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Wednesday 20 September 2017

Florida hostage siege gunman dead

Pedro Alberto Vargas set fire to his south Florida apartment and killed six people before he was shot dead by police (AP/Hialeah Police)
Pedro Alberto Vargas set fire to his south Florida apartment and killed six people before he was shot dead by police (AP/Hialeah Police)
The apartment building where the fatal shootings took place in Hialeah, Florida (AP)

Police in the United States have shot dead a man who set fire to his south Florida apartment, killed six people, and held another two hostage at gunpoint.

A police commando team stormed the complex and fatally shot Pedro Alberto Vargas, according to police and witness accounts.

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

Vargas, 42, set a combustible liquid on fire on Friday evening to start the blaze in Hialeah, said police spokesman Carl Zogby.

The building manager, Italo Pisciotti, 79, and his wife, Camira Pisciotti, 69, noticed smoke and ran to the apartment. Vargas came out and shot several times, killing both of them, according to the police account.

Vargas then went to his fourth-storey balcony and fired 10 to 20 shots in the street, killing Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33, who was parking a car outside. Then Vargas went to the third floor, kicked the door in on another apartment and killed a family of three: Patricio Simono, 64; his wife, Merly Niebles, 51; and their 17-year-old daughter.

Mr 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," Mr Zogby said. He forced his way into another apartment and took two people hostage at gunpoint.

Ester Lazcano, who lives two doors down from where the shooting began, 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.

Neighbours said the shooter lived in the building with his mother. Police do not believe she was home at the time of the shootings.

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