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Two have narrow escapes in Publix shooting

TARPON SPRINGS

Arunya Rouch had just killed a co-worker in the parking lot of a Tarpon Springs Publix, police said, when she confronted 72-year-old clerk Virginia Wahler inside the busy store.

Rouch pulled a 9mm semiautomatic pistol from a green bag, police said. The two struggled. Rouch jabbed the gun into Wahler's stomach.

"Let me go or I'll kill you," she said.

Wahler released her grip and escaped with her life.

The encounter was just one of the new details authorities released Thursday about the workplace shooting that left Gregory Janowski dead. He had pulled into his usual Publix parking spot Tuesday morning and chatted on his cell phone with his wife about Easter plans and problems he was having with Rouch, one of his Publix co-workers. He did not know Rouch had just been fired.

Moments after he hung up, police say, Rouch approached him as he sat in his silver Honda and opened fire, striking him in the head and torso. She then sprinted into the store.

After fighting with Wahler, Rouch began seeking other targets, according to the FDLE. She chased employee Ronald Chmielorz, 47, pulling the slide of the gun to reload. Chmielorz ran for cover and escaped.

Before Rouch, 41, could kill again, police say, a Tarpon Springs detective confronted her. When Rouch fired several rounds, Sgt. Michael Trill shot her multiple times. The rampage was over.

On Thursday, Elizabeth Janowski came to the scene of her husband's murder to retrieve his final paycheck. She was too upset to go inside so a Publix employee brought it to her, said her best friend, Cristina Blanco.

Mrs. Janowski looked at a makeshift memorial in the parking lot and left balloons in her husband's memory.

She didn't want to comment while there or later at a news conference outside a restaurant in Hudson, where her mother, Hattie Ramazetti, held a family portrait of Gregory, Elizabeth and their 7-year-old daughter, Savanna.

Ramazetti shook as she spoke.

"My heart is breaking because my daughter's heart has been broken and there's nothing I can do to help her through the pain," she said.

Speaking through Blanco, Janowski's family said they are devastated by the loss of a "kind and generous" man who adored his wife and daughter. Mrs. Janowski must now try "to fill the void of a father taken too soon," Blanco said.

The family also expressed anger and frustration over reports that Janowski, 40, had harassed Rouch. "Greg was not a person who was a confrontational type of person," Blanco said.

She said Janowski's family was angered that Rouch was being portrayed by some as a victim.

"She made the horrible, horrific decision to take him from us," Blanco said.

Janowski told his wife that Rouch had threatened his life and crossed his name off the schedule after he approached her about violating Publix policy by working off the clock, Blanco said.

Blanco said no one from Publix's corporate office had reached out to Mrs. Janowski since the shooting.

Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten said the company had been in contact with the family, although she did not know if Mrs. Janowski had been contacted directly.

"We had been in contact with them immediately, and since then we are working with his family on food arrangements for the service," she said. "We are not insensitive to anybody's feeling toward this."

Authorities have filed more charges against Rouch, who was initially charged with first-degree murder in Janowski's death. They include two charges of aggravated assault with a firearm for threatening the two Publix employees and two charges of attempted felony murder of a law enforcement officer.

In 911 recordings, released by Tarpon Springs police, a woman from a nearby hair salon reported hearing Janowski was shot in the face. She then told dispatchers that she heard the shooter had gone into the Publix.

As the call ends, approaching sirens can be heard in the background.

Another caller told a dispatcher she witnessed the shooting and was with the victim. She told the dispatcher she saw police approaching.

"I'm waving them down now," she said. "Oh, my God."

The woman asked the dispatcher: "Should I stay with him and touch him?"

On Thursday, Rouch remained unconscious at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.

A court appearance was postponed because of her condition. That appearance is tentatively set for Monday.

Times staff writers Katie Sanders and Douglas Clifford contributed to this report.

Two have narrow escapes in Publix shooting 04/01/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 2, 2010 1:17am]
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