Knowing Pedro Vargas had hostages, police tried to talk him out of a fifth-floor apartment, Hialeah Police Chief Sergio Velazquez said. But the SWAT team was ultimately forced to go in and rescue the hostages, he said.
The man who gunned down six people before he was shot and killed by police in Hialeah lost his job after downloading files related to sex, hacking and explosives to his work computer, according to documents released Tuesday.
Pedro Vargas was fired from his job as an instructional support specialist at Miami Dade College in December 2008 after downloading several files the college said "appear to be of a personal nature," according to the documents.
Among the files downloaded were "1000 hacking tutorials," "fast seduction," "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex," and "Men's Sexual Health Fitness." The "1000 hacking tutorials" contained an index to the Anarchist Cookbook" with topics related to plastic explosives, bombs, dynamite, breaking into houses and killing someone with your bare hands.
Vargas responded with a letter denying the "false allegations," and claiming he only visited websites to "enhance my graphic designer skills."
"It is clear that I [sic] this is something built to smear my good name and reputation," Vargas wrote. "I do not have any desire to work under such intoxicating enviroment [sic] that has been created in the department."
Elmo Lugo, who was Vargas' boss in the media services department at the college, described him as a "very quiet, very introverted, very private person."
"He came in on time, he left on time, he did his work and then he left," Lugo said.
Vargas had difficulty when changes were made in the media services department, according to Lugo.
“Just to improve the workflow, to meet the demands of the college, be more efficient, and these were things that he just couldn’t understand them. He didn't click, he didn’t buy into them.”
Police say Vargas shot and killed six people and held two others hostage, and opened fire on police officers before he was killed by SWAT team members during a violent standoff Friday at an apartment building in the 1400 block of West 46th Street.
"It was total chaos. The officers did an outstanding job of controlling the chaos," Hialeah Police Chief Sergio Velazquez said.
Knowing that he had hostages, police tried to talk Vargas out of a fifth-floor apartment, Velazquez said.
"That did not go well at all. He was not responsive to any of our requests. We begged him, pleaded with him to let these two innocent people out of the apartment, to surrender, to tell us what his problems were, to see if we could help him, he was not on the same level as we were," the police chief said.
Vargas had set $10,000 in cash on fire before the shooting spree and standoff that lasted until early Saturday, police said.
Italo Pisciotti, 79, and Samira Pisciotti, 69, the husband and wife who managed the building where Vargas lived with his 83-year-old mother for the last 12 years, were killed, as were neighbor 17-year-old Priscilla Perez, her mother Merly Niebles and stepfather Patricio Simono, and Carlos Gavilanes, who was killed across the street.
A robot that the SWAT team sent into the apartment where Vargas was holding Zoeb and Sarrida Nek showed that the hostages were kneeling. Police said he was pointing his gun at them.
"It just gets to the point you have to go in there and rescue these people and we take control of the situation. If not, he's in control of those lives," Velazquez said.
The SWAT team set off a distraction grenade and rushed in. The hostages were protected and removed from the apartment as Vargas and officers exchangefd fire, until Vargas was fatally wounded, Velazquez said.
"Ideally we would've loved for him to (have) just handed over those hostages and him to surrender, but that didn't happen," Velazquez said.
Police haven't determined a motive in the shootings.
“All the investigation is leading away from any incident within the building complex. It seems to be completely unrelated to anyone that he’s had a confrontation or an issue with within that building,” Velazquez said.
On Tuesday, cleaning crews went through the apartment complex removing remnants of the fire and shootings as friends and strangers continued to contribute to a memorial outside.
Gov. Rick Scott is expected to visit Hialeah City Hall Wednesday at 11 a.m. to thank members of the Hialeah Police Department, especially the SWAT team that participated in the rescue of the hostages, Mayor Carlos Hernandez said.
Scott has been in contact with him since the hostage situation began and has been receiving updates, and also wants to meet with friends and family of the shooting victims, Hernandez said.
Police announced that the funeral for Gavilanes will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at St. John the Apostle Church at 475 E. 4th Avenue. The viewing was held Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. at San Jose Funeral Home at 250 E. 4th Avenue. Funeral arrangements for the other victims haven't been announced.
Vista Memorial Gardens & Funeral Home said Tuesday that the Pisciottis had come in on July 19 to make their own funeral arrangements. The funeral home decided to donate the funerals for the couple.
Their viewing will be on July 31 at 6 p.m, with burial at at 9:20 a.m. at the funeral home, located at 14200 NW 57th Ave. in Miami Lakes.