Tarpon Springs police officer shot in Publix takes witness stand at Arunya Rouch murder trial

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - Prosecutors continued calling witnesses in the Arunya Rouch murder trial Friday morning.  Nine state's witnesses took the stand Thursday, including the store manager who fired Rouch along with other Publix employees.
 
The court heard Thursday how Rouch, who was fired for threatening the life of a co-worker she later gunned down, had a history of threatening to harm co-workers.
 
Prosecutors are arguing Rouch's actions were premeditated when she killed Greg Janowski on March 30, 2010.
 
On Friday, Yolanda Rosario was called to the stand first.  She described seeing Rouch struggling with Virginia Wahler, a Publix employee, in the minutes following the shooting.
 
Rosario told jurors she initially thought Rouch was a shoplifter.  The defense asked her no questions.
 
Virginia Wahler, 74, still works at that Tarpon Springs Publix and was called to the stand next.
 
"I guess I had a feeling in my heart that she was going to kill the meat manager," said Wahler of what she thought when she heard Rouch was back with a gun.
 
Wahler walked up to Rouch in aisle fourteen and tried to talk her out of 'doing something stupid.'  Wahler told the court she knew a gun was in the Publix bag Rouch was carrying.
 
"I said, 'Come on baby, don't do this,'" Wahler explained.
 
Rouch, however, did not listen to Wahler and continued walking toward the meat department.  At this point, Wahler testified that she went after Rouch and put her in a headlock.  The two women struggled until Rouch pulled out a gun.
 
"She told me, 'Virgina let me go or I will shoot you,'" Wahler recalled.  
 
Wahler said after Rouch repeated that threat and jammed the gun into her stomach, she let go of Rouch because she was fearing for her life.  After letting Rouch go, Wahler testified Rouch cocked the gun and as she walked through the swinging doors leading to the meat department, a shell casing dropped out of the gun.
 
Video presented in court showed Wahler picking up the shell casing.  Wahler said she 'thought it would be a 'souvenir' to have of the day.
 
After calling 911, Wahler went to the dairy section of the store to tell customers to get out of the store.
 
Within minutes, gunshots rang out.

Meat Manager Ronad Chmielorz filled in jurors on what happened after Rouch walked through the swinging doors.
 
Chmielorz, who was present when Rouch was fired, said Rouch pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger.  But, the gun misfired.
 
"I feel lucky to be alive," he said.  
 
Chmielorz ended up running out the back door and called police from outside the store.
 
On cross-examination, Tragos peppered Chmielorz on whether the trigger was actually pulled when Rouch pointed the gun at him or if the gun was just racked.
 
Then, Tragos went over a previous statement Chmielorz made that on the day of the shooting, he stated Rouch looked 'possessed' and 'taken by a spirit.'
 
By 10:15 a.m., the state moved on to call law enforcement officers who responded to the calls of a woman with a gun at the grocery store.
 
Then a Trapon Springs Police Department patrolman, Clyde Thornton arrived within 30 seconds of the dispatch call.  Sgt. Mike Trill and Cpl. Stephen Van Shaick were already in the store.
 
Drawing his weapon, Thorton ran into the store and down an aisle.  While running, he testified he heard gunshots and then an officer yell, 'she's down.'
 
Thornton handcuffed Rouch, who was taken down by four bullets, and helped move her out of the aisle.

OFFICER STRUCK BY ROUCH BULLET TAKES STAND
 
Corporal Stephen Van Schaick, one of the officers Rouch opened fire on inside Publix, began testifying around 11 a.m.
 
One of the bullets Rouch fired ricochet off Van Schaick's belt causing his can of pepper spray to burst.
 
 "I felt it push me back," he told jurors.  "I had a hard time breathing."
 
Van Shaick's belt was in court and shown to jurors.

OFFICER WHO WOUNDED ROUCH TAKES STAND

Next, Sgt. Michael Trill, clad in a black suit, started walking jurors through how he remembered the events of March 30, 2010. When he approached Rouch inside the Publix, Trill told jurors he warned Rouch to not shoot and to drop her weapon.
 
Rouch ended up firing off two rounds.
 
"I am thinking I am going to get shot," said Trill.  "I was seeing myself getting shot in the chest."
 
Trill fired three rounds from aisle nine to aisle ten.  Not one of those shots hit Rouch.
 
Thinking he had wounded her, Trill walked into the aisle Rouch was in only to find Rouch standing and less than six feet away.
 
That's when Rouch took aim at him, Trill told jurors.  Trill backed out of the aisle and the fired two shots at Rouch through Triscuit boxes taking her to the ground.
 
Thinking Rouch was no longer a danger, Trill tried walking up to her to kick her gun away.  That move almost cost him his life.  As he approached,
Trill recounted Rouch lying on her back and firing up at him.  The bullet missed.  Fearing for his life, Trill shot two more times--both shots hitting

Rouch.
 
"She tried to kill me once. She tried to kill me twice.  I wasn't going to let her get a third chance," Trill said.
 
CLOTHING ISSUES DELAY COURT
 
Testimony was slated to begin at 8:30 Friday morning but was delayed by 20 minutes due to issues regarding Rouch's clothing.
 
Defense attorney George Tragos asked Judge R. Tim Peters if his client could leave the court to put on underwear.  At the opening of the trial, Tragos argued his client's civil rights were being violated by jail deputies because they had taken away her underwear, feminine products, drinking cup and bed sheets.
 
"I cannot believe we are discussing this in open court," said a visibly annoyed Peters.
 
Rouch was led out of the courtroom to put on underwear.  However, she was brought back in when deputies discovered she had underwear on. 

At this point, Tragos told the judge the issue was not having underwear in the correct size and a clean pair.

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