'Good son' kills 6 in Florida standoff; police shoot him to end spree
HIALEAH, Fla. — A man living with his mother in a South Florida apartment complex set their unit on fire and went on a shooting rampage throughout the building, killing six people before being shot to death by police. As the eight-hour standoff unfolded, horrified residents hunkered down in their homes, at times so close to the action they could feel the gunfire or hear negotiations between the gunman and police, authorities and witnesses said Saturday.
At one point, Pedro Vargas, 42, held two people hostage at gunpoint for up to three hours in their apartment until a SWAT team entered and killed him, police said. The hostages were not hurt.
“The crime scene is the whole building,” said Lt. Carl Zogby, a spokesman with the Hialeah Police Department.
Police were called to the aging, five-story apartment building in Hialeah, a working class suburb a few miles northwest of downtown Miami, on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The first calls reported a fire, but when firefighters arrived, they heard shots and immediately notified police, Zogby said.
Vargas, who had no known criminal record, set a combustible liquid on fire in his fourth-floor apartment. Building manager Italo Pisciotti, 79, and his wife, Camira Pisciotti, 69, saw smoke and ran to the unit, Zogby said. When they arrived, Vargas opened the door and fired, killing both.
Detectives were investigating whether Vargas had any ongoing disputes with the building manager, as some residents believed. His mother was not home at the time.
Police and neighbors described Vargas as a quiet man who had only recently moved into the building.
Tenants painted a mixed portrait of the gunman.
“He was a good son,” said Ester Lazcano, who lived on the same floor as Vargas and his mother. “He'd take her in the morning to run errands” and to doctor appointments.
Lazcano said she was in the shower when she heard the first shots, then there were at least a dozen more. “I felt the shots,” she said.
Valdes said Vargas was also known as a difficult person who sometimes got into fights and yelled at his mother.