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Pedro Alberto VARGAS





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Shooting rampage - Motive unclear - Set his apartment on fire
Number of victims: 6
Date of murders: July 26, 2013
Date of birth: 1971
Victims profile: Italo Pisciotii, 79 / Camira Pisciotii, 69 / Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33 / Patricio Simono, 64 / Merly S. Niebels, 51 / Priscilla Perez, 17
Method of murder: Shooting (Glock 9mm pistol)
Location: Hialeah, Miami-Dade County, Florida, USA
Status: A SWAT team entered the building and fatally shot Vargas after a brief shootout the same day

photo gallery


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.

The shooting

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 escaped unharmed.


  • Italo Pisciotii, 79 (building manager, killed in a hallway)

  • 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 perpetrator

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 can."


Hialeah shooting victims: Lives linked by neighborhood, ended in horror

By Glenda Oretega, Benjamin S. Brasch, Patricia Mazzei, Joey Flechas and David Ovalle -

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 massacres.

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 with wonder.

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 land’s flag.

“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 father.

“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, Victoria.

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 children.”

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 it.”

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 family.

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 to drive.

“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 visit them.

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 marijuana.

“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 classes.

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 mass shooting

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 writing novels.”

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 a mystery.

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 education.

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.”

Post-it notes

Twelve numbered Post-it notes found in Vargas’ apartment last week appeared to be a storyboard, perhaps for his planned screenplay.

“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 originated.

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 hours later.

“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 said.

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 stolen hubcaps.

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, respectively.

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 son.

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 time.”

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.

Vargas: What?

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?

Vargas: Yes.

Operator: Apt. 408?

Vargas: Mmm?

Operator: Apt. 408.

Vargas: Yes.

Operator: OK. Tell me what is happening to you. Who is threatening you?

Vargas: Ah, people who are following me and that... 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 she there?

Vargas: Yes.

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 not?

Patterson: No.

Operator: No?

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 that?

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 the police?

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 on.

Patterson: Albert! She says she wants to talk to you…she wants to talk to you. Here.

Vargas: Hello.

Operator: What is your name, Alberto?

Vargas: Ah?

Operator: What is your name?

Vargas: Pedro

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?

… (muffled)

Operator: Pedro?

Patterson: Hello?

Operator: Yes?

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.

Patterson: What?

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 like 70S

Operator: What do you mean, 70 years old?

Patterson: No, he was born in 1970

Operator: So, how old is he?

Patterson: 43

Operator: 43?

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 and...

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 container.

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?

Patterson: Yes.

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 us.

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 please...

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 here.

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 decades.

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 said.

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 himself.”

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 in Cuba.

“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 explosives, sex

By Kevin Gray -

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 department."

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 remains unclear.

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 -

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 rational explanation."

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 Spanish-language newspaper.

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 repair.

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 Hialeah incident.

"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 -

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, Zogby said.

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 said.

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)



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