A gunman set his Hialeah, Fla., apartment ablaze and went on a shooting spree that killed six people before he was shot to death by a SWAT team after a nearly eight hour-long ordeal, police said today.
As the ABC News reports, Pedro Alberto Vargas may have shot and killed his six alleged victims with a 9mm pistol by the time officers arrived at the apartment complex, but he then held off police for eight hours before a SWAT team stormed the apartment where he had taken two people hostage, Hialeah Police spokesman Carl Zogby said in a news conference today.
“We don’t have a clear motive,” Hialeah police spokesman Carl Zogby said. “This was an irrational act, and many times there is no rational explanation.”
“Nobody seems to know why he acted the way he acted,” Carl Zogby told reporters about Pedro Vargas.
Police were looking into the possibility that Vargas – described by some as a “quiet” man – may have had a dispute with the building managers, who were among his victims, Zogby said.
Neighbors said the gunman, described by the Miami Herald as a part-time graphic artist, may have been facing eviction, but police were still investigating.
The incident began around 6:30 p.m. Friday, when callers to 911 reported that smoke was emanating from Apartment 408, which Vargas had recently rented and where he was living with his mother.
The ordeal, which began Friday evening and kept the apartment complex an active crime scene throughout the night, began when Vargas, 43, set fire to the apartment he shared with his mother. The building manager, Italo Pisciotti, 79, and his wife, Camira Pisciotti, 69, noticed smoke and ran to the apartment.
“He came out of the door and shot both of them several times, killing them right at the scene,” Zogby said.
Vargas then went to his fourth-story balcony and fired 10 to 20 shots in the street, killing Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33, who was parking a car outside, Zogby said. Then, Vargas went to the third floor, kicked the door in on another apartment and killed a family of three: Patricio Simono, 64; his wife, Merly Niebles, 51; and their 17-year-old daughter.
“Vargas then ran out of the apartment, ran throughout the building firing shots at random in a very irrational fashion,” Zogby said.
According to the police reports, by now, firefighters had arrived at the approximately 90-unit building but were unable to enter the burning apartment because of the gunfire.
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.
“All this while, officers are trying to save the hostages, grab them, pull them out of the apartment while this gun battle was going on,” Hialeah police spokesman. “Had we not cornered him, this could have been a much greater tragedy,” he added.
More than 100 police officers from Hialeah and surrounding communities responded to the situation. Some apartment residents were in tears as the investigation continued on Saturday. Others stood on balconies and in hallways looking bewildered, reports Reuters.