The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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State, national news

July 27, 2013

Police: Gunman kills six, self in rampage at Fla. apartment

HIALEAH, Fla. — A man set fire to his South Florida apartment, killed six people, and held another two hostage at gunpoint before a SWAT team stormed the complex and fatally shot him Saturday, according to police and witness accounts.

The ordeal lasted eight hours, with Pedro Vargas running through the building, firing at random and eluding officers for part of it, police said.

Vargas, 43, set a combustible liquid on fire on Friday evening to start the blaze, police spokesman Carl Zogby said.

The building manager and his wife noticed smoke and ran to the apartment. Vergas came out and shot several times, killing both of them, according to the police account.

Vargas then went to his fourth-story balcony and fired 10 to 20 shots in the street, killing a man who was parking a car outside, Zogby said.

Then, Vargas went down to the third floor, kicked the door in on another apartment and killed a man, his wife and their teen daughter.

Zogby said Vargas then ran through the building, firing "at random, in a very irrational fashion."

"He kept running from us as he fired at us, and we fired at him," Zogby said.

He forced his way into an apartment and took two people hostage at gunpoint.

Ester Lazcano lives two doors down from where the shooting began and said she was in the shower when she heard the first shots, then there were at least a dozen more.

"I felt the shots," she said.

Miriam Valdes, 70, lives on the building's top floor — one floor above where the shooting began. She said she heard gunfire and later saw smoke and what smelled like burned plastic entering her apartment, and ran in fear to the unit across the hall.

A crisis team was able to briefly establish communication with Vargas. Sgt. Eddie Rodriguez said negotiators and a SWAT team tried talking with him from the other side of the door of the unit where he held the hostages.

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