Six neighbors did routine, mundane things Friday evening in Hialeah. A father parked his car after his son’s boxing practice. A family hung out inside their apartment. A husband and wife, both building managers, knocked on a tenant’s door.
At some point, the tenant pulled out a 9mm pistol.
By the end of the night, the six neighbors were dead. So was the gunman, Pedro Alberto Vargas, 42, killed by a SWAT team that stormed the apartment where for hours he kept two more neighbors hostage.
These are the victims’ stories:
Samira and Italo Pisciotti
The first to die were Italo and Samira Pisciotti, the husband and wife who managed the building at 1485 W. 46th St., where Vargas and his mother, Esperanza Patterson, were tenants of apartment 408.
After an apparent dispute, Vargas fired about 15 to 20 shots, killing 79-year-old Italo and 69-year-old Samira.
Their daughter Shamira, who lives in another unit in the building, said her parents were babysitting their 9-year-old granddaughter when the shooting began.
“I saw my mother’s dead body,” Shamira Pisciotti said. “She died the moment she was shot, but it looks like my dad was still alive after he was shot.”
Their granddaughter remained in the Pisciottis’ apartment, “waiting for them to come back,” said Carlos Almandoz, Shamira Pisciotti’s boyfriend and the girl’s father.
“They were terrific grandparents,” he added. “They had an excellent relationship with my children. They took care of them while we worked.”
The couple had come to the United States from Colombia. They had managed the building for 20 years and were a month away from celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary, Almandoz said. They had never mentioned anything about problems with any building tenants.
Pedro Perez, a tenant in the building, described Italo Pisciotti as being, at times, confrontational when dealing with his tenants.
There were loud words exchanged in the halls sometimes, he said.
By contrast, first-floor tenant Gerardo Peraza said the Pisciottis were very cordial and easy to talk to.
From his fourth-floor balcony, Vargas continued shooting. A bullet hit 33-year-old Carlos Gavilanes, who was walking into his apartment complex across the street with his son, whom he had just picked up from boxing practice.
“Run! Run! Run!” Gavilanes shouted to 9-year-old Carlos, according to the boy’s mother and Gavilanes’ longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Kharrazian. A bullet had already shattered the front door of the building at 1480 W 46th St., she said.
Once he realized he had been shot, Gavilanes stumbled, trying to feel his way along the wall, his son told Kharrazian. Then he fell to the ground.
“My son was screaming his name, and he collapsed, and my son was over his body,” Kharrazian said, tears falling.
She raced downstairs from their apartment, she said, yelling for paramedics. Two neighbors tried to resuscitate Gavilanes, giving him CPR. When the paramedics arrived, they tried to revive him, Kharrazian said.
“He died,” she said. “He just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
With Vargas still on the loose, police didn’t let Kharrazian out of the building to meet her mother-in-law, who had raced to Hialeah after receiving an anguished call from Kharrazian after the shooting. Kharrazian holed up for hours, until nearly 2 a.m., in a windowless bathroom in her apartment with the couple’s son and 2-year-old daughter, Victoria.