Police: Fla. workers feared accused office shooter

AP News
Posted: Dec 10, 2009 4:55 PM

A man accused of killing a former co-worker and wounding five others last month made a gun gesture with his hand when he was fired in 2007 and left a letter on his manager's office door with a thumbprint in blood, according to police documents released Thursday.

Authorities have said Jason Rodriguez blamed his former Orlando engineering firm for hindering his efforts to secure unemployment benefits and said his former co-workers "left me to rot." Co-workers said they worried he would return for revenge, and they discussed devising an alarm signal if ever showed up, according to the new documents.

"Two of us always used to have a fear that he might come back, 'cause we knew he was a little off, 'cause he was a hunter," an administrative assistant at the firm, Maureen Daly, said in a police interview Nov. 6, the day of the shooting.

Rodriguez faces charges including first-degree murder. A spokeswoman for his public defender wouldn't comment on the documents but his attorney has said previously that Rodriguez was mentally troubled. Rodriguez has not yet entered a plea.

According to authorities, Rodriguez walked into the office's reception area, pulled a gun from a holster beneath his shirt and started shooting, killing 26-year-old Otis Beckford, authorities said.

Rodriguez knew Beckford, according to witness statements, contradicting earlier reports that he was a random victim.

The letter with the bloody thumbprint blamed the firm's office manager for his firing.

Another manager told investigators he once had held up Beckford as an example of someone who was performing better than Rodriguez. James Beverly was among the managers who fired Rodriguez as an engineer after 1 1/2 year on the job for performance reasons.

After he was let go, Beverly said, Rodriguez made a gun gesture at the firm's office manager and left the letter.

Rodriguez's mental health had been declining two years before the office shooting, according to the documents.

In June 2007, Rodriguez's mother called police to the home she shared with her son and asked officers to remove two of his guns. She told officers that Rodriguez had been taken by ambulance to a hospital for a mental evaluation a few days earlier but left without being discharged. She worried that he would harm himself with the guns, the police report said.

The guns were destroyed after Rodriguez didn't fill out a doctor's authorization form saying he was competent to possess a firearm.

An August 2007 police report showed Rodriguez was involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility after he ran out in front of cars several times on a busy Orlando road.