A Hollywood man — with a long criminal history — was arrested Thursday after police say he fired shots into an occupied apartment and then barricaded himself inside his second floor apartment, forcing the evacuation of more than 100 people for hours.
Police say Nelson Tomattis, 30, began shooting just before 6 a.m. and then locked himself inside his apartment at 2915 Pierce St.
When police officers arrived — after a neighbor called in reporting they had heard four to five shots and the sound of something falling to the ground — they found broken windows and bullet casings, said Hollywood Police Sgt. Lester Cochenour.
Residents were immediately told to leave their apartments and go to a nearby school, but many gathered outside the yellow police tape set up at 28th Avenue and Pierce Street.
Cindy Vargas, 16, was sleeping when she heard the loud bang. She thought it was a car on Interstate 95, which is right next to the building.
“The next thing we knew, the cops were banging on the door making everyone leave,” Vargas said as she stood with her father waiting to get back into her apartment. “We didn’t know what was going on.”
Another resident who stood outside with her four children said they had little time to react once police arrived.
“I couldn’t even grab diapers or formula for my baby,” said Angelina Tozi, whose children range from 1 to 7.
Cochenour said police set up a perimeter around Apartment 16, which Tomattis shared with his girlfriend and their daughter. Neither were home, police said.
At about 9:30 a.m., police detonated a distraction device — which caused a loud boom — in order to get cameras and a phone into the apartment. Later, they used gas in an attempt to drive Tomattis out of the apartment, but were unsuccessful.
“The gas did not affect him to the point that he would surrender,” said Cochenour.
Eventually, officials were able to get him into one room, subdue him and place him under arrest.
Shortly after, the residents were allowed back into their units.
Cochenour said that they were able to determine that Tomattis shot into apartment 17, sending a bullet through the walls into apartment 18.
Police said it didn’t appear as though Tomattis was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and they didn’t have a motive for the shooting.
Among other charges, Tomattis will likely face a charge of shooting into an occupied dwelling.
According to officials, Tomattis was wanted for cocaine possession out of Polk County and has a history of 29 arrests dating back to 1998, including battery, drug possession, driving under the influence and forgery.
Tomattis’ cousin Tito Orozco rushed to the scene after getting a phone call from the suspect’s brother. Orozco said his cousin was a good man and was worried the police would kill him.
“Thank God he’s alive,” Orozco said. “He’s a father, he’s a good man.”