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Florida shooting suspect had money problems

Jason Rodriguez, accused of killing one and injuring five, 'is a compilation of the front page of the entire year -- unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce,' he lawyer says.

November 08, 2009|Amy L. Edwards and Anika Myers Palm

ORLANDO, FLA. — It's unclear whether Jason Rodriguez gave any warning signs before he walked into Orlando's Gateway Center, where police say he shot and wounded five people and killed one Friday, and they say they may never fully understand his motivation.

But Rodriguez, 40, who was fired two years ago by the company he allegedly targeted, has one characteristic not unusual among mass shooters: money problems.

"This guy is a compilation of the front page of the entire year -- unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce -- all of the stresses," Public Defender Bob Wesley, who is representing Rodriguez, said Saturday.

Workplace killings, in particular, often can be linked to an economic motivation.

"The person has lost a job, the person has been demoted, the person feels like he's about to lose his job -- it's not the whole story, but it's part of the motive," said Charles Ewing, a forensic psychologist and professor at the University at Buffalo Law School.

Money problems can lead to depression, which can compound the problems of someone already struggling with mental-health issues.

People who commit mass shootings typically are suffering from serious depression and are usually suicidal as well as homicidal, Ewing said.

Wesley said a mental-health evaluation of the former draftsman would be conducted. He said he didn't know whether Rodriguez was on medication.

But what is known, Wesley said, is that Rodriguez was under great stress, including a series of job losses.

Rodriguez, of Orlando, made his first appearance before a judge Saturday wearing a protective vest and saying little. Orange County Circuit Court Judge Walter Komanski had to ask Rodriguez to raise his right hand twice to be sworn in.

Rodriguez was held without bond and faces a first-degree-murder charge. Attempted-murder charges are likely to follow.

Wesley said his client "is a very, very mentally ill person." Jail officials said Rodriguez was under suicide watch.

The suspect's mother, Ana Lopez-Rodriguez, apologized after the hearing on her son's behalf.

"I am so sorry for everything that's happened," she said. "This is very, very hurtful."

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apalm@orlandosentinel.com

aledwards @orlandosentinel.com

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