2013 Hialeah shooting
On July 26, 2013, a mass shooting occurred at an
apartment complex in Hialeah, a city in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
Seven people, including the shooter, were killed in the incident.
The shooter was identified by police as 42-year-old
Pedro Alberto Vargas, a resident of Hialeah, who, after setting his
apartment ablaze, opened fire from his balcony and inside the
apartment, then held two people hostage before being fatally shot by a
SWAT team on the early hours of July 27. It was the deadliest mass
shooting in Hialeah's history, as well as the deadliest in the entire
Miami area in three decades.
According to officials, Vargas poured combustible
liquid on $10,000 of cash and set it on fire in his fourth-floor
apartment at around 6:30 p.m. The building's manager, 79-year-old
Italo Pisciotii, and his 69-year-old wife Camira noticed the smoke and
ran to the apartment, to which Vargas stepped into the hallway and
shot and killed the couple with a Glock 17 9mm semiautomatic pistol.
He proceeded to go his balcony on the fourth floor of the building and
fired 10 to 20 bullets into the street, fatally hitting 33-year-old
Carlos Gavilanes as he got out of his car.
Vargas then kicked open the door of apartment 304,
where he shot and killed the residents, 64-year-old Patricio Simono,
his 51-year-old wife Merly Niebels, and their 17-year-old daughter
Priscilla Perez; Priscilla Perez was reportedly shot while she was
hiding inside a bathtub. Police officers responded to the scene and
exchanged gunfire with Vargas throughout the complex.
Vargas then entered another apartment on the fifth
floor where he took two people hostage for about three hours. After
negotiations reportedly broke down, a SWAT team entered the building
and fatally shot Vargas after a brief shootout; the two hostages
Italo Pisciotii, 79 (building manager, killed in a
Camira Pisciotii, 69 (wife of Italo Pisciotii,
killed in a hallway)
Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33 (killed on the street)
Patricio Simono, 64 (killed in apartment 304)
Merly S. Niebels, 51 (wife of Patricio Simono,
killed in apartment 304)
Priscilla Perez, 17 (daughter of Patricio Simono
and Merly Niebels, killed in apartment 304)
The shooter was identified as 42-year-old Pedro
Alberto Vargas, a Cuban native. According to records, he resided in
the apartment complex with his mother and had committed no serious
criminal offenses. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1997 and was
naturalized in 2004. Neighbors described Vargas as a quiet man who
commonly got into arguments with his mother in their apartment.
According to several LA Fitness customers, Vargas
frequented the local gym and often lifted weights as a way to channel
out pent-up anger. He also used steroids, expressed frustration at bad
experiences with women, and was noticeably antisocial. The Glock 9mm
pistol used in the shooting was legally purchased by Vargas.
Following the incident, Mayor Carlos Hernandez
responded, "I'm torn apart. We've never had something so complex as we
had last night.... It's an extremely sad day in Hialeah." In the wake
of the shooting, some citizens of Hialeah took to Twitter to express
their concerns about safety in the city.
On July 28, 2013, Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit
organization that was formed in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary
School shooting, issued a statement about the shooting, saying, "Our
hearts are broken. Our spirit is not. Sending prayers and condolences
to the victims and families of the Hialeah, Florida mass shooting.
Another tragedy that invites us all to reflect on what individual and
collective changes we can make as a nation to save lives. Together we
Hialeah shooting victims: Lives linked by
neighborhood, ended in horror
By Glenda Oretega, Benjamin S. Brasch, Patricia Mazzei, Joey Flechas and David Ovalle - MiamiHerald.com
August 4, 2013
Their stories span decades, lives that began in
Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and South Florida, and all ended within yards
of each other on a blue-collar block in Hialeah.
The six people slain during Pedro Alberto Vargas’
shooting rampage were linked by geography, each of their three
families living on the same block or apartment building, their names
inextricably linked as victims of one of Hialeah’s bloodiest
Italo and Samira Pisciotti, longtime managers of
Todel Apartments, doted over their grandchildren as they prepared to
celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.
Carlos Gavilanes, a 33-year-old father of two, was
a sports fan and hard-working salesman on the verge of opening his own
shoe design and sales company.
And Merly Niebles, 51, with longtime boyfriend
Patricio Simono, 64, lived a hardscrabble life with her 17-year-old
daughter Priscilla Perez, who dreamed of college in New York City and
beginning a career in nursing.
The gunman, Vargas, 42, suffered an apparent mental
breakdown after a lawyer for his former employer confronted him with
evidence he had been cyber-harassing former colleagues. Vargas lit a
pile of cash ablaze inside the apartment, then shot and killed the
Pisciottis as they rushed to help Vargas’ mother escape the blaze.
The shooting spree escalated when Vargas began
shooting from his balcony at first responders, hitting Gavilanes as he
returned home from picking up his 9-year-old son from boxing practice.
Finally, Vargas burst into Niebles’ apartment,
mowing down Simono before cornering Niebles and her daughter hiding in
the bathroom. He coldly shot them to death.
After Vargas took two hostages in another apartment
and engaged in an hours-long standoff, Hialeah’s SWAT team shot him to
death in a daring rescue raid.
The stories of the slain victims were culled
together through interviews with friends, family and co-workers in
Hialeah and at heart-wrenching funeral services this week.
