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Gunman among 7 dead in Florida shooting rampage

HIALEAH, Fla. -- A man set fire to his South Florida apartment, killed six people, and held another two hostages at gunpoint before a SWAT team stormed the complex and fatally shot him yesterday, according to police and witness accounts.

The ordeal lasted eight hours, with Pedro Vargas running through the building, firing at random and eluding officers for part of it, police said.

Vargas, 43, set a combustible liquid on fire on Friday evening to start the blaze, police spokesman Carl Zogby said.

The building manager and his wife noticed smoke and ran to the apartment. Vargas came out and shot several times, killing both of them, according to the police account.

Vargas then went to his fourth-story balcony and fired 10 to 20 shots in the street, killing a man who was parking a car outside, Zogby said.

Then, Vargas went down to the third floor, kicked the door in on another apartment and killed a man, his wife and their teen daughter.

Zogby said Vargas then ran through the building, firing "at random, in a very irrational fashion."

"He kept running from us as he fired at us, and we fired at him," Zogby said.

He forced his way into an apartment and took two people hostage at gunpoint.

A crisis team was able to briefly establish communication with Vargas. Sgt. Eddie Rodriguez said negotiators and a SWAT team tried talking with him from the other side of the door of the unit where he held the hostages.

After talks failed officers stormed into the apartment and fatally shot Vargas in an exchange of gunfire.

"They made the decision to go in there and save and rescue the hostages," Rodriguez said. Both hostages survived.

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