Vargas refused the offer of a cell phone. From the hallway, hostage negotiator Ricardo Plasencia sought to soothe Vargas, telling him police would get him help. Vargas muttered something about a court subpoena and wanting to see his girlfriend.
Outside, police peppered Vargas mother who had escaped the building with questions, trying to figure out what had set him off, and who could reach out and calm his rage.
She gave officers the first name of a cousin, who investigators rousted from bed in his Coral Gables apartment. He told them he had not talked to Vargas in years, but knew him to be quiet and trouble free, Chief Velazquez said.
Meanwhile, SWAT officers examined an identical apartment unit on another floor to familiarize themselves with the layout of the hostages residence.
But by 2 a.m. Saturday, with negotiations stalled and Vargas still taking potshots at cops, Velazquez said he had no other choice but to send in SWAT.
This operation was tactically difficult, he said. If the subject had been alone, we might have continued talking to him because there was no danger to anyone. But here, these two people were in danger.
SWAT officers quietly surrounded the front door. When Vargas wasnt looking, union president Rivera said, one officer peeked in and was able to communicate a warning using hand signals with Zoeb Nek, who was on his knees on the tiled living room floor.
Velazquez gave the command to enter. From the command post, SWAT radioed back: Were going in.
Seconds later, Velazquez heard the explosion of the flash-bang grenade, then felt the rumble of gunfire.
Agonizing moments later, the radio came alive. The target, Vargas, was down. The hostages were safe.
With the gunfire over, a SWAT paramedic rushed in. Vargas was immediately declared dead.
Neighbor Carlos Sanchez said the standoff ended in the Neks bedroom. The couple declined to speak with reporters Sunday.
Next door, the bullet-pocked bedroom wall of Sanchezs apartment shows evidence of Vargas final moments.
Sanchez, who had evacuated from the building before the shots were fired, is repulsed by the whole scene.
I dont even want to sleep in that bed, Sanchez said. Its terrible.
Miami Herald staff writers Joey Flechas, Andre Fernandez and Michael Vasquez contributed to this report, as did researcher Monika Leal.