SWAT team takes “angry” Orlando shooter into custody

By Calvin Palmer

The suspect in a shooting at an office building in downtown Orlando today was arrested this afternoon at his mother’s home.

A SWAT team spotted, Jason Rodriguez and he came out of the residence, at Hollowbrook Apartments, without incident, Orlando Police Chief Val Demings said.

Earlier, 40-year-old Rodriguez is alleged to have killed one person and wounded five others in a shooting at the Gateway Center.

The victims were all employees of Reynolds, Smith & Hill, a construction engineering firm with headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida.

Witnesses told police they recognized Rodriguez when he entered the company’s eighth-floor lobby. They said he pulled a handgun from a holster under his shirt and shot an employee standing next to the receptionist’s desk, killing him. The slain victim, identified by police as 26-year-old Otis Beckford, was hit by at least two bullets. The gunman then went into the common work area and fired several shots, witnesses said, wounding five other employees.

The five wounded people were in stable condition at Orlando hospitals and police say all are expected to survive.

Rodriguez was a former employee of the company.

After his arrest, Rodriguez told reporters he carried out the shooting “because they left me to rot”.

Asked if he was angry at his employer, he said: “No. I’m angry.”

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 two-and-a-half years,” Jacobson said. “We don’t know where he’s been or what he’s done.”

Rodriguez told detectives that the company had fired him without cause and had made him look incompetent. He told them he was unemployed for a year and a half before getting a job at Subway, where worked until recently.

He told them the shop was unable to give him enough hours, and he later filed for unemployment. He expected to get a check recently but when it failed to arrive he blamed Reynolds, Smith and Hills, thinking it was harming his efforts to qualify, police said. He told them he could no longer support his family. Police said he then invoked his right to remain silent.

Rodriguez recently told a bankruptcy judge he was making less than $30,000 a year at a Subway sandwich shop and owed nearly $90,000. His former mother-in-law suggested he was plagued by money woes.

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

Police say he will be charged with first-degree murder and other crimes. Officials said he could make an initial court appearance tomorrow.

[Based on a report by the Orlando Sentinel and Associated Press.]

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