Pa. Gunman Ruled Incompetent

Thursday, May 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man accused of killing five people during a racially motivated shooting spree today was deemed incompetent to stand trial.

Judge Lawrence O'Toole ordered Richard Scott Baumhammers transferred to Mayview State Hospital for treatment.

The judge heard from three court-appointed psychiatrists who testified that Baumhammers was incompetent to aid in his own defense on homicide charges. He could be tried later if his mental state improves.

Baumhammers, 34, is accused of fatally shooting five people and wounding a sixth in Allegheny and Beaver counties April 28. His victims were Jewish, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese and black. Officers eventually cornered him about 20 miles from the first attack, and he surrendered.

Baumhammers, a onetime immigration lawyer, is the son of white Latvian immigrants and for a time ran a Web site that touted the rights of immigrants from Europe over those from the Third World. Charges against him include ethnic intimidation — Pennsylvania's term for a hate crime.

During the competency hearing, prosecutor Ed Borkowski had argued that the suspect appeared to be holding back information from the doctors who interviewed him.

Doctors at Mayview are expected to re-examine Baumhammers and report back to the court on his mental state within 90 days. Baumhammers could remain in a hospital indefinitely until he is deemed fit to stand trial.

``Personally, I would be surprised if he were not brought to trial within a reasonable amount of time,'' said William Difenderfer, Baumhammers' lawyer. Difenderfer called Borkowski's claim that his client was holding back information ``baseless.''

Borkowski had no comment on the judge's decision.

Dr. David Ness, one of the psychiatrists who interviewed Baumhammers, testified Wednesday that Baumhammers had an ``eerie'' emotional detachment and was paranoid, believing he had been poisoned during trips to Europe. He and two other psychiatrists testified that Baumhammers was unfit for a trial.

The rampage was the second with apparent racial motivations in less than two months in the Pittsburgh area. Ronald Taylor, who is black, is accused of killing three white people. He is also being evaluated at Mayview State Hospital.