Hialeah Police Still Trying to Determine Motive in Shooting Rampage

More details released in shooting that left six victims, gunman dead

Hialeah Police are still trying to determine why gunman Pedro Vargas shot and killed six people before he was killed during a SWAT standoff last week.

"A clear motive for Vargas' actions on that day are still unknown," Hialeah Police spokesman Carl Zogby said, during a news conference Thursday. "He kept his exact intentions to himself and a secret and he possibly took his motives to the grave with him."

Vargas, 42, was killed by SWAT team members following a violent standoff that began Friday evening at an apartment building in the 1400 block of West 46th Street, police said.

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According to Zogby, Vargas had called 911 about five hours before the shooting, claiming he was being harassed by someone using witchcraft against him. In the call, released Wednesday, Vargas can be heard telling the dispatcher in Spanish that he was suspicious of a car parked outside the apartment building that he knew did not belong to anyone living there.

Officers were dispatched to the building at one point during the 12-minute call, Zogby said.

Vargas' mother, with whom he shared a unit in the apartment building, got on the call and told the dispatcher Vargas had left and that officers didn't need to respond. Five hours later, Vargas returned to the apartment, set fire to a stack of $10,000 in cash and began the shooting spree.

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On Thursday, Zogby defended the dispatcher's handling of the call.

"We believe that all the right questions were asked and answered to full satisfaction, in that the 911 operator had no evidence at the time to believe or any reason to believe that anyone was in eminent danger," he said. "She didn't hear any of the tell tale signs of something that could turn into something violent, yelling, screaming, arguing."

Police said Vargas shot and killed building managers Italo Pisciotti, 79, and Camira Pisciotti, 69, who ran over when they saw smoke coming out of the unit. He then stormed into another apartment and shot and killed Patricio Simono, 64, his wife Merly S. Niebles, 51, and Niebles' 17-year-old daughter Priscilla Perez.

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Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33, was shot and killed in a hail of random gunfire as he arrived home at the apartment complex across the street.

When officers arrived at the scene, Vargas opened fire on them before hiding in another apartment with two hostages, Zoeb and Sarrida Nek. After a nearly eight-hour standoff, SWAT team members raided the apartment, rescuing the hostages and killing Vargas.

Zogby said Vargas was shooting at the hostages and was in the process of reloading when he was killed.

Vargas had no known history of mental illness and his only contact with Hialeah Police when when he called in May 2012 to report that the hubcaps of his car were stolen, Zogby said.

Zogby said Vargas' neighbors described him as a loner who kept to himself, was never married and had no children. He was born in Cuba, arrived in the U.S. in 1977 and was fluent in English and Spanish, Zogby said.

He had been employed by Miami-Dade College but lost his job in 2009 after downloading files about hacking and explosives to his work computer.

Zogby said the department is still in the midst of a large-scale investigation into the shooting.

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"This is a very serious or the most serious and tragic event this city has ever had," Zogby said.

Meanwhile, family members prepared to say their final goodbyes to four of Vargas' victims Thursday. The funerals for the Pisciottis, Niebles and Perez were all scheduled for Thursday, while Gavilanes was laid to rest Wednesday night.

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