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Orlando shooting suspect says company left him 'to rot'

Former employee Jason Rodriguez is in custody after a rampage in which one worker is killed and five wounded at a Florida engineering firm.

November 07, 2009|Jeannette Rivera and Henry Pierson Curtis

ORLANDO, FLA. — A former employee of an architectural engineering firm opened fire in the company's offices in a high-rise here, killing one person and wounding five others, according to authorities.

Jason Rodriguez, 40, was arrested at his mother's apartment three hours later.

Outside the police station, a reporter asked for a motive.

Rodriguez, who had been fired from the company two years earlier, said: "Because they left me to rot."

Reporters asked if he was referring to his former employer.

"No. No. I'm angry," he responded.

Later Friday night, Rodriguez shouted, "Innocent!" to a crush of reporters at the Orlando Police Department as he left for the Orange County Jail.

A police affidavit said that Rodriguez had complained that he was harassed at work and let go "for no reason at all."

Rodriguez told detectives that he spent a year and a half without work after leaving the engineering firm Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc., which has an eighth-floor office in the Gateway Center in downtown Orlando.

Rodriguez briefly worked at a Subway sandwich shop, but he couldn't get enough hours; he quit and filed for unemployment benefits, according to the affidavit.

He told detectives he didn't receive an expected unemployment check and blamed the company.

"I'm just going through a tough time now, I'm sorry," Rodriguez said as he was being taken into custody, the affidavit states.

State Atty. Lawson Lamar said he planned to seek an indictment against Rodriguez on a first-degree murder charge and attempted first-degree murder charges. He'll confer with prosecutors before deciding whether to pursue the death penalty.

"I think there's heightened premeditation here," Lamar said. "The fact that he went back there with a weapon and did what he did is very cold and calculating."

The shooting began shortly before noon, when the suspect entered the building through the main entrance with a handgun, police said.

Former co-workers recognized Rodriguez, and one saw him pull a handgun from a holster under his shirt, police said.

The suspect pointed it at an employee standing near the reception desk and fired at least two shots, killing him, police said. Orlando police identified the victim as Otis Beckford, 26.

Rodriguez then entered the main office area where he fired "multiple rounds," hitting several employees, police said. None of those injuries were considered life-threatening.

Orlando Police Chief Val Demings said the suspect appeared to shoot indiscriminately. Officers said they believed the shooting was confined to the firm's offices.

People trapped inside the office building used furniture to barricade doorways and serve as cover. A person matching Rodriguez's description was then seen leaving the scene in a silver compact car. One witness copied down a partial license number, and police found a four-door 2001 Hyundai registered to Rodriguez's parents at an apartment complex.

As Orlando police approached the car, Rodriguez appeared in the window of the apartment with his hands up.

Police ordered him to come outside, and Rodriguez was taken into custody without incident, Demings said.

At Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Rodriguez worked as an entry-level engineer for nearly a year, according to the company. Renato Gonzalez, a manager in the firm's DeLand, Fla., office, recounted that Rodriguez acted irritated when he was let go in June 2007, but he did nothing to indicate he would resort to violence.

"He took it a little worse than most people," Gonzalez said.

Records show Rodriguez filed for bankruptcy in Orlando in September.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist stopped at Orlando Regional Medical Center to speak with some of the victims who were heading into surgery.

"They said they felt very lucky and blessed to be alive," Crist said.



Jason Garcia, Hal Boedeker, Heather McPherson and Mary Shanklin contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed.

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