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Man and dog shot behind Publix in Spring Hill

The sheriff's office says the gunman is in custody. Both the man and dog are expected to recover.

SPRING HILL, Fla. — A man and dog were shot Tuesday morning behind a Publix in Spring Hill.

It happened around 10:12 a.m. behind the grocery store on 160 Mariner Boulevard, across the street from the Seven Hills Center mall. The 911 calls came pouring in.

Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis says the accused shooter tried to rob a family member – while the relative was sitting in a vehicle. At some point during the attempted robbery, investigators say the gunman heard a barking dog in a nearby vehicle and redirected his attention to the noise.

Nienhuis says the gunman went over to the other vehicle with the dog and proceeded to repeatedly shoot both the animal and the stranger inside. The shooter then went back over to the original relative he was trying to steal from – but couldn't find the man anymore and left, Nienhuis said.

The relative, who investigators say was hiding, was not hurt.

Meanwhile, deputies went racing to the scene and began providing first aid to the wounded man and the dog. As emergency crews were showing up, authorities say the accused shooter returned and was identified by witnesses.

Nienhuis says deputies were briefly concerned the gunman was going to pull a firearm on law enforcement, but the individual was ultimately taken into custody without any more shots being fired.

The accused gunman was identified by the sheriff's office as 51-year-old Randall Lynn Gerding Jr. 

Deputies say the man Gerding shot was treated by paramedics on scene, then taken to a local trauma center, where he is "stable." The dog was stabilized by a veterinarian at Hernando County Animal Services, then transported to an area veterinary facility for further treatment.

While both the man and dog's injuries were described as "very serious" by Nienhuis, each of them is expected to make a full recovery. Neither of them have any connection to Gerding or his relative, according to investigators.

Detectives expect to spend much of the day trying to piece together what happened, and Nienhuis indicated witnesses would play a crucial role in that process.

"We have several people," Nienhuis explained. "We believe there's going to be a considerable amount of video here that's going to be able to give us information on what happened. But there were some witnesses, I think at least one or two saw everything."

Detectives are working to assemble a timeline of events. And, based on preliminary information, the sheriff's office has indicated Gerding may have be linked to at least two other crimes on Tuesday that happened before the shooting itself.

Investigators say it appears – based on initial information – that Gerding was involved in a prior armed altercation in Pasco County before making his way to Hernando County. According to Nienhuis, detectives don't believe Gerding fired a gun in that initial situation in Pasco, which may have been some sort of aggravated assault or attempted robbery.

From there, deputies say Gerding drove to Hernando County and carried out a burglary. After that, deputies say, he drove to the shopping plaza in Spring Hill to confront the aforementioned family member, which led to the shooting of a stranger and the dog.

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