:

According to the family’s account, Gooch served in the Navy and the U.S. Agency for International Development before his 1998 transfer to the State Department, where he worked in the security office.

Within months of accepting the new post, Gooch and his family were assigned to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where tensions were mounting between warring factions, according to his son, Andy Gooch, a private first-class in the Army National Guard and senior at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The six families in their compound were eventually moved out of Kinshasa as violence ramped up, Andy Gooch told the court, describing how they were driven past the dead and wounded on their way to the airport.

His father remained behind to help evacuate other Americans and nongovernmental aid workers, he said.
Gooch told his family that he was detained and beaten by Congolese police during the ensuing choas. He said a fellow Foreign Service officer secured his release.

Later that year the family was sent to Nairobi, Kenya, where according to Andy Gooch’s account, his father helped identify victims in the wake of a 1998 bombing that killed hundreds at a U.S. Embassy.

In Nairobi, the family survived an attempted car jacking when William Gooch shouted for his wife and children to get down while he drove around a road blockade past men armed with AK-47s, Andy Gooch said.

“When I was 10 or 12 years old, I saw things most people don’t see in their whole life,” Andy Gooch said. “If I got that little piece, I can’t imagine what my father saw.”

Said Sotela: “His mental health was deteriorating through the years that he was exposed to that situation.”

Gooch’s career with the State Department ended with a medical discharge in the early 2000s after he suffered a breakdown during an assignment in Kingston, Jamaica, family members said.

According to The Gazette, Mr. Gooch addressed the court in a soft voice, apologized and said he never meant to hurt anyone except himself – by swallowing pills, shooting himself and trying to get “someone else” to shoot him.  “Jumping off a bridge is about my last resort,” he told Judge Greg Werner, before ending his comments with a pledge to take treatment seriously.

I had this story the same week that George Gaines died in Barbados.  I just could not get myself to write about two tragic episodes that same week. The prosecutor in this case, suggested in court that Mr. Gooch exaggerated his experiences in a bid for leniency.  Nothing in the press reports suggested that Mr. Gooch was diagnosed or treated for PTSD. But it says he was medically discharged after he suffered a breakdown in Jamaica.

Domani Spero

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