Community Still Trying To Process Hialeah Massacre
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HIALEAH (CBSMiami) – Hialeah Police are still trying to determine what led Pedro Vargas to go on one of the worst shooting rampages in recent South Florida history. Vargas killed shot and killed six people Friday night before being killed himself.
On Monday, Mayor Carlos Hernandez ordered that all three flags at City Hall be flown at half staff until all the victims are buried.
“This is Hialeah. We are family,” Hernandez told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “What I saw Friday was just awful. I get emotional about it. What we are seeing is painful. I am heartbroken. The community is heartbroken.”
“I’m very proud of our SWAT team and the help we received from all the other police agencies,” said Hernandez who had been a police officer for 23 years. “We needed that much manpower and I really believe that had we done this any other way there could have been many more victims.”
D’Oencjh also spoke with Jovanny Perez, the cousin of the youngest victim of the shooting spree, 17-year-old Jovanny Perez.
“She was cut short,” said Perez. “Not only her but everyone else. It was a terrible tragedy. It’s just sad that
she is gone. I’ll never see her grow up. I wish I had spent more time with her. I feel like there is a black hole. A big part of my heart is punched out.”
A makeshift memorial with candles, teddy bears, balloons and a poster for special notes and condolences remains in place in front of the apartment complex that was the scene of such violence over the weekend. Alejandro Mustafa was friends with Priscilla Perez and was still trying to come to grips with what happened.
“It’s really sad because I’ve never seen something so bad right here,” said Mustafa.
The mass killing started Friday when Vargas, who lived with his 83-year-old mother, allegedly set a pile of cash on fire and then began shooting and killing one person after another.
Shamira Pisciotti’s parents Italo and Camira Pisciotti were building managers. She said they were trying to put out a fire Pedro Vargas set in his apartment when they were shot. Pisciotti said her parents were just trying to help Vargas’s elderly mother get out safely.
Hialeah Police said Pedro Vargas went on a shooting rampage killing five people who lived in his building and one man across the street. Across the street from the apartment complex, a memorial honors Carlos Gavilanes, a father who was coming home with his son when bullets flew at them.
Neighbors said Gavilanes yelled for his son to run ahead, likely saving the boy’s life.
Perez was killed along with her mother and stepfather when police said Vargas forced his way into their apartment. Perez’s grandmother said she was a good student who wanted to be a pediatrician and her cousin has no doubt she would’ve been a success.
The situation could have been much worse as Vargas was holding two people at gunpoint when Hialeah Police made the decision to send in the SWAT team to end the standoff.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Hialeah Police Chief Sergio Velazquez told CBS4 news partner El Nuevo Herald/Miami Herald on Sunday, “because I not only have the lives of the two hostages that we want to rescue, but I have in my hands the lives of the six police officers that I’m sending in to confront this man.”
Once the decision to send in the SWAT team was made, the situation was resolved quickly. SWAT detonated a flash grenade and then moved in. According to the Herald, police union president John Rivera said Vargas was still standing and trying to reload as SWAT team members shot him.
El Nuevo Herald reported that Vargas had received his social security card in 1997, shortly after arriving in the U.S. from Cuba.
Vargas was a part-time graphic artist with no criminal history, according to police.
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