ROCKLEDGE, Fla. – Friday's shooting at Schlenker Automotive in Rockledge has left people in Central Brevard County asking why.
Why, on the day after Thanksgiving, would a 28-year-old man randomly fire into a well-respected auto repair business, killing one employee and critically injuring another?
"Always wonder why bad things happen to the nicest people," read one of dozens of comments under a pre-Thanksgiving gallery of photos on the Schlenker Facebook page.
Robert Lorenzo Bailey Jr., 28, of Cocoa, is accused of opening fire in the parking lot of the garage Friday afternoon. Longtime Schlenker employee Roger Lee Smith, 50, was killed, Rockledge police said. Smith had stepped out into the parking lot after he heard a shot that paralyzed a 25-year-old co-worker, reported News 6 partner Florida Today.
Two other Schlenker employees, both of whom have concealed carry permits, fired back at the gunman, according to the police. In a press conference Saturday, Rockledge police chief Joseph La Sata credited their bravery for preventing further death or injury.
Bailey and the yet-to-be identified Schlenker employee remained hospitalized at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, said Rockledge police Lt. Donna Seyferth. The investigation is continuing. No connection between Bailey and the business has been identified.
Brevard County School District officials said Bailey worked as a part-time custodian at Lewis Carroll Elementary School in Merritt Island.
Lou Schlenker, owner of the business that has operated in Rockledge for 36 years, released a statement Sunday evening:
"In this difficult time of mourning the loss of Roger and the severe injuries that (our other employee) has sustained, we would like to thank all of the community for the overwhelming support and prayers we have received. We know there will be a long healing process ahead of us but we want to reassure everyone that this is an organization full of dedicated, courageous, and heroic individuals serving this community.
"We will come together to support all affected and be stronger and closer then ever before as a Schlenker Automotive family. Please continue to keep the family members and friends of those impacted by this tragedy in your thoughts and prayers."
The electronic sign in front of the Barton Boulevard business also flashed a message of gratitude: "We appreciate your thoughts and prayers."
Across U.S. 1 in Cocoa Village, employees and patrons at the Dog and Bone British Pub were asking why this happened.
Bailey was a longtime customer at the pub, and he occasionally worked there helping with cleanup and checking IDs at the door, said manager Diana Lynn.
Lynn said Bailey was let go about two weeks ago after an altercation with a patron. Another manager said Bailey thought the patron had a gun and was trying to kill him. The customer didn't have a gun. The Dog and Bone manager was concerned Bailey was having a mental break from reality and suggested he see a doctor.
Bailey told people at the pub that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, though he never went into details. He did not have a military background, Lynn said.
"He seemed kind and gentle," she said, adding that none of the other employees at the pub could understand what happened. "We're all very sad."