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UPDATE: Suspect in Orlando office shooting had money woes

Friday, November 6, 2009 | 6:02 p.m. CST
Emergency workers transport a victim from a shooting in downtown Orlando on Friday. Police are searching for the gunman. Orange County Sheriff's Spokesman Jim Solomons said his department is backing up Orlando police, and they're still looking for an armed man wearing a light blue polo shirt and jeans.

ORLANDO, Fla. — A man who was so deep in debt that he did not have the money to visit his son 30 minutes away opened fire Friday at the engineering firm that fired him two years ago, killing one person and wounding five, authorities said.

As officers led a handcuffed Jason Rodriguez into a police station, a reporter asked the divorced 40-year-old why he had attacked his former colleagues.

"Because they left me to rot," said Rodriguez, who recently told a bankruptcy judge he was making less than $30,000 a year at a Subway sandwich shop and owed nearly $90,000.

The shooting on the eighth floor of an office tower paralyzed downtown Orlando for three hours. Police quickly tracked Rodriguez to his mother's home, spotted him through a window and ordered him to come out.

He surrendered peacefully and was in custody Friday evening, though he had not yet been formally charged in the shootings.

All of the victims worked at the firm of Reynolds, Smith and Hills, where Rodriguez was an entry-level engineer for 11 months before he was let go in June 2007, the company said.

Police said Rodriguez used a handgun in the shooting, but they did not release additional details, including how he got inside the building, whether he said anything to people in the office or how he initially escaped.

The five wounded people were in stable condition at Orlando hospitals. The person who died was not identified.

Rodriguez worked on drawings in the firm's transportation group, but his supervisors said his performance was not up to their standards, and when he did not improve, he was fired. The company did not hear from him again.

"This is really a mystery to us," said Ken Jacobson, the firm's general legal counsel and chief financial officer. "There was nothing to indicate any hard feelings."

He did not know why Rodriguez would say the company had left him "to rot."

"It's been 2 1/2 years," Jacobson said. "We don't know where he's been or what he's done."

But Rodriguez' bankruptcy filing and his former mother-in-law suggested he was plagued by money woes.

Les Winograd, a spokesman for Milford, Conn.-based Subway Restaurants, said Rodriguez had worked for one of the company's sandwich shops in the Orlando area until six weeks ago. He would not say whether Rodriguez had left or was fired.

His mother-in-law, America Holloway, told The Associated Press that Rodriguez and her daughter, Neshby, were married for about 6 1/2 years before divorcing several years ago. They have an 8-year-old son who lives with his mother in Kissimmee, about a half-hour away.

Holloway said the couple lived with her in Orlando for several years while they were married and that Rodriguez abused her daughter and once threw all her clothes into the street.

"I used to tell my daughter he was crazy," Holloway said. "He was always fighting, always yelling. There was always problems."

After the divorce, Rodriguez seldom saw his son, but he called last week while the child was at Holloway's house, and the boy asked his father why he did not come over.

"He said, 'Because I don't have any money. I don't have a job. I don't have anything to eat. When things get better, I'll come see you,'" Holloway said Rodriguez told his son.

Orlando Police Chief Val Demings said investigators did not know why Rodriguez targeted the engineering firm.

"This is a tragedy, no doubt about it, especially on the heels of the tragedy in Fort Hood that is on our minds," she said, referring to an Army psychiatrist suspected of opening fire on fellow soldiers at a Texas military base Thursday in an attack that killed 13 people and wounded 30.

Charles Price, an attorney who represented Rodriguez in his bankruptcy case, said he could not comment on specifics of the matter. He had not seen Rodriguez since the summer.

A somber Gov. Charlie Crist visited some of the wounded at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

"They're obviously traumatized," he said. "At the same time, I was impressed with their spirit and strength."

Camille Previlon told The Associated Press her uncle, engineer Guy Lungenbel, was shot in the back and was able to talk but had not said much about the shooting.

"He's just hurting real bad in the back," she said.

After the lunchtime shooting, some people streamed out of the Legion Place building while others holed up in their offices. A major highway was closed, and nearby schools were locked down.

Greg Cross, who works in a real estate office on the 12th floor, said he and his co-workers barricaded themselves inside after hearing about the gunman on television.

"We were terrified," he said. "We locked the door and put a filing cabinet in front of the door and just waited."

Mark Vella, who works in a different office on the same floor, said he and five co-workers also pulled a filing cabinet in front of their door. They prayed and talked about what to do if the gunman showed up.

"We were afraid the guy was still in the building and making the rounds," Vella said.

 

 

 


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