MIAMI (Reuters) – A man who shot and killed six people in a Miami-area apartment building called 911 hours beforehand and said he believed he was being followed and that someone was performing witchcraft on him, according to a copy of the call released on Wednesday.
A SWAT team stormed the man’s apartment building in a raid early Saturday, killing the gunman, Pedro Alberto Vargas, after he set his apartment on fire, went on a shooting rampage and took two people hostage.
In a 12-minute 911 call released by police, Vargas asked an operator to check a license plate of a vehicle he said was outside of the building.
“There is a car parked outside and I’d like you to run a check because it doesn’t belong to anyone who lives here,” Vargas said.
He told the dispatcher he believed that someone was following him.
“Somebody is trying to do witchcraft against me,” he said.
Vargas, a 42-year-old graphic artist who arrived in the United States from Cuba six years ago, lived with his elderly mother in an apartment in the Miami suburb of Hialeah.
Police are trying to identify a motive in the shooting, the worst to hit the Miami area since 1982. The victims included an elderly couple who were the apartment building’s managers and four neighbors, including a 17-year-old girl.
On Tuesday, a Miami college where Vargas once worked said he was forced to resign in 2008 from his job in the school’s media services department after authorities found he downloaded files with links to bomb making and counterfeiting.
During the 911 call, an emergency operator requested to speak to Vargas’ mother, Esperanza Patterson, who said her son suffered from emotional problems and appeared nervous. Patterson said she slipped some medication in his food to calm him down and that she had encouraged Vargas to seek treatment with a psychiatrist.
“He is a good man,” she said.
Patterson told the operator Vargas left the apartment while she was on the phone.
Asked if she wanted police to come to the apartment as her son had requested, Patterson said no.
“He’ll get angry,” she said.
(Reporting by Kevin Gray and Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Nick Zieminski)