Miami-Dade County

West Kendall shooter was comfortable with guns, family says

When Ronnie Candelaria left home against his family’s wishes early Thursday morning, he had a mission in mind.

“He responded to the victim’s residence with the intent of killing the male victim,” said Miami-Dade police.

“After watching the movies The Punisher, The Punisher-War Zone, Little Nicky and the series Breaking Bad, he believed the male victim was the devil,” according to the police arrest complaint.

Candelaria, a diagnosed schizophrenic, put a Russian Kalashnikov rifle filled to capacity and a fully-loaded Glock handgun on the car’s passenger seat.

A few minutes and six blocks later, he would unleash his fury and let fly the ammo, shattering the silence of a sleepy West Kendall neighborhood as he blasted his way through wooden fencing and a sliding glass door.

Candelaria would end his shooting spree by taking the lives of mother and son, Gale and Anthony Sikora, who lived in the Kendall home.

Anthony Sikora, 23, a Miami-Dade College student, was Candelaria’s target. He was shot to death upstairs in his bedroom.

Police said they believe Gale Sikora, 62, a beloved nurse, just happened to get in Candelaria’s way. She was gunned down on the staircase as she went to check out the blast that took out the window.

Friends told police Anthony Sikora and Candelaria were high school friends who spoke often on the phone. In recent months, however, Anthony Sikora had grown fearful of Candelaria’s affinity for gun play.

And Candelaria had grown so disillusioned with Sikora that he believed his friend was Satan, according to the arrest affidavit.

Candelaria’s parents Wilfredo and Anania — the first people to call police when their son left home before the shootings — told police their son had taken the family’s 1994 white Toyota from their home against their wishes.

Minutes later, gunfire erupted. Gale Sikora and her son were dead.

“This woman was not your average Joe Blow,” said Nancy Stein, a friend of Sikora’s for 32 years. “What happened is just incredible.”

Sikora, a registered nurse who worked at Baptist Hospital Miami, was described by the company’s chief operating officer as a “wonderful employee.”

She grew up in Allentown, Pa., gained a nursing degree, and moved to South Miami-Dade’s Saga Bay neighborhood in the early 1980s. She became the nurse in charge of critical care at Kendall Regional Medical Center, where she trained nurses from around the world in cardiology and neurology, said Stein.

Hurricane Andrew in 1992 changed everything. Stein said the Sikoras, Gale, her then-1-year-old son Anthony and her husband Anthony Sikora, who was very ill with cancer at the time, lost their home. They moved to Cooper City.

Sikora cared for her baby, and sick husband while commuting to Kendall to work each day.

“She was all on her own and she never asked for help from anybody,” said Stein.

Gale’s husband would die a couple of years later and she bought her Kendall home in 2001. Sikora trained Stein at Kendall Regional, then moved on to Kendall’s Baptist Hospital.

Stein and Sikora remained friends and the two saw each other as recently as March at a birthday party. She said Sikora and friends often would meet to catch up over dinner, usually in Kendall at Bahama Breeze, a casual Caribbean-styled restaurant usually filled with noise and laughter.

“Just know she was a remarkable person. “We stayed in touch forever,” said Stein, 60. “Can you imagine, I stayed friends with my former boss forever.”

Gale Sikora had even accompanied her son to the Candelarias’ home to visit, said the family’s minister, Jim Holway.

Ronnie Candelaria was diagnosed with schizophrenia in early 2013, and his condition had been under control with the help of medication, according to friends. He liked to hunt and go to target practice.

Long before he was diagnosed with the mental disorder, he was familiar with guns, they said.

The family attended services at Kendall’s Sunset Church of Christ, though Ronnie’s presence had tailed off. More recently, he began attending again, said Holway.

He visited with the Candelaria family Friday and said they’re devastated.

“They’re still trying to get their mind around what happened,” said Holway. “They obviously didn’t raise their son this way.”

Candaleria was questioned for most of Thursday and ultimately arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder and armed burglary

Candelaria’s family released a statement Friday expressing sympathy to the Sikora family, saying their son had lawfully acquired firearms before his condition was diagnosed, and that he “had always exercised care and responsibility in the handling of firearms.”

“His condition was effectively managed through medication,” the statement read. The family “are at a loss to understand why his condition so tragically deteriorated.”