The family anchors
Shamira Pisciotti shared with the world an online
slideshow of her parents with their young grandchildren, tender
moments frozen in time.
There’s Italo Pisciotti, a broad smile on his face,
in front of a tinsel-draped Christmas tree, one arm wrapped around his
granddaughter, the other outstretched, his finger spread into a “V”.
A side profile photo shows curly-haired Samira, her
glasses off, infant grandson in her arms, both looking at each other
And beaming Italo and Samira Pisciotti, ages 79 and
69, holding their baby grandson at his baptism, flanked by a priest.
“I want everyone to remember them as the loving
grandparents they were … They lived for my children,” Shamira
Pisciotti wrote on her Facebook page.
The Pisciottis hailed from Barranquilla, a coastal
city in Colombia, and had moved to Miami decades ago. They were on the
verge of celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. They died in the
apartment building that served double duty as their home and their
business. For 20 years, they managed the property.
“They were incredible. They watched me grow up,
since I was 10 years old. They worked with this company with my
father,” said the building’s current owner, Antonio Delgado, 44. “They
were incredible workers, serious and honest. They worked at all hours
and if they could help you, they would help you.”
Relatives from as far as Colombia and California
gathered Thursday at Memorial Vista Gardens cemetery in Miami Lakes.
As their caskets were lowered into the ground, mourners wept beside a
floral arrangement in the yellow, blue and red colors of their native
“We used to go to the Colombian festivals here,”
said longtime family friend Edgardo Fuentes. “We have so many years
going out with them as a couple. It’s going to be very difficult.
We’re going to miss them.”
A father’s dreams
Gavilanes — father of two, handball and boxing
aficionado and budding businessman — left behind a legacy of bold
dreams for his family.
He toiled for years selling shoes and women’s
accessories, most recently at Nordstrom, developing a passion for
fashion while planning to open a shoe design business alongside his
“Things were starting to look up for him,” his
mother, Cynthia Ontiveros, said.
The oldest of three siblings, Gavilanes was born in
Ecuador, grew up in New York City and moved to Miami 11 years ago. In
South Beach, he met Jennifer Kharrazian, with whom he had two
children, a 9-year-old namesake son and a 2-year-old daughter,
With his son, Gavilanes shared his love of soccer
and boxing — he often showed off his son’s shadow-boxing for friends.
“He was happy. He was full of life,” Kharrazian
said. “He loved his kids.”
Said Carlos Sarmiento, 43, a friend and mentor: “He
was a very dedicated family man. He really adored his wife and his
Friends described Gavilanes as a dynamic
personality who, despite living paycheck to paycheck, worked hard to
support his family while piecing together plans for his shoe design
and sales business.
He had even taken a trip to China recently to meet
with potential manufacturers and distributors.
“It really confirmed that he was doing the right
thing. He saw a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Sarmiento, who
met Gavilanes playing handball at South Beach’s Flamingo Park. “He had
a lot of energy, often going in different directions, but he was very
close to getting this thing off the ground. He had the personality for
Known by the nickname Los, Gavilanes was an avid
handball player, part of a small but close-knit group of South Florida
enthusiasts, many of whom also hailed from New York City. The group
had an informal league, meeting on Saturdays to blow off steam on the
court, chug beer and joke around.
“Handball for all of us, including Los, was just a
stress reliever,” said Roque Florez, who planned to host a fundraising
tournament in Gavilanes’ honor Saturday at Kendall’s Sunset Park. “You
forget about all your troubles, and just concentrate on smacking the
crap out of that ball.”
A humble family
Niebles and her teenage daughter, Priscilla Perez,
never led easy lives. But they lived with grace, pride and love,
friends and family.
Niebles was one of six siblings who moved from
Colombia to Miami 20 years ago, to join their father already living in
South Florida. Her mother remained in Colombia, heartbroken by the
departure of her daughters, and died not long after, according to
As an adult, Niebles worked for years at a T-shirt
printing factory before losing her job in the recent recession. Out of
work for months, she had recently landed a job as a part-time hotel
housekeeper, though she had been hobbled by arthritis in her knee.
In South Florida, she maintained a close
relationship with her sisters, though they never managed to teach her
“She chickened out because she was scared that
something would happen to her. That’s why she didn’t have a car. She
was very nervous,” remembered her sister, Virginia Niebles.
Merly Niebles never married. But she had been with
the Cuban-born Simono — who will be remembered Sunday at a wake, and
buried Monday — for the past 10 years.
The two worked together at the factory, where he
continued working after Niebles was laid off.
For the past decade, they shared the modest Hialeah
apartment with Priscilla; Simono often helped the Pisciottis do
building maintenance for extra pocket money.
Simono had children in Cuba from a previous
relationship, and had even talked about returning to the island to
In Hialeah, he cared deeply for Priscilla, with
whom he had lived since she was 7 years old, family said. He’d
recently given her his old green car so she could drive to school.
Discipline was usually left to Priscilla’s aunts —
but the 17-year-old was rarely in trouble.
Friends said Priscilla attended a weekly prayer
group and sometimes went to services at Iglesia Jesucristo el
Todopoderoso near her Hialeah school, American Christian.
