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Woman in Publix shooting had complained of taunts

TARPON SPRINGS — Two portraits of Arunya Rouch emerged the day after police say she gunned down a Publix co-worker and shot at police officers — that of a sensitive, loving wife who "cried her eyes out" when she was fired by Publix on Tuesday, and that of a vengeful shooter who went after those who had teased and bullied her at work.

"Sometimes people need help and just snap," said Renee Katherine Pallante, her best friend and co-worker at the Publix store on U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs. "People have no idea of the effect they have on someone's mental state when the taunting never stops."

Rouch, 41, an immigrant from Thailand who had never been convicted of a crime in Florida, remained in intensive care Wednesday at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.

She was wounded by a Tarpon Springs detective inside Publix after firing at him and another police officer. Her husband, Thomas Rouch, 52, told a judge she was near death. Police described her condition as critical, but stable.

She is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of co-worker Gregory Janowski, 40, as he sat in his car outside the Publix at noon Tuesday. Janow­ski, of Spring Hill, worked in the meat department. Rouch, of Tarpon Springs, worked nearby in seafood. Janowski had been one of her taunters, Pallante said.

On Saturday, Janowski reported Rouch for working "off the clock," a violation of company rules. It is a strict policy because Publix employs many minors and because of liability issues. She reportedly threatened him for reporting her for working on her own time, then was fired.

Pallante last saw her "crying her eyes out" in the manager's office Tuesday morning after her firing. Rouch had received her five-year service award the previous week.

Rouch was in charge of seafood and trained her helpers. She was demanding and highly critical. "She always had issues with other people, especially younger, new employees she was training," Palante said.

Pallante was also Janow­ski's friend. She described him as an "everyday guy's guy." He was funny, well-liked.

"But he teased her just as much as the rest of them. The teasing was horrible, and I wouldn't doubt it is what led to all this. It wasn't because she got fired that all this happened. It's because the world we live in and the people we work with just don't know when to let off."

Rouch's husband spent most of Wednesday at Bayfront. Pinellas County Judge Karl Grube wouldn't allow him to see her because she was under sheriff's custody. Because she was unconscious, the judge postponed a hearing for her until today.

Thomas Rouch, 52, works at a Publix in Palm Harbor. Pallante said he wasn't completely aware of how things had deteriorated since the weekend. All he would say publicly Wednesday was: "I love her very much.''

Phyllis Rouch, Thomas' 81-year-old mother, said the family was aware that Arunya Rouch had been "harassed" at work and had tried to transfer to another department or store.

Police said Rouch's acts were premeditated. They said she returned to the store after her firing with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol, intent on killing. Witnesses heard four shots when she confronted Janowski in his car. Then she ran into the store, began chasing other employees and then fired at two police officers. Customers in the crowded store ran screaming for the exits.

Police credited Tarpon Springs Detective Sgt. Mike Trill with preventing a bloodbath. She had fired directly at him and Officer Stephen Van Schaick. A bullet struck Van Schaick's gunbelt. Trill fired back, wounding her multiple times.

Rouch's husband arrived at the scene, was questioned by police, and released. The gun his wife used belonged to the family and was kept at home. The serial number will be sent to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine who bought it and where it was sold.

As grief counselors met with Publix employees on Wednesday, an equally two-sided portrait emerged for Janowski. He had conflicts with Rouch. But others knew him differently.

Workers held a 7 a.m. vigil for him in the Publix parking lot. Co-worker Melina Zoanos, 24, remembered him as "an all-American country man,'' who loved fishing, family and his pickup. It was never clear in what order.

Zoanos jokingly nicknamed him "Redneck."

"He was just into his family," said his uncle, George Kapetanis, 63.

Janowski married his longtime sweetheart Elizabeth Ramazetti six months ago. The couple have a 7-year-old daughter together, and Janowski has three other children, Kapetanis said.

The group at the vigil signed a white poster outside the store:

It read:

"RIP Greg. You will be missed. Love, Your Publix Family."

Times staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report.

Woman in Publix shooting had complained of taunts 03/31/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 12:12pm]
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