Shooting Suspect Not Competent To Stand Trial

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Orlando, FL—A judge has ruled that the shooter who recently terrorized a downtown Orlando office building in November is not yet competent to stand trial. Instead, Jason Rodriguez will receive six months of mental health treatment, at the conclusion of which he will be reevaluated to determine his competency and ability to stand trial.

Rodriguez, 40, entered an architectural engineering firm where he had once been employed and opened fire. The shooting at Reynolds, Smith and Hills killed one man, Otis Beckford, and injured six others. Rodriguez fled the scene of the crime but later surrendered to police at an apartment complex where his mother lives. As he was led away from the Hollowbrook Apartments, he apologized to the police officers, saying “I’m just going through a tough time right now.” Asked by a reporter why he committed the shooting rampage, Rodriguez said, “Because they left me to rot,” although it was unclear who he was referring to.

According to many accounts, Rodriguez has struggled with divorce, debt, bankruptcy, underemployment, and mental-health issues, including rage. Two years ago, he was being held for a mental-health evaluation at Florida Hospital-East, and while there he allegedly attacked a nurse’s aide. Others say that he had been abusive to his then-wife, Neshby Stephenson, and that he once threw all of her belongings onto the street in a fit of rage. The two divorced three years ago and have an 8-year-old son, Jason Jr. The senior Rodriguez has also allegedly been negligent in meeting his child-support obligations, which amount to approximately $375 per month.

Rodriguez worked at the architectural engineering firm as an entry-level engineer for about a year, but was fired for performance issues in 2007. He was later fired from a position as an engineering inspector in Orange County Public Works, allegedly for walking off the job after only a few months. Shortly before the time of the shooting, Rodriguez was making minimum wage at a Subway sandwich restaurant.

In the November 6, 2009 shooting, Rodriguez entered the building which houses the offices of Reynolds, Smith and Hill unchallenged, perhaps because he was a former employee. He made it all the way up to the eighth of 17 floors, the handgun concealed underneath his shirt, and then opened fire.

Rodriguez’s former mother-in-law said that he was reasonable while on medication for his mental illness, but that he could no longer afford the prescriptions. Rodriguez filed for bankruptcy in May 2009, claiming almost $90,000 in bank loans, back taxes, back child support, credit card debt and student loans, and his case was discharged in September. The charging affidavit in the case stated that Rodriguez had complained about Reynolds, Smith and Hill harassing him and hindering his attempts to collect unemployment benefits.

 

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