Last week, Priscilla told her aunt that she felt
she had to cut ties with some friends who had offered her some
“She told me, ‘I want nothing to do with that at
all,’ ” aunt Cira Niebles said.
Priscilla’s life was not unlike that of many teen
girls. She devoured the Twilight vampire-fantasy books and movies. She
shed 15 pounds after joining a nearby gym and attending Zumba dance
Most recently, Priscilla had joined the work force
with a paperwork and sales job at Lyn’s Furniture in the Opa-locka
Hialeah Flea Market.
She and her pals dreamed of going to college in New
York or Rome, even researching apartments online. Priscilla planned to
one day have a career as a neonatal nurse.
“She was very skeptical and very intelligent with
Christian principles,” said her aunt, Virginia Niebles. “She was very
expressive and loved to talk with adults. She had goals.”
Hialeah killer showed signs of trouble before
By Patricia Mazzei, María Pérez and Melissa Sanchez
August 3, 2013
In the days before his death, Pedro Alberto Vargas
watched movie after movie involving shootings, seeking creative
inspiration for his own draft screenplay.
The infatuation worried his elderly mother, who
recounted her son’s actions to a relative shortly after Vargas shot
and killed six neighbors on July 26.
“He has mental problems, like disorders or related
to nerves?” an operator asked 83-year-old Esperanza Patterson in a 911
call hours before the rampage.
“No, no,” Patterson said. “But what he is doing is
Exactly how Vargas, 42, went from being a dedicated
son, avid gym-goer and talented graphic designer to the enraged man
behind one of the worst massacres in Hialeah history may always remain
But from a review of public records and interviews
with people who knew him emerges a portrait of a troubled loner who
over the past five years appeared to have developed a pattern of
anonymously harassing his former co-workers.
His habit was discovered three days before the
shooting. He faced no significant consequences — yet he couldn’t let
the matter go.
“He possibly took his motives to the grave,” said
Carl Zogby, a Hialeah police spokesman.
Vargas was born in Havana on Oct. 3, 1970, the only
child to teachers who lived on 16th Street in the city’s Vedado
suburb. To many in his family he was known as Albertico. His father,
who taught literature, died in 1991 or 1992, according to testimony
Vargas gave in a July 23 deposition.
Between 1990 and 1994, Vargas studied at the
University of Pedagogical Sciences in Havana, graduating with a
bachelor’s degree in technical education with a focus on construction,
transcripts show. His best grades were in English and physical
He briefly lived with a girlfriend, though they
never married. After his father’s death, Vargas and his mother moved
in with his grandmother, a relative of Patterson’s said.
The family that moved into their vacated Havana
apartment complained about how filthy it was, asking if the previous
tenants had kept pigs in the bathroom, according to a former Vargas
neighbor in Havana who asked not to be identified.
Vargas’ mother won a U.S. visa lottery in 1995 and
left for Miami, where she had a sister. Vargas himself won the same
lottery two years later and moved to Miami on May 2, 1997. He was 26
years old. Mother and son eventually became U.S. citizens.
“It was just lucky,” Vargas said in the deposition.
“We wanted, like everybody, to leave Cuba and come here, looking for
freedom and better possibilities, work.”
In 1999, Vargas and his mother moved into the
one-bedroom Hialeah apartment at 1485 W. 46th St. where they would
live for the next 14 years.
He began taking classes at Miami Dade College,
graduating in 2004 with an associate’s degree in graphic design and a
3.5 grade-point average.
As a student, Vargas worked briefly at a
now-shuttered print shop and interned at the University of Miami,
where he helped design a media guide for an athletic team. Even then
he cared for his mother, a former UM intern coordinator said Friday,
describing Vargas as an intense perfectionist.
“He was extremely mature and responsible,” said the
coordinator, who asked not to be identified.
Upon graduating in 2004, Vargas went to work for
the media services department at MDC’s North Campus. Yet he continued
to live with his mother, splitting rent and utility expenses, Vargas
testified in the deposition.
He slept on the couch most nights, though sometimes
he slept next to his mother in the only bed in the apartment.
“They lived in their own world,” said the mother’s
relative, who asked not to be identified. “She adored her son. To her,
he was such a good young man, he loved her so much.”
Twelve numbered Post-it notes found in Vargas’
apartment last week appeared to be a storyboard, perhaps for his
“Louie’s home,” one of them says. “Very Spartan.
Louie f--- the whore ... Louie ask her to stay she refuses unless he
pays for the rest of the night. Louie insults her.”
Though Vargas dreamed of buying his own house, the
relative said, he didn’t want to leave his mother, particularly after
she had knee surgery. Yet she had been on a Miami-Dade waiting list
for public housing for herself since 2008, records show, and had
applied for housing assistance on seven occasions in Hialeah since
1996, wanting her son to build his own life.
Bank statements obtained by El Nuevo Herald show
Vargas had more than $92,000 in a savings account a year ago. But he
lived poorly in a dingy apartment with aged furniture and often wore
dirty clothes to the several local LA Fitness gyms he frequented to
lift weights for hours.
A gym acquaintance, Jorge Bagos, said the bald
Vargas once complained he lost his hair through steroid use. A
toxicology screen performed as part of his autopsy is pending.
