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 Samira noticed the smoke and ran to the apartment, to which Vargas stepped into the hallway and opened fire with a Glock 17 9mm semiautomatic pistol, shooting and killing both. 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 Pisciotti, 79 (building manager, killed in a hallway)
Samira Pisciotti, 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. Niebles, 51 (wife of Patricio Simono, killed in apartment 304)
Priscilla Perez, 17 (daughter of Patricio Simono and Merly Niebles, 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.
Location 1485 West 46th Street, Hialeah, Florida, U.S.
Date July 26–27, 2013
c. 6:30 p.m.–c. 2:30 a.m.
Mass murder, massacre, arson, shootout
Weapons Glock 17 9mm semiautomatic pistol
Deaths 7 (including the perpetrator)
Perpetrators Pedro Alberto Vargas
Police were called to the aging, five-story apartment building in Hialeah, a working class suburb a few miles northwest of downtown Miami, on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The first calls reported a fire, but when firefighters arrived, they heard shots and immediately notified police, Zogby said.
All six people were killed in a short time span, Zogby said, and it’s possible they were all dead by the time police arrived.
Just hours before going on a shooting rampage at his Hialeah apartment complex, gunman Pedro Vargas called 911 and told dispatchers he was being harassed by someone using witchcraft against him.
In the bizarre 12-minute call, Pedro Vargas, 42, asked the dispatcher if she could run the license plate of a vehicle parked outside his building. His mother then got on the phone, telling the dispatcher her son was acting strangely.
The dispatcher told Esperanza Patterson, 83, she had officers en route to the apartment, but the mother told her not to send them, explaining first that she feared her son would turn against her, and later, that he was not there.
“He might think I’m his enemy,” she said in Spanish.
The call was placed Friday at 1:37 p.m. About five hours later, Vargas set the apartment on fire and killed the husband and wife building managers, a family of three and a man who was returning from his son’s boxing practice.