HIALEAH (CBS4) — Police believe a shootout in Hialeah that left 7 dead, including the gunman, might be one of the deadliest mass shootings in the city’s history. The ordeal lasted approximately eight hours, ending when the SWAT team took down the suspected gunman that had barricaded himself in an apartment holding two people hostage.
Saturday afternoon, police released the names of the six victims shot and killed by the gunman. According to police the victims are: Italo Pisciotti, 79, Camira Pisciotti, 69, Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33, Patricio Simono, 64, Merly S. Niebles, 51, and a 17-year-old girl family members identified as Pricilla Perez.
The gunman has been identified as 42-year-old Pedro Alberto Vargas.
SWAT teams surrounded the 95-unit, five-story apartment complex near 1480 W. 46 Street just after 7 p.m. Friday night in search for the gunman.
After a several hour standoff, six were killed, three women and three men, along with the shooter gunned down by police early morning Saturday.
“The bad guy is down, he’s dead, he cannot hurt anybody anymore and now it slows down and we find out exactly what happened here,” said Carl Zogby of the Hialeah Police Department.
Zogby told CBS4’s Maggie Newland Vargas tried to set a pile of money on fire in his apartment. “Some sort of combustible fluid in a cup, he brings it into the apartment and he pours it over a pile of cash he had just withdrawn from his bank account,” Zogby explained, adding that Vargas’ elderly mother was inside the apartment trying to stop him.
Zogby said the property managers, Italo and Cimira Pisiotti, were trying to put the fire out when Vargas shot them.
“The gunman came out of the door and shot both of them, killing them. Then he went out on to a balcony where he fired 10 to 20 rounds into the street,” said Zogby.
Police said Vargas was likely aiming at the rescue crews and police who had arrived at the scene.
Zogby said a third victim, 33-year-old Carlos Gavilanes, a father, was shot and killed while parking his car.
Then the subject went to a 3rd floor apartment and kicked open the door and shot a man and his wife and their 17-year-old daughter. That couple was Patricio Simono and Merly Niebles.”
William Miranda heard the shots and ran for cover.
“We went into the restroom we locked the doors and put a sofa in front of it just to make sure,” he said.
As hours passed, he realized the gunman was in the apartment a few doors down. Police say Vargas was holding two hostages, Zoeb and Sarrida Nek at gunpoint. “We opened this window here so we could hear and we heard the negotiator telling him …’Let those people go. They haven’t done nothing to you. Let’s make things right from now on.’ That was basically it, then they decided to take everybody out,” Miranda said.
After communications broke down, the SWAT team stormed the apartment.
Vargas was killed. The hostages are ok.
“We found that the subject still had a lot of ammunition and rounds with him,” said Zogby. “This could have been a lot worse. For some unknown reason that he will take to his grave, we don’t know why he did this. We are researching to see if he had any disputes with neighbors. We know he lived here with his mother and had not lived here a long time.”
“We know that he had no criminal history,” said Zogby. He said a 9 millimeter pistol was found at the crime scene. In response to a question, Zogby said it was not known if the gunman had military training. We have no motive.”
“I’m torn apart,” said Mayor Carlos Hernandez. “I feel for the victims who died, the victims who lived through this. And for police, this was a very stressful situation.”
Police Chief Sergio Velazquez told D’Oench, “In the end we went in. The hostages were saved. Unfortunately we took a life but there was no other way.”
Zogby said the incident drew more than 100 officers from Hialeah and other agencies to the scene.
During the incident, neighbors at home were told by police to keep their doors locked, blinds closed and lights off. A nearby Home Depot was on lock down because of the incident.
Shamira Pisciotti, on Friday, said the gunman shot both her parents, her mother, 68 years-old, and father, 78 years-old, who were property managers at the apartment complex.
“I heard about 15-20 shots and so I went outside and my neighbors were screaming that my parents have been shot,” said Pisciotti.
Pisciotti and her fiancée said the shooting was the result of some sort of complaint.
“They got complaints from some neighbor that a situation was going on they went upstairs to do their duty as property managers,” said Pisciotti’s fiancée, who did not want to be identified.
“My mom was dead the moment that she was shot and my dad still had a pulse when I got to him, but by the time I got downstairs police were already getting ready to go in because they need to clear the scene before they let EMS in. I’m sure my dad passed away shortly after.”
Zulima Niebles said police told her that three of her family members were among the victims. She said her sister Merly Sophia Niebles, her sister’s husband, and her sister’s daughter Priscila Perez, 16, were all shot and killed.
Zulima Niebles’ husband, Agustin Hernandez, was moving the family’s things out of the apartment building and into his car Saturday. Among them were several photos, one showing the teen girl smiling in a red graduation gown, another of his sister-in-law in a white dress, wearing pearls.
Marcela Chavarri, director of the American Christian School, said Priscila Perez, 16, was about to enter her senior year at the school.
“She was a lovely girl,” Chavarri said through tears. “She was always happy and helping her classmates.”
Neighbor Fabian Valdes, who lives across the street from the site of the standoff, said he heard shots fired and then looked out his window and saw a man lying on the floor, outside the front lobby. He was on his back and had his arms and legs outstretched.
Valdes said he was in shock. “It’s something you never expect,” he said.
Miriam Valdes, 70, said she lives on the top floor — one floor above where the shooting began. She said she heard gunfire and later saw smoke entering her apartment.
She described running in fear to the unit across the hall, where she stayed holed up as officers negotiated with the gunman.
From the apartment, Valdes said she could hear about eight officers talking with the gunman.
She said she heard the officers tell him to “let these people out.”
“We’re going to help you,” she said they told him.
She said the gunman first asked for his girlfriend and then his mother but refused to cooperate.
Ester Lazcano said she lives two doors down from where the shooting began and was in the shower when she heard the first shots. Then there were many more.
“I felt the shots,” she said.
Click here for a history of South Florida mass shootings.