Vargas had a concealed weapons permit and owned a
Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol he carried with him when he drove at
night, he said in the deposition. He didn’t explain where he went,
noting only that he did not frequent bars.
His career at Miami Dade College went smoothly at
first, according to his personnel file, which includes his Cuban and
American college transcripts. In work references, colleagues described
Vargas as hard-working and talented.
“Pedro’s work is top-notch,” wrote one of his
graphic design instructors, Elio Arteaga.
Arteaga, who now works at DeVry University in
Broward, remembered Friday that one assignment required students to
design a “DVD interface” for a movie of their choice. Vargas picked
The Matrix and designed realistic illustrations of its characters.
But despite his talent, said Arteaga, who was
visited Thursday evening by Hialeah police digging into Vargas’ past,
Vargas “was a little bit socially awkward.”
Other co-workers called Vargas quiet and buff,
often drinking protein shakes at lunch.
Vargas’ performance evaluations were positive until
his last year on the job, when a new supervisor wrote that Vargas was
difficult to work with.
He “lacks social skills,” Elmo Lugo wrote. “It is
hard for him to accept change.”
Vargas responded with a letter saying his job
description had been unfairly expanded to include managerial work.
Attached were three emails from MDC employees who lauded Vargas’
graphic design work.
‘A 2nd personality’
But Vargas didn’t get along with everybody, said
Nick Murrell, who used to organize special MDC events for which Vargas
designed printed materials.
“He was always very cordial to me, very polite,
very respectable,” Murrell said. But with colleagues he didn’t care
for, Vargas could be “abrasive, rude and curt.”
“There was a second personality that was evident,”
he added. “But just because somebody is a little off doesn’t mean
they’re going to go and shoot somebody. I never would have believed
that he was capable of something so horrible.”
Vargas was forced to resign in 2008 after MDC found
he had downloaded inappropriate files from the Internet, including
several related to sex and seduction and a computer hacking tutorial
that linked to the Anarchist Cookbook, a manual for assembling
homemade explosives. Vargas disputed the allegations.
Several months after his resignation, at least two
of his former MDC supervisors reported receiving anonymous threats via
email, texts and Facebook. Though they suspected Vargas, police were
only able to trace the messages to a Hialeah public library.
Vargas then went to work as a graphic designer for
another Miami company, but was fired after three months.
Employees from that firm also received anonymous
emails, according to a source familiar with the case. Managers
suspected the recently fired Vargas, but police were unable to
identify the emails’ origin.
In May 2012, Vargas, through a temp agency, began
working at Bullet Line, a promotional products company. He was let go
in October after Bullet Line said it no longer had enough work to
require Vargas’ services.
Weeks later, several Bullet Line employees began
receiving troubling messages. The company reported the problem to
police — and hired an attorney, Angel Castillo Jr., to investigate.
Castillo sued Yahoo to try to determine the
anonymous user sending the emails. Through the lawsuit, he obtained
records from the John F. Kennedy Library in Hialeah, where the emails
Castillo looked for former Bullet Line employees
who used the library’s computers on the days the emails were sent.
Vargas’ name popped up most frequently.
Several hours into his July 23 testimony, Vargas
admitted to authoring the messages. Castillo told him he would close
the case if Vargas wrote an apology to his former co-workers and
promised not to send any more messages. Vargas sent the apology four
“It is time for me to show maturity and a promise
not to repeat this mistake ever again,” he wrote.
But Vargas continued to worry about the case. He
told his mother he feared losing his money, the mother’s relative
At 1:37 p.m. on July 26, a perturbed Vargas called
911 to report someone was following him and he was the victim of
brujería — sorcery — that had begun with Castillo. Before that, Vargas
had only once crossed Hialeah police’s radar, in May 2012, to report
His mother told 911 her son had been acting
strangely. She thought he needed a psychiatric evaluation. Police
dispatched two officers but called them back after the mother said
Vargas had left with a container to buy gasoline.
Vargas visited the Kendall office of Castillo, who
was out. Police believe Vargas was intent on killing the lawyer.
When Vargas returned home, carrying the gasoline
and a bag full of cash, he set fire to the money. His mother suffered
burns trying to put out the flames with her feet. The smoke prompted
911 calls and a visit to apartment 408 from the building’s
husband-and-wife managers, Italo and Samira Pisciotti, 79 and 69,
Vargas shot them dead.
Paramedics and police officers pulled up outside
minutes later. Vargas shot at them from his balcony but missed,
instead hitting 33-year-old Carlos Gavilanes, who was entering the
building across the street. He died next to his unharmed 9-year-old
Vargas then made his way to apartment 304, kicked
in the locked door and killed Patricio Simono, 64; his girlfriend,
Merly Niebles, 51, and her daughter, Priscilla Perez, 17. Priscilla
had been hiding in the bathtub.
In apartment 523, Vargas took Sarrida and Zoeb Nek
hostage. Police negotiated with him for four hours before charging in,
killing Vargas in a gunfight and rescuing the hostages.
Vargas, wearing a white undershirt, blue plaid
long-sleeved shirt and jeans, was trying to reload his pistol, police
said, and had two full magazines of ammunition.
His mother, the relative said, has been
hospitalized and is devastated.
