ORLANDO, Fla. | A man so broke that he said he didn't 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. Police said he apologized as officers handcuffed him.
“I'm just going through a tough time right now. I'm sorry,” officers quoted him as saying.
Police say he will be charged with first-degree murder and other crimes. Officials said he could make an initial court appearance Saturday.
All 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.
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 the person. He then went into the common work area and fired several shots, they said, wounding five other employees.
The five wounded people were in stable condition at Orlando hospitals and police say all are expected to survive. 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 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 21/2 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 couldn't give him enough hours, and he later filed for unemployment. He expected to get a check recently but when it didn't 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' 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 sandwich shops in the Orlando area until six weeks ago. He would not say whether Rodriguez had left or was fired.
His ex-wife's mother, America Holloway, told The Associated Press that Rodriguez and her daughter, Neshby, were married for about 61/2 years before divorcing several years ago. They have an 8-year-old son who lives with Neshby 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, too.
“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.
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.
The Orlando Sentinel reported on its Web site that Rodriguez was detained by the Orange County Sheriff's Office in June 2007 after it received a report that he was a “danger to self and others.”
Nursing aide Denise Exume, 39, told The Associated Press on Friday that she was asked to watch him after he was taken by deputies to Florida Hospital-East in Orlando for a mental health exam. He wasn't allowed to leave the room, but he stood up and said he wanted to use the bathroom. Exume tried to block him.
“He just pushed me,” she said. He left, and she was evaluated in the emergency room and didn't press charges. The hospital declined comment, citing privacy laws.
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 Lugenbeel, 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.