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Before Publix worker was shot and killed, he'd been threatened at the store

TARPON SPRINGS — Arunya Rouch was fired Tuesday morning from her job at a Publix in Tarpon Springs for threatening to kill a co-worker.

A few hours later, she returned with a 9mm semi-automatic, police said.

As a lunchtime crowd packed the store, Rouch confronted the former colleague as he sat in his car in the parking lot.

Witnesses heard the shots.

"Pop, pop, pop, pop."

Rouch left the man bleeding to death, police said, then ran into the store, 40932 U.S. 19.

Two Tarpon Springs officers responding to 911 calls followed her inside. When they found her, she started shooting, police said. Customers tossed their groceries to the ground and ran screaming for the exits.

One bullet winged an officer's gunbelt. A detective fired back, hitting Rouch multiple times and dropping her to the floor.

She was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where she is expected to survive. She was charged late Tuesday with first-degree murder.

Officers said Rouch — who has no previous arrests in Florida — held a grudge against the man she killed, Gregory Janowski, 40.

Police said Rouch, 41, was looking for other Publix employees to shoot when she was shot. The detective, Sgt. Michael Trill, likely prevented a bloodbath, police said.

"He probably saved a lot of lives,'' Lt. Barb Templeton said.

Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous confirmed that Rouch had been fired Tuesday morning but declined to discuss specifics.

But two people close to Janowski said Rouch had recently threatened him — and possibly others — at the store.

Friend Cristina Blanco said Janowski had planned to report Rouch for breaking a Publix policy. When Janowski told Rouch that, she responded with a threat, Blanco said.

Janowski's uncle, George Kapetanis, 63, of New Port Richey, said he also was told that Rouch had threatened Janowski and others at the store.

Police said the threat Rouch make to Janowski was severe: She would kill him if she was fired. When Publix learned of the threat, she was let go, police said.

Rouch, who lives in Tarpon Springs, returned to the store about noon with a 9mm handgun. Witnesses described the next few minutes as terrifying.

Charles Leach, 56, who works at the nearby Kween Kleen coin laundry, said he heard four bangs from the parking lot.

"I thought it was firecrackers," he said.

Shawn Farmer, 36, at the shopping center installing glass at a pet shop, looked up when he heard four shots. He saw a woman walking, then sprinting through the parking lot.

Publix bagger Sam Hairston said he was in an upstairs break room when chaos erupted. He warned others not to go downstairs.

By the time he made it down and out a side door, "Cops were everywhere. People were running everywhere. People were running over people," he said.

Customer Nathan Buck was in the frozen food aisle when the shooting started in the store.

Buck, 23, said he threw a package of chicken nuggets to the ground and joined a crowd of customers who were screaming and running from the building.

The police station is less than a block away from the Publix, which allowed officers to respond quickly, Templeton said.

Trill was unharmed, but a round from Rouch's gun nicked the gunbelt of Officer Stephen Van Schaick, who was close behind him, Templeton said.

Trill joined the Tarpon Springs Police Department in July 1995 and has long been regarded as a department leader who helped the city crack down on drugs.

Trill and Van Schaick have been placed on administrative leave, a standard policy when an officer is involved in a shooting, while the incident is investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Long after the shooting, Publix employees were walking around the complex, some visibly upset and comforted by others.

Brous, the Publix spokeswoman, said grief counselors were being provided.

Kapetanis said his nephew was a "great, great kid" who graduated from Gulf High School in New Port Richey.

Kapetanis said his whole family has been connected to Publix. Kapetanis retired from Publix, as did Janowski's mother, he said, and Janowski's stepfather still works for the company.

"You'd think you would be safe coming to work," he said.

Rodney Thrash and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Before Publix worker was shot and killed, he'd been threatened at the store 03/30/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 12:32am]
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