HIALEAH (CBSMiami) — “It is the department’s full belief that the only culprit in this horrible tragedy is Pedro Vargas. He kept his exact intentions and secrets to himself and he possibly took his motive to the grave with him.” That is a statement from Hialeah police spokesman Lt. Carl Zogby at a Thursday afternoon news conference regarding the Hialeah massacre that left seven people dead including the gunman.
Most of Thursday’s police news conference centered on the 911 call made by Vargas more than five hours before he gunned down six people inside and outside his Hialeah apartment complex.
In the 911 call, Vargas told police he was being followed and asked a dispatcher to run the license plate of a vehicle outside his building. He also said he was the victim of someone doing witchcraft against him.
Lt. Zogby stressed that police were dispatched during the 12 minute conversation but the 911 operator “had no evidence at the time to believe or had any reason to believe that anyone was in imminent danger.”
Zogby said, “The operator could see on her screen that there were no prior calls or disturbances to that apartment. She didn’t hear any of the tell tale signs that anything could turn into something violent like yelling, screaming or arguing.”
At one point, the dispatcher asked to speak with Vargas’ mother, Esperanza Patterson. The elderly woman got on the phone and told the dispatcher her son was acting disturbed and that she wanted to get him an appointment with a psychiatrist.
While Patterson spoke to the 911 operator, she said her son had left the area. “She tells the operator that she’s very frightened about her son’s state of mind but does not mention any violence or violent tendencies, she repeatedly refuses response, police response and clearly expresses on two occasions that Vargas has left,” said Lt. Zogby. “He further cleared up, when asked by the 911 operator about her mentioning gas in a canister and she said ‘No, no he’s going to get gas and oil for his car’.”
Patterson then agreed to call back if needed when her son returns.
Lt. Zogby stressed this type of 911 call is not uncommon. “After careful consideration, we believe all the right questions were asked and answered to full satisfaction.”
By the second time that the mother said he had left the area, don’t send the police, the operator agreed to cancel.
“We cannot force the police upon a situation where they do not want them to come and if we don’t have any evidence whatsoever of anything else going on other than what the mother expressed to us that he was acting very upset and she was worried about that we had no reason to believe that there was any imminent danger,” said Lt. Zogby.
“There was nothing that could be done at that moment. These things are unpredictable. We have to deal with exactly what we know at the moment. Given the fact that she refused response by the police and he was gone and we agreed that she would call back, the operator felt that that was the right call at the moment and we strongly support that. No one can predict what a person will do at anytime and that was five hours after that 911 call.”
During Friday’s rampage, Vargas set a pile of cash on fire inside his apartment. Building managers Italo Pisciotti and his wife went running toward the smoke. Vargas opened his door and shot and killed both of them.
Vargas then went back into his apartment and began firing from his balcony. One of the shots struck and killed Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33, who was returning home from his son’s boxing practice.
Vargas then stormed into a third-story apartment, where he shot and killed a family of three: Patricio Simono, 64, Merly Niebles, 51, and her 17-year-old daughter.
For eight hours, police followed and exchanged gunfire with Vargas throughout the five-story apartment complex.
In the final hours, Vargas took two people captive in a fifth-story unit. Police attempted to negotiate with him, but the talks fell apart and a SWAT team swarmed in, killing Vargas and rescued both hostages.
Police said Vargas had no known criminal history, and they’d never responded any calls from the home.