Fla. gunman talked about witchcraft in 911 call

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Associated Press

Posted on July 31, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 31 at 12:37 PM

MIAMI (AP) — Five hours before a South Florida man went on a shooting spree at his apartment complex, killing six people, police officers were sent there to investigate a disturbing 911 call he placed. Officers never arrived, though, because the man's mother canceled the call, fearing her son might turn on her.

In the bizarre 12-minute call, Pedro Vargas, 42, described how he was being followed and threatened by people doing witchcraft against him. His mother, Esperanza Patterson, got on the phone and told the dispatcher her son was acting strangely. She said she wanted to get her son psychiatric help, but told the dispatcher not to send the two officers.

"He might think I'm his enemy," she said in Spanish.

The call was placed Friday at 1:37 p.m. At about 6:30 p.m., Vargas set the apartment on fire and killed the husband and wife building managers, a family of three and a man who was returning from his son's boxing practice.

He held police at bay in an eight-hour standoff, taking two people hostage. A SWAT team eventually stormed an apartment early Saturday, rescuing both hostages and killing Vargas.

Authorities have not described a motive, but the 911 recording offered insight into Vargas' behavior. An attorney also confirmed Wednesday that Vargas acknowledged in a deposition days before the shooting that he harassed former colleagues by email.

The 911 call and deposition were first reported by The Miami Herald.

In the call, Vargas spoke briefly and vaguely about how he was being followed and threatened. He asked the dispatcher to run the license plate of a vehicle outside his building. He said it didn't match with anyone who lived there.

"They're doing witchcraft and things to me," he said.

The dispatcher then asked to speak with his mother. She got on the phone and said her son was acting "very disturbed."

"Does he have legal problems?" the dispatcher asked.

She said he did, just recently.

Three days before, Vargas had spoken with attorney Angel Castillo Jr., who questioned Vargas as part of an investigation by Bullet Line, a promotional company Vargas had worked for after being assigned to it by a temp agency. The company had received various "abusive emails and text messages" and Vargas was identified as the possible sender.

Vargas, a graphic design artist, was let go in October after Bullet Line informed the agency he was no longer needed. The disturbing messages began about a week later.

"His messages were not threatening, but personally offensive and harassing," Castillo said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Castillo said Vargas, originally from Cuba, initially denied sending the messages but later admitted to it when the lawyer suggested he might be perjuring himself.

Vargas agreed to write an apology letter and the case was closed.

"I accept full responsibility for what happened," Vargas wrote in an email. "The main reason, I believe it is, I was sad to stop seeing you guys, enjoying lunch in your company and not been able to participate at the new place. Don't believe me, but I am pouring tears right now."

Castillo said Bullet Line decided no further action was warranted.

Three days later, Vargas showed up unannounced at Castillo's office at 3 p.m. and asked to speak with the attorney. He was not there. Vargas told Castillo's assistant he wanted to speak about his deposition. The assistant asked him to leave his contact information, but he refused, Castillo said.

Castillo said Vargas did not make hostile or threatening remarks.

The visit came about an hour and a half after the 911 call Vargas made to police. In it, Vargas mentioned Castillo.

"They're casting spells on you?" the dispatcher asked.

"Yes," Vargas said.

"Who?" the dispatcher asked, in Spanish.

"A lawyer," Vargas said, identifying Castillo.

Castillo said he did not believe Vargas went to his office to hurt him.

Vargas' mother, however, seemed frightened. On the call, she said she'd slipped two Xanax pills in her son's lunch, in an attempt to calm him down. She also said her son had gone to fill a tank with gas.

She murmured throughout the conversation, but at one point, sounding exasperated, she said, "This is going to kill me."

The dispatcher pressed Patterson, in an inpatient tone after 12 minutes on the phone, to decide whether or not she wanted the officers sent.

"Do I cancel the call or not because I have two police officers on the way," the dispatcher said.

"Cancel," Patterson said. "Because he's not here."

___

Associated Press writer Suzette Laboy in Miami contributed to this report.

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