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US gunman among seven killed in shootout

Updated July 28, 2013

MIAMI, July 27: A gunman holding hostages inside a South Florida apartment complex killed six people before being shot to death by a police commando team that stormed the building on Saturday morning following an hours-long standoff, police said.

Sgt Eddie Rodriguez said that police got a call at about 6:30pm on Friday that shots had been fired in a building with dozens of apartments in Hialeah, a few kilometres north of Miami.

Sgt Rodriguez said that when police arrived, they discovered an active shooter situation: “He’s inside the building, moving from floor to floor. Eventually he barricades himself in an apartment.”

A crisis team was able to briefly establish communication with the man. Sgt Rodriguez said negotiators and a police special weapons-and-tactics (SWAT) team tried talking to him from the other side of the door of an apartment unit where he was holding two hostages. But he said the talks eventually “just fell apart”. Officers stormed the building, fatally shooting the gunman in an exchange of gunfire.

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

The police officer said he didn’t have any information on how long negotiations lasted.

He said police discovered two people, a man and a woman, shot to death in the hallway in front of one unit.

Three more, a man and two women, were found shot and killed in another apartment on a different floor.

Another man who was walking his children into an apartment across the street also was killed.

Sgt Rodriguez said it wasn’t immediately clear whether the gunman took aim at him from an upper-level balcony or if he was hit by a stray bullet.

Zulima Niebles said police told her that three of her family members were among the victims. She said her sister Merly Sophia Niebles, her sister’s husband, and her sister’s daughter Priscila Perez, 16, were all shot and killed.

Officials were not identifying the gunman or victims. Sgt Rodriguez said police were still investigating.

Neighbour Fabian Valdes, who lives across the street from the site of the standoff, said he heard shots fired and then looked out his window and saw a man lying on the floor, outside the front lobby. He was on his back and had his arms and legs outstretched.

Mr Valdes said he was in shock. “It’s something you never expect,” he said.

In Hialeah — a Miami suburb of about 230,000 residents, about three-quarters of whom are Cuban or Cuban-American — the entrance to the quiet neighbourhood lined with apartment buildings was blocked off