“She carries the pain of her son, but also the pain
of the people who died,” the relative said. “She’s crying all the
On Friday, nearly a week after the shooting,
Vargas’ body lay in the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office.
No one had claimed it for burial.
Miami Herald staff writers Joey Flechas and David
Ovalle, and El Nuevo Herald staff writers Enrique Flor, Julio Menache
and David Noriega, contributed to this report.
Transcript of Hialeah killer’s 911 call
August 2, 2013
The following is a Miami Herald translation of the
911 call Pedro Alberto Vargas made at 1: 37 p.m. Friday, hours before
his shot and killed six of his Hialeah neighbors. Also on the call are
an unidentified female operator and Vargas’ mother, Esperanza
Patterson. The call took place in Spanish.
Operator: … emergency?
Pedro Alberto Vargas: Ah, hello?
Operator: Yes, go ahead.
Vargas: Ah. I’m calling so you can, ah... I feel
threatened and I am being a victim of, of...
Operator: OK, let me have your address.
Operator: Let me have your address.
Vargas: Could you run a ... a ... a license plate?
Operator: No, sir. Not over the phone, let me have
the address. (Pause). Are you calling me from 1485 W. 46 Street?
Operator: Apt. 408?
Operator: Apt. 408.
Operator: OK. Tell me what is happening to you. Who
is threatening you?
Vargas: Ah, people who are following me and that...
Operator: Do you live alone there?
Vargas: No (inaudible).
Operator: Ah? Who lives there with you?
Vargas: And sorcery and stuff they are doing to me.
Operator: OK. Who lives there with you?
Vargas: My mother.
Operator: Your mother. Is she there? Ah... Sir, is
Operator: Put her on.
Vargas: I feel that there are people who are...
Operator: OK, darling, I understand. Let me have
your mother a moment. (Pause). Put your mother on. (Pause).
Esperanza Patterson: Hello?
Operator: Hello, ma’am.
Patterson: Miss, I don’t know why, but he is very
agitated and I really don’t see those things.
Operator: Does he have mental problems?
Patterson: Well, now. But, but…
Operator: OK. Do you want me to send the police or
Patterson: No, Miss, no.
Operator: Do you feel you’re in danger with him?
Patterson: Well, right this moment, I, I can’t go
after him. I’m an 89-year-old person.
Operator: No, of course you can’t go after him. But
do you feel in danger being there with him?
Patterson: My fear is that, what do you call it,
that something is going to happen to him for being so upset.
Operator: Being so upset. So, do you believe that
he is having a nervous problem, a nervous panic or something like
Patterson: Yes… He, ah... A short while ago, I
don’t know why he had to go. He and other people from where he used to
work a long time ago, I don’t know. That he had sent some things from
the Internet, I don’t know what it was. Nothing important. But not
that either. One day he went and then decided, I believe, nothing more
has arrived. It’s that, it’s... I don’t know. It was one of those
things big kids do over the phone.
Operator: Yes, I know. Then, do you want me to send
Patterson: No, I would like... he’s going to
get...maybe believing that I am his enemy, I don’t know.
Operator: Well, put him on the phone.
Patterson: Yes, wait a minute. Darling, help me.
Operator: Yes, my child, don’t worry, OK? Put him
Patterson: Albert! She says she wants to talk to
you…she wants to talk to you. Here.
Operator: What is your name, Alberto?
Operator: What is your name?
Operator: Ah, Pedro, OK, Pedro. This is 911, the
girl that was talking to you before, that you called. OK, so you feel
someone is after you?
Vargas: Not only that. They are trying to put some
sorcery on me.
Operator: Ah, they are doing sorcery on you? And
who is doing sorcery on you?
Vargas: It started with a lawyer
Operator: From a lawyer?
Vargas: Yes, Castillo. Beginning there they are
doing sorcery on me. There is car outside that I wanted you to run the
license plate, I wanted you to run the license plates, because it
doesn’t match up with a person living here in this place.
Operator: Doesn’t match?
Patterson: I don’t know, it seems he went to
get...a man, there is a person who parks, like he parks... it seems he
is not working, I know sometimes he stays many hours (inaudible) and
sometimes he gets into that truck and they take girls... then...
Operator: Where did he go?
Patterson: Downstairs, but I don’t know if he is
with a camera, I don’t know if you can help him, because I’m going to
die. He had never in his life had this, but (inaudible)
Operator: But he has mental problems, like
disorders or related to nerves?
Patterson: No, no. But what he is doing is writing
novels, those about...
Operator: Does he have nervous problems? Because it
sounds like it.
Operator: He has...
Patterson: Now he does, right now he’s like that,
and I want you to know, Miss, that I gave her — sorry, him — at
lunch.... I crushed two Xanax pills (inaudible) to see if he would
calm down a little. In case they notice something on him. It’s not any
drugs. He doesn’t even smoke, he doesn’t even smoke, but to see if he
calmed down, but he goes anyway, and now he grabbed a bottle and told
me was going to get some gasoline. Please, there is no need for him to
get gasoline now, I don’t know. Oh, please, help me, but no, no, I
don’t want him to stay like that...I would like him to be treated by a
psychiatrist, a psychologist, to be evaluated, to see, because he has
never been like this, I don’t know.
