A police assault and a volley of gunfire capped off a daring hostage rescue that freed two people Saturday near Miami, but not before their captor shot and killed six other people. NBC's Mark Potter reports
SWAT officers shot and killed a gunman early Saturday after he killed six people, ending an hours-long standoff near Miami, Fla., police said.
Two people were rescued alive and unharmed from an apartment building where they were being held hostage, Hialeah police spokesman Sgt. Eddie Rodriguez told NBC News.
Police identified the shooter as Pedro Vargas, 42, at a press conference on Saturday, according to NBC Miami.
The victims were identified as Italo Pisciotti, 79; Camira Pisciotti, 69; Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33; Patricio Simono, 64; Merly S. Niebles, 51, and Priscilla Perez, 17.
Perez's family members were left in shock following the harrowing news. The teenager was an incoming senior at American Christian School with aspirations of becoming a pediatrician like her father, who lives in the Dominican Republic, her grandmother, Gladys Perez, told NBC Miami.
"She had just started to live," Gladys Perez said in Spanish.
Cousin Jovanny Perez, also 17, told NBC Miami he was trying to make sense of the killing.
"It's like a hole in the heart," he said. "Everything's a bit darker."
The SWAT team found the gunman barricaded on the fourth floor of the building, where they killed him and saved the two hostages.
The building manager and her husband were found dead in a hallway and three others, two females and one male, were found in one of the apartments, Rodriguez said. Another man was found dead in the lobby of a building across the street.
"This is one of the worst shootings we've probably had ever in Hialeah," police spokesman Carl Zogby told NBC Miami.
Fire rescue crews were first called to the scene, where Vargas had lit his apartment on fire by burning $10,000 in cash, according to NBC Miami. The responders evacuated the apartment complex and shut down several surrounding streets.
Several hours into the standoff with police, Vargas forced his way into an apartment and held Zoeb Nek and Sarrida Nek captive, according to NBC Miami.
Negotiators were talking to the gunman and police sent a robot onto the scene, but eventually officers stormed in and fatally shot Vargas. The gunman still had several rounds of ammunition in his 9mm pistol when he was killed, Zogby said.
“The end result: seven people have lost their lives in this incident, six innocent victims and the one shooter,” Zogby told the station. “Now starts the investigation, how and why this happened.”
Italo Pisciotti, and Camira Pisciotti owned the building and were shot by the gunman when they went to his door, Zogby said.
The couple’s daughter described the horrific scene.
A young woman told NBC Miami that two of the victims of the shooting were her parents.
“I guess there was an altercation and the person opened fire on both of them. My mom was dead the moment that she was shot and my dad still had a pulse when I got to him,” Pisciotti told NBC Miami.
One of the victims appeared to have been shot at across the street from the main scene, police said, when the gunman opened fire from a balcony.
“From up there, he was able to shoot at people across the street, catching this one man who was just walking into his apartment,” Rodriguez told the Miami Herald.
Officials said Vargas' mother, who lived in the apartment with him, was home when her son began shooting. Police were able to get to her and escort her from the area while the shooting was going on.
"He was a good son," said Ester Lazcano, who lived on the Vargas’ floor. "He'd take her in the morning to run errands."
Miriam Valdes, a woman who was often in the building, had a different impression of Vargas however, and said he would get into fights and yell at his mother. "He was a very abusive person. He didn't have any friends there," said Valdes.
Police said the gunman had no criminal record, bought his handgun legally and had a concealed weapons permit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:53 PM EDT