ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — As families of five people killed in a workplace shooting in Florida deal with their shock and grief, a local sports league is raising money for the children of one of the victims — two teens who had already lost their mother nine years ago.
Kevin Clark was a “wonderful man and an absolutely amazing, supportive and wonderful father” to his 14-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son, the local Pop Warner league said Tuesday in its fundraising appeal.
Authorities said they believe Clark and the other fatalities were singled out by a recently fired worker at the awning manufacturer owned by Fiamma, Inc. John Robert Neumann Jr., 45, methodically shot most of them in the head before killing himself as well at the sound of an approaching siren on Monday, they said.
“My experience tells me that this individual made deliberate thought to do what he did today. He had a plan of action,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said. He wouldn’t explain why Neumann was fired in April, but he did say that Neumann had a “negative relationship” with at least one of his former co-workers.
Friends of another victim, Jeff Roberts, described him as “a devoted husband, father and grandfather” on a fund-raising website for his family.
Roberts was “taken way too soon by senseless violence in his workplace,” the website said.
In a statement, Fiamma asked the public to keep all the victims in their thoughts and prayers. “The company is heartbroken following the unspeakable attack upon our loved ones and employees,” the statement said.
Neumann slipped through a rear door into the cavernous Fiamma Inc. factory, an area larger than two football fields where awnings are stitched together for recreational vehicles. He paused at least once to reload. Seven other workers inside were unharmed.
The dead were identified as Robert Snyder, 69; Roberts, 57; Clark, 53; Kevin Lawson, 46; and Brenda Montanez-Crespo, 44.
The Lake Howell Pop Warner league said Clark’s 14-year-old daughter was a cheerleader in the league, and his 18-year-old son played football in the league for several seasons. The fundraising appeal says Clark was a big supporter who “could often be found snapping pictures on the sideline during game days.”
State and federal law enforcement officers converged on the industrial park shortly after 8 a.m. after a woman ran out and called 911 from a tile business across the street, said Yamaris Gomez, that store’s owner.
“All she kept saying was he was holding a gun and told her to get out,” Gomez said.
That woman had been hired after Neumann was fired in April, so he probably did not recognize her and knew she was not a former co-worker, Demings said.
Demings said investigators were looking through any social media postings for clues. Neumann was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1999 and did not have a concealed weapons permit, the sheriff said.
Authorities had confronted Neumann once before at the factory, when he was accused of battering a co-worker in June 2014. But no charges were filed after both men were interviewed, and that co-worker was not among Monday’s victims, the sheriff said.
In a 2014 incident report, Neumann’s co-worker said Neumann punched him in the back of the head when he approached, knocking him to the ground. But the co-worker later changed his story, saying Neumann had chased him and then hit him on the back of the head.
The co-worker, who had no visible injuries, stated “he had problems in the past with John but thought they were resolved,” the sheriff’s office incident report said.
The day after the confrontation, the co-worker sought a protective order against Neumann for stalking, but it was dismissed by a judge for lacking facts that supported its need. He filed another petition a day later, this time for “repeat violence,” and a temporary injunction was granted, but never served: servers couldn’t find Neumann’s address.
At a court hearing 11 days later, Neumann’s co-worker asked for the petition to be dismissed. The court records don’t say why, and the co-worker didn’t return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.
Neumann had a record of minor crimes, none violent, dating back more than 20 years. Most involved traffic violations: driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, giving a deputy a false name and leaving the scene of a hit-and-run involving property damage.
Searching for a motive, deputies cordoned off a trailer park in Maitland, where Neumann lived alone in a mobile home on a busy road next to a funeral home, a used car lot and a dog-grooming business. Like the awning factory, it’s far from Orlando’s famous theme parks.
Arnie Boyd, who lives in the same trailer park, said Neumann was not particularly social. “Every once in a while, he would ride his bike around and that’s it,” Boyd said. “We would speak only once in a while.”
Authorities had no reports of any specific threats the gunman made to people at the company or anyone else, but that’s why people need to alert authorities whenever they learn of anything that could lead to violence, said Special Agent Danny Banks of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson noted that next Monday will mark a year since the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history at a gay nightclub in Orlando. The attack at the Pulse club killed 49 people and wounded dozens more.
“The city of Orlando, which is still healing from the Pulse massacre, has seen too much violence this past year,” the Florida Democrat said in a statement.
This story has been corrected to restore the full reference to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.