Operator: How old is he?
Patterson: He’s already like, let me see, he is
Operator: What do you mean, 70 years old?
Patterson: No, he was born in 1970
Operator: So, how old is he?
Patterson: Yes, I’m blaming myself. I feel so bad,
but so bad, that I think if something happens to him... Don’t you
think I should find a psychiatrist to evaluate him, I don’t know, I
don’t know anybody... that could evaluate him. Oh, no. Like you?
Operator: Wait a moment (typing), one moment, OK?
Patterson: He went out now ... He got quiet and he
went to get gasoline... why, Oh, my God. I am going to die from this.
Patterson: But please, Miss, look, he is very good
Operator: (Operator tells someone in English that
Vargas says he is being followed)
Patterson: More than with his money.
Operator: What’s his name?
Patterson: Pedro Alberto Vargas.
Operator: What is his date of birth?
Vargas: October 3, 1970, let me see... let me get
my notebook... wait a moment...
Operator: Does he live with you?
Vargas: Yes, he lives with me.
Operator: And he told you he was going to get
gasoline, for what?
Patterson: No, to put it in the car, he told me. He
was looking for oil, I don’t know what he is looking for. He took a
Operator: What kind of car does he drive?
Patterson: A Toyota.
Operator: What color?
Patterson: White. Miss, please. It’s like he’s
traumatized. It’s evident that he went to a... he didn’t go to a
judge. It was one who wanted to talk to him because they thought he
had posted something on the Internet. A place. He also worked there.
And then. This. Ah. They summoned him. And they summoned the others
too. Not only him. Another girl.
Operator: OK, darling, I’m going to send you...give
me your name.
Patterson: But what are you going to send me?
Operator: Is your name Esperanza?
Patterson: Esperanza Patterson.
Operator: Esperanza Patterson?
Operator: OK. I have to send you the unit because
he was asking for police.
Patterson: No, he’s going to get worse on me.
Operator: But he was the one calling us. He called
Patterson: Yes, but, but...
Operator: Then should I cancel his call?
Patterson: Well, if you ask, I call you when he
comes, but right now he’s not here. Oh, please. Look. When… I’ll be
waiting. I sometimes want a psychiatrist to evaluate him, put him
under treatment, and be done with it. Because this has me... I know
that this is like this, that, that, no, it’s something that will pass.
Because until, before that trial...
Operator: Then should I cancel the call?
Patterson: Well. I don’t know (in a whisper). But
Operator: No, listen. I cannot make this decision
for you. Do I cancel the call or not? Because if not, I have to send
you a police officer.
Patterson: A police officer. Well, he isn’t here.
Operator: OK. Then I will cancel the call and if
anything, you call us again, or he can call us.
Patterson: Be waiting. What is your name so I know
if I call you again? What is your name?
Operator: No, you don’t have to ask for me. Any
person who answers 911. Any officer. OK. So, tell me, do I cancel you,
tell me, do I cancel the call or not? Because I have two officers on
the way there.
Patterson: No, no, no. Cancel it because he’s not
Operator: OK, it’s all right. If anything happens,
call us again. OK?
Patterson: OK, darling.SS
Operator: OK. Bye bye.
Little about Pedro Vargas’ life sheds light on
motive for Hialeah massacre
By Joey Flechas and Melissa Sanchez -
July 31, 2013
People who knew Pedro Alberto Vargas, whose
shooting spree claimed six lives before police shot him to death early
Saturday, offered varying and often contradictory descriptions of the
man responsible for one of the deadliest South Florida rampages in
He was a solitary man who took care of and lived
with his elderly mother. A freelance graphic designer and gym rat who
was obsessed with his physique. The owner of a 9 mm semi-automatic
Glock who said he would take up arms to fight for Cuba’s freedom.
At the LA Fitness at 630 49th St. in Hialeah,
employee Najwa Jurdi gasped when a Miami Herald reporter showed her
Vargas’ picture and told her he was the shooter who had killed six
people and held two others hostage.
“I never would have thought …” she said, noting
that she remembered Vargas as a friendly customer who split his cardio
and weightlifting workouts between that gym and the other location at
1901 W. 39th St. The gym keeps a record of any complaints or problems
with members. Vargas’ file had none.
Margarita Reyes, a tenant on the fifth floor of
Todel Apartments, where the shooting rampage happened, remembered
Vargas as a skinny man when he and his mother first moved into the
complex about 15 years ago.
About seven years ago, she said, she noticed him
bulking up. She said that her husband, who works out at the same gyms,
often shared an elevator with Vargas after getting home from workouts.
Usually they engaged in small talk about their
workouts. In the days leading up to the shootings, however, Reyes’
husband told her that Vargas was less responsive.
“He said [Vargas] would just lower his head,’’ she
Jorge Bagos, who also worked out with Vargas, told
the Associated Press that Vargas had mentioned exercising as a way to
release his anger. Bagos said Vargas complained of bad experiences
with women, and blamed his hair loss on steroid use.
Although police said Vargas asked for his
girlfriend while speaking with a hostage negotiator in his final
hours, neighbors and associates never saw Vargas with a woman or heard
of him having a girlfriend.
According to a résumé online, Vargas received an
associate’s degree in graphic design from Miami Dade College in 2004.
