Trial begins in downtown Orlando shooting spree

Man faces life in prison after allegedly opening fire at firm, killing 1 person

Jason Rodriguez.
Jason Rodriguez.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The people who were in the downtown Orlando office when Jason Rodriguez stormed in and opened fire, killing one person and hurting six others, testified on Thursday in Rodriguez's trial.


Rodriguez, 44, opened fire at Reynolds, Smith and Hills inside Gateway Center in 2009 after being fired from the architectural firm two years earlier, according to prosecutors.

In opening statements, prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick, who was on the prosecution team in the Casey Anthony trial, showed pictures of workers shot and wounded by Rodriguez, describing how each person tried to escape Rodriguez.

Jurors also saw a picture of Otis Beckford, who was shot and killed in the gunfire. Police found 20 shell casings inside of the office, according to prosecutors.

"I never knew the meaning of the word horror until that day," said Guy Lugenbeel, who said he had never met Rodriguez until the day of the shooting. Lugenbeel was one of the five who was wounded and said the bullet hit in him the shoulder, zig-zagged up his spine and lodged in his sinus behind his eye, where it remains. "I didn't know whether to hide. I didn't know whether to run. I didn't know what to do."

Keandra Harrison, who was shot and in the chest and ankle, described hiding under a coworker's desk.

"My eyes are closed and I am ready to be riddled with bullets," Harrison said, becoming emotional as she described the shooting. "And I'm hearing gunshots."

Doctors previously testified that Rodriguez suffers from hallucinations and schizophrenia, but a judge later found him competent to stand trial for murder.

Prosecutors said during Rodriguez's arrest, he said he was "just having a tough time." Rodriguez was Baker Acted into mandatory mental health evaluation after being fired before the shooting.

Rodriguez's attorneys argued he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was insane at the time of the shooting.

"He did not know at that moment it was wrong," said defense attorney Laura Klossner.

In opening statements, Rodriguez's attorneys said their client hears a voice in his head belonging to an entity called "Sharptooth," which Rodriguez believes conspires with his former employers to ruin his life.

Prosecutors acknowledged on Thursday that Rodriguez was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but says he knew it was wrong to shoot and kill people.

If convicted, Rodriguez faces up to life in prison. The defense has asked the jury to find Rodriguez not guilty by reason of insanity.

Judge Belvin Perry, who is known for his involvement the Anthony trial, is presiding over Rodriguez's trial.

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