Neighbors Give Conflcting Portrayals Of Pedro Vargas, Florida Apartment Gunman
As police try to figure out why Pedro Vargas set an apartment on fire and went on a shooting spree before being shot and killed by a SWAT team, the gunman’s neighbors offered varying reports on the type of person he was.
The 42-year-old Pedro Vargas was described as both a quiet man who took his mother to doctor appointments and as someone known for getting into fights and screaming at his mother.
Vargas killed six people after setting his Hialeah, Fla., apartment on fire during an eight-hour standoff. As the rampage winded down, the gunman held two people hostage at gunpoint for up to three hours until a SWAT team entered and killed him, police said. The hostages were not hurt.
"Nobody seems to know why he acted the way he acted," said Lt. Carl Zogby, a spokesman with the Hialeah Police Department, according to Fox News.
"He was a good son," said Ester Lazcano, who lived on the same floor as Vargas and his mother, who was not home at the time of the shootings. "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, and then there were at least a dozen more. "I felt the shots," she said.
Miriam Valdes, 70, was in a friend's apartment two doors down. She said she heard officers trying to convince Vargas to surrender.
Valdes said Vargas was also known as a difficult person who sometimes got into fights and yelled at his mother.
"He was a very abusive person," she said. "He didn't have any friends there."
Vargas, who has 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.
Vargas then went back into his burning apartment and fired 10 to 20 shots from a 9mm pistol into the street. One of the bullets struck 33-year-old Carlos Javier Gavilanes, who was parking his car after returning home from work. Zogby said his body was found next to his vehicle.
The gunman then kicked his way into a third-floor apartment, where he shot to death Patricio Simono, his wife Merly Niebles and their 17-year-old daughter.
Negotiators spent nearly three hours trying to placate Vargas. However, when negotiations broke down, the SWAT team "made the decision to go in there and save and rescue the hostages," Hialeah Police Sgt. Eddie Rodriguez told the Associated Press, according to ABC News.
Zogby said Vargas "was ready to fight," and was armed with several rounds of ammunition and a number of magazines. He was killed in a shoot out with SWAT officers.
"Had we not cornered him, this could have been a much greater tragedy," Zogby said.