He had worked as a graphic designer for the college, the University of
Miami and, most recently, Systemax, which he left in 2009. It is
unknown where he worked since.
As the hostage drama unfolded, Vargas’ elderly
mother could not explain her son’s actions, police said.
She referred police to a cousin in Coral Gables,
but he wasn’t in touch with Vargas and had no idea what could have
motivated the sudden violence.
“We asked him what he knew about this man everybody
calls ‘Albertico,’ but he said he hadn’t spoken with his cousin in two
or three years,’’ said Hialeah Police Chief Sergio Velazquez. “He knew
of no problems, said his cousin was a quiet guy that kept mostly to
Alex Perez, owner of the Florida Gun Center in
Hialeah, said Vargas was “very meticulous.”
“Normally people buy their gun and then take the
course to get a concealed weapons permit,” he said. “He took the
course first, got the permit, then bought a gun.”
In the fall of 2010, Vargas took a two-hour
introduction training and a four-hour safety course at Perez’ shop,
located 10 blocks from the apartment complex where Vargas lived, at
1485 W. 46 St. Then he applied for and received his concealed weapons
permit and carefully studied the guns at the store, said Perez, who
keeps a detailed database of all gun purchases.
That October, he dropped $593.49 for a Glock 17, a
box of 50 rounds and a background check. After making the purchase, he
never returned, not even for target practice.
Velazquez confirmed that it was the same gun used
in the shootings. It’s unclear where Vargas bought the hundreds of
additional rounds police found in his possession and in his apartment
after it was all over.
Vargas’ neighbors did not know he carried a
concealed weapon, although one elderly resident of the five-story
apartment building said they’d spoken about taking up armed resistance
“We’d talk in the lobby and I recall one time when
I asked him if he’d take up arms if there was an uprising in Cuba,”
said the neighbor, who declined to be identified. “And, you know what
he told me? ‘Of course I’d do that. I hope that happens one day.’”
According to the Hialeah Housing Authority, Vargas
was on a waiting list for subsidized housing.
El Nuevo Herald staff writers Brenda Medina and
Enrique Flor contributed to this report.
Miami gunman downloaded computer files on
By Kevin Gray - Reuters.com
July 30, 2013
(Reuters) - A gunman who went on a shooting rampage
in an apartment building had been forced to resign from his job at a
Miami college after authorities found he downloaded files with links
to bomb making, counterfeiting and killing with bare hands, according
to documents released by the school on Tuesday.
Pedro Alberto Vargas, 42, set his apartment on
fire, shot and killed six neighbors, and took 2 others hostage in the
worst Miami area shootings in three decades.
A SWAT team stormed his apartment in Hialeah in a
pre-dawn raid on Saturday, killing Vargas and rescuing the hostages.
Police continue to investigate a possible motive in
the shooting, and neighbors have said they knew little about Vargas, a
graphic artist who graduated with an associate's degree from Miami
Dade College and worked at the school from 2004 to 2008.
According to a personnel file released by the state
college, Vargas resigned in December 2008 from his job in the media
services department after he "downloaded or transferred at least
twenty-four files, of a personal nature, covering a variety of topics
deemed to be inappropriate," one of the documents shows. The files
included some of a sexual nature.
"During his full-time tenure, his supervisors
became concerned about his performance, including his punctuality,
adherence to deadlines, the quality of his work, and the following of
orders, among other issues," Juan Mendieta, a college spokesman, said
in a statement.
"It was also learned that just prior to his
resignation, on one occasion, he visited an anti-government website,"
Mendieta said, although he did not provide details on the site.
In a letter detailing the allegations, a school
official said the files Vargas downloaded included links to topics on
letter, fertilizer and mailbox bombs, making plastic explosives from
bleach and how to get a new identity.
Other topics included tutorials on hacking,
hypnosis, credit card fraud, how to seduce women and "how to kill
someone with your bare hands," the college said.
Vargas challenged the accusations in an email sent
to school officials and said some of the files were downloaded outside
of normal working hours when he was not at work.
"This letter is to make clear that I don't have
anything to do with those false allegations," he said, adding that
they were intended "to smear my good name and reputation."
Vargas wrote: "I do not have any desire to work
under such intoxicating enviro[n]ment that has been created in the
He resigned from his job several days later.
The shooting started Friday evening after Vargas
set fire to a large amount of cash. His mother told police he had
withdrawn $10,000 from his savings account, but the exact amount
Vargas had more than $90,000 in a bank account,
according to The Miami Herald, citing records found in the apartment.
Among the victims in the shooting were an elderly
couple who were the apartment building's managers and four neighbors,
including a 17-year-old girl who police said was shot while trying to
hide in a bathtub.
Vargas also fired 10 to 20 shots into the street,
killing a man walking home with his 9-year-old son after picking the
boy up from boxing practice, police said.
Police are investigating reports that Vargas was
possibly involved in a rental dispute, although court records show no
eviction process was under way.
(Writing by Kevin Gray. Editing by Andre Grenon)
Motive a mystery in Miami area mass shooting
By Zachary Fagenson - Reuters.com
July 28, 2013
(Reuters) - Miami police on Sunday searched for a
motive for a shooting rampage in which six people were killed by a
gunman who set his apartment on fire before shooting several neighbors
and taking others hostage.
