Pizza Shop Owner Dies After Trying to Protect Employee During Florida Mall Shooting
His employee's husband opened fire on his wife while she was working in the food court
A shooter opened fire inside the Melbourne Square Mall in Melbourne, Florida, on Saturday morning, NBC News reports.
Melbourne Mayor Kathy Meehan told reporters that the shooting stemmed from a domestic dispute from a woman who worked at Scotto Pizza, a restaurant in the food court, and her husband.
Police told USA Today that Jose Garcia Rodriguez, 57, was the shooter and that he died from a self-inflicted gun shot. His intended victim was his wife Ida Garcia, 33. She is currently in stable condition.
Leonardo Coppola, the owner of Scotto Pizza, was also killed in the gunfire after he tried to wrestle the gun out of Rodriguez’s hands to protect his employee, Garcia.
Witness Jeff Gross, who was working at Rodizio Grill at the time of the shooting, confirmed to PEOPLE that it appeared that Scotto Pizza was specifically targeted by the gunman before he shot himself.
Cathy Wright, an employee at Starbucks, tells NBC News that she heard about “three or four gunshots” in “rapid succession” and was told by mall security to remain in her store.
The Melbourne Police’s Twitter account later asked store employees and shoppers to exit the mall through the back door while they evacuated the entire complex.
Gross shared a shot of police officers outside of the mall on Twitter.
“I was in the back of my restaurant, in the kitchen, and one of my coworker came out screaming,” Gross told PEOPLE.
“We all ran out of the back,” he continued, adding that he and everyone in the restaurant got out safe.
The mall was evacuated and closed for the day, but reopened on Sunday. Scotto Pizza remained closed and several flower bouquets were left on its counters.
Steve DeLuca, also an employee at Rodizio Grill, remembered Coppola while talking to Florida Today.
“He was a family man, that I’m aware of,” he said. “He’s been here for several years, that I’m aware of and just an outgoing nice guy.”