Police: Publix shooter, victim were both employees
Suncoast NewsTARPON SPRINGS - A woman who had been fired by Publix on Tuesday morning shot a store employee to death in the Publix parking lot, then ran into the store, where she was shot several times after a gunbattle with police, authorities said.
Published: March 30, 2010
Published: March 30, 2010
It all unfolded about noon in front of dozens of shoppers and store employees.
"This lady comes running in, and next thing you know, the cops are in there after her," said 23-year-old shopper Nathan Buck, who was near the freezer section in the back of the store when the gunshots started. "She shot at the cops and the cops shot her.
"Once I heard the gunshots, I took off running. I'm not going to stick around and get shot."
Police said Arunya Rouch, 41, shot Gregory Janowski at point-blank range with a 9 mm pistol as the 40-year-old Spring Hill resident was sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Tarpon Mall on U.S. 19, preparing to go into work. She then went into the Publix, where she tried to shoot several other employees, her arrest affidavit said.
When police arrived, she shot at a Tarpon Springs police officer, police said. The officer returned fire, hitting Rouch several times.
Rouch was taken by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where she was listed in critical but stable condition Tuesday evening.
Tuesday night, she was charged with first-degree murder. Her arrest affidavit says she blamed Janowski for problems she was having at work and had threatened to kill him if she was fired.
No police were injured, although a bullet pierced the gun belt of one officer.
Police said it's amazing no one else was hit in all the gunfire.
"This is a crazy busy store and parking lot," said police spokeswoman Lt. Barb Templeton.
Company officials confirmed Rouch and Janowski were Publix employees and that Rouch had been let go earlier Tuesday.
Publix officials wouldn't say why Rouch had been fired.
Employees called Janowski a meat cutter and said the two worked in proximity to each other with seafood and meat.
The Publix remained closed all day. Cleanup has to be completed and grief counseling offered before the store can reopen, Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said.
The store is scheduled to reopen at its regular time this morning, but employees who are too upset from the shootings will not be required to show up to work.
Many people at the strip mall didn't realize what had happened but became alarmed when they saw dozens of Publix employees and customers running out of the store toward the parking lot.
"I heard four pops," said Charles Leach, an employee at Kween Klean, a business in the strip mall in view of the parking lot shooting.
"I was sitting right there," said Leach, pointing to a chair near a window in the laundry. "I thought it was firecrackers."
After the shooting, police received a report that Rouch's husband was armed and heading to the Publix, Templeton said. Police intercepted him in the parking lot. He was unarmed but was detained for questioning, Templeton said.
When the shooting started, witnesses called 911; the store is about a block from the police department.
Detective Sgt. Mike Trill was the first to arrive.
"He located her in the store very quickly," Templeton said. "She shot at him, and he returned fire."
Templeton said a bullet pierced the gun belt of Officer Stephen Van Schaick.
Trill, a plainclothes detective, is a 16-year veteran of the department, Templeton said.
Tarpon Springs police will investigate Janowski's death. Because officers were involved, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the shooting of Rouch.
Trill and Schaik are on administrative leave with pay during that investigation, standard procedure when police are involved in a shooting.
Publix employee Sam Harrison was upstairs in the break room when the shooting started. "We just heard a lot of poppin' and I recognized it as a gun," Harrison said.
Harrison said Janowski "was a good, family man. We always talked about sports."
Christina Blanco of New Port Richey said she is a family friend of Janowski. She said Rouch was upset with Janowski over work issues.
"He just told her she was going against Publix policy and to knock it off because everyone was going to get in trouble," Blanco said. She did not specify what policy Janowski said Rouch was violating.
She said Janowski had three children and had recently gotten married after being engaged for a number of years.
"He was the best dad in the world," Blanco said. "He'd do anything for his little girl. He worked all kinds of crazy hours to give her everything."
Were you at the Publix at the time of the shooting? If so, contact Todd Pratt at 813-731-0620.