The police said they were investigating reports
that the man, Pedro Alberto Vargas, 42, was in the process of being
evicted and had prior disputes with the managers of the building.
The owner of the 90-unit apartment building was not
immediately available for comment.
More than 100 police, including SWAT teams, stormed
an apartment in Hialeah, a suburb of Miami, in a pre-dawn raid on
Saturday, killing Vargas and rescuing two of the hostages.
"When we found him, he still had plenty of live
rounds of ammunition," Hialeah Police spokesman Carl Zogby told
reporters. "This was an irrational act and many times there is no
The weapon used in the incident, a 9-millimeter
Glock handgun, was purchased legally in 2010, Zogby said.
Vargas, who arrived in the United States from Cuba
in 1997, was described as a part-time graphic artist who kept largely
to himself and cared for his elderly mother. He became a U.S. citizen
in 2004, according to El Nuevo Herald, south Florida's main
He graduated from Miami Dade College with a degree
in graphic design. There were no pending civil or criminal cases filed
against him in Miami-Dade County courts.
Among the victims were an elderly couple who were
the building's managers and four neighbors, including a 17-year-old
girl who police say was shot while trying to hide in a bathtub.
Vargas also fired 10 to 20 shots into the street,
killing a man who was walking home with his 9-year-old son whom he had
just picked up from boxing practice, police said.
It was the worst Miami area shooting since 1982,
when 51-year-old Carl Robert Brown killed nine and wounded three
others with a pump-action shotgun after a dispute over a $20 lawnmower
Vargas held a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Police gave no information on where he bought the gun or details from
the two-page questionnaire on the permit's application. The police
said he had no military background.
According to El Nuevo Herald, neighbors knew little
of the man other than that he exercised often and was regularly seen
wearing gym shorts and running shoes. Neighbors say he regularly took
his 83-year-old mother to doctor's appointments.
The shooting started after Vargas set fire to his
apartment as well as a large amount of cash. Vargas' mother told
police it was $10,000 drawn from his savings account, though the
amount remains unconfirmed.
"Much if not all was burned," Zogby said.
The tragedy in Hialeah was the latest in a string
of mass shootings in the U.S. including Newtown, Connecticut, where a
gunman killed 26 people including 20 young children at Sandy Hook
Elementary in December.
The non-profit organization Sandy Hook Promise,
formed by community members in Newtown, issued a statement on the
"Our hearts are broken," the statement said. "Our
spirit is not. Sending prayers and condolences to the victims and
families of the Hialeah, Florida mass shooting. Another tragedy that
invites us all to reflect on what individual and collective changes we
can make as a nation to save lives."
(Additional reporting by David Adams.; Editing by
Eric Johnson, David Storey, Mary Wisniewski and Diane Craft)
Seven shot dead in Florida hostage rampage
By Zachary Fagenson - Reuters.com
July 27, 2013
(Reuters) - A tenant went on a shooting rampage at
a Florida apartment building, killing six people before a SWAT team
killed him and rescued two neighbors he was holding hostage on
Saturday, police said.
The hostages were unharmed, police in the Miami
suburb of Hialeah said.
"We don't have a clear motive," said Hialeah police
spokesman Carl Zogby. "This was an irrational act and many times there
is no rational explanation."
Neighbors said the gunman may have been facing
eviction, but police were still investigating.
The melee began on Friday evening when the gunman,
identified as Pedro Vargas, 42, set fire to the apartment he shared
with his mother, police said.
The building managers, 78-year-old Italo Pisciotti
and Camira Pisciotti, 68, saw smoke pouring out and ran to the
apartment, Zogby said.
"He came out of the door and shot both of them
several times, killing them right at the scene," he said.
Vargas went back inside his burning apartment,
walked out on the balcony and fired 10 to 20 shots into the street,
A man who lived across the street was killed as he
walked from a parking lot toward his home. Vargas also shot at
emergency crews and police, preventing them from giving immediate aid
to the victims, police said.
The gunman then went to a third-floor apartment,
kicked down the door and shot dead a couple and their 17-year-old
daughter, Zogby said.
Vargas then ran through the building, firing
erratically and exchanging gunfire with police as they arrived and
tried to engage him. He ran to the fifth floor, where he took two
people hostage and barricaded himself inside their apartment, police
Negotiators made contact with him during the night
but the talks fell apart and the SWAT team swarmed in about 2 a.m.,
police said. Vargas had plenty of ammunition left and was firing and
"ready to fight" when police killed him, Zogby said.
"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," he said.
Police initially said Vargas' mother collapsed and
was taken to a hospital during the chaos, but later said she had been
away visiting relatives during the shootout.
The apartment complex in the blue-collar, mostly
Hispanic community housed about 90 families.
More than a hundred 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.
Police said Vargas was described by neighbors as a
quiet man and had no criminal history.
The ceiling and outside wall of his apartment were
charred from the fire and blood from the slain building managers
stained the door. Three small red flowers had been placed nearby. Down
the hall were more flowers and a heart-shaped glass ashtray with three
red candles burning in it.
(Writing and additional reporting by Jane Sutton;
Editing by Vicki Allen and Jackie Frank)