Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fla. apartment gunman described as lonely, angry

HIALEAH — The gunman who went on a shooting rampage at his South Florida apartment building, killing six people, was a lonely man who spoke about having pent-up anger, those who knew him said Sunday.

Pedro Vargas, 42, lived on the fourth floor of a barren, concrete apartment complex in Hialeah, which is northwest of Miami, with his elderly mother. He rarely spoke with others there, and confided to a man who worked out at the same gym that he liked to work out his anger by lifting weights and trying to get big.

"He'd just say this was the only thing that would keep him normal, pulling out all the anger in the gym," Jorge Bagos told the Associated Press. Bagos said the gunman expressed frustration over bad experiences with women and losing his hair from using steroids.

On Friday night, Vargas set a combustible liquid on fire in his apartment, sending the unit into flames, police said. Building manager Italo Pisciotti and his wife went running toward the smoke. As the couple arrived at the front door, Vargas' mother, Esperanza Patterson, 83, screamed. Vargas opened his door and shot and killed the couple, said Lt. Carl Zogby, a spokesman for Hialeah police.

Vargas fired about 20 times, police said, shaking nearby apartments. The Pisciottis fell outside the door. Patterson ran outside as smoke billowed from the apartment and draped herself over the bodies, said a witness who did not want to be identified.

Vargas then went back into his apartment and began firing from his balcony. One of the shots struck and killed Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33, who neighbors said was returning home from his son's boxing practice. Vargas then stormed into a third-story apartment, where he shot and killed a family of three: Patricio Simono, 64, Merly Niebles, 51, and her 17-year-old daughter.

For eight hours, police followed and exchanged gunfire with Vargas throughout the five-story apartment complex as terrified residents took cover in bathrooms and huddled with relatives, sometimes so close to the gunfire they could feel the shots.

In the final hours, Vargas took two people captive in a fifth-story unit. Police attempted to negotiate with him, but the talks fell apart and a SWAT team swarmed in, killing Vargas and rescuing both hostages. On Sunday, Hialeah detectives continued to talk to Vargas' mother, looking for clues on what sparked her son's rampage. Police said Vargas had no known criminal history, and they'd never responded any calls from the home. His past, they said, was "unremarkable."

Fla. apartment gunman described as lonely, angry 07/28/13 [Last modified: Sunday, July 28, 2013 10:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Navy expected to relieve admiral in charge of 7th Fleet in response to deadly disasters at sea

    Nation

    The Navy will relieve the senior admiral in charge of the service's 7th Fleet based in Japan in response to four embarrassing accidents this year, two of which killed sailors at sea, two U.S. officials said.

    Tugboats assist the guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain on its way to Changi Naval Base in Singapore on Monday. [U.S. Navy]
  2. Trump chides media over Charlottesville

    National

    President Donald Trump is blaming the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to a Charlottesville, Va., protest organized by white supremacists that led to the killing of a counter-protester.

    Trump met service members before the rally.
  3. Jones: Koetter-Winston exchange highlights latest 'Hard Knocks'

    Bucs

    There are certain things that make HBO's Hard Knocks must-see television.

    Jameis Winston, left, has an exchange with Dirk Koetter that highlights Hard Knocks.
  4. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed by another police union

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is already backed by the city's largest police union, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has secured another police union endorsement