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Worker killed at rehab clinic

A well-dressed gunman shot one of two employees at the Tampa Metro Treatment Center after a scuffle on Sunday.

A gunman wearing a dark suit and fedora forced his way into a drug treatment clinic Sunday morning and killed an employee who got in the way, police say.

After shooting the employee in the head, he left empty-handed.

Police think the killer was trying to steal the clinic's supply of drugs and cash.

Sandwiched in the same strip mall as a chiropractor and a dentist, Tampa Metro Treatment Center sounds like it could be just another doctor's office. But its patients are drug addicts who come early in the morning and late at night for daily doses of methadone, a stimulant commonly used to wean addicts off its more powerful cousin, heroin.

Temple Terrace police Capt. Terry Mishler said the clinic kept its methadone and the cash addicts use to pay for their doses in a separate, locked room. Sunday, one employee, a woman who had worked there only two days, was in that room when the other employee on duty, a man, walked outside just before 10 a.m.

Seconds later, he was back inside, with a well-dressed man pressing a gun against him and demanding that the male employee open the locked door.

"The victim knocked on the door and the girl inside opened it," Mishler said. "When she saw the suspect, she closed it immediately and a struggle ensued over the door."

The female employee, who is not being identified by police because she is a witness, managed to get the door closed and locked and could then only listen as the struggle continued between the suspect and her co-worker outside the door, Mishler said.

"She could hear them struggling and then she said she heard footsteps running away toward the front door," Mishler said. "Then she heard one shot."

The male employee was found shot in the head, lying halfway out the front door. He was flown by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital, where he died.

The victim's name was not released Sunday night because his family had not been notified.

After shooting the employee, the gunman gave up and ran from the clinic without stealing anything.

Although she saw him only for a second, the female employee was able to give police a detailed description, in part because the killer was unusually dressed for a holdup. He wore a dark suit with a matching fedora hat and a white shirt. He was black, in his mid 30s and slightly over 6 feet tall. His hair and beard were neatly trimmed.

Despite its expensive and much-desired product, Mishler said the clinic has been robbed only one other time that he could recall.

"Businesses don't think they would be a target until it happens, and then they revamp their security," Mishler said.

Mishler said police were unable to locate the clinic's owner Sunday.

In 1998, a gunman shot his way into a drug rehabilitation clinic in New Port Richey, demanding methadone. No employees were injured in that incident. SWAT team members captured John Robert Miller, who was sentenced to eight years in state prison.

If found, the suspect in Sunday's shooting faces a murder charge.

Anyone with information on this incident should call Crime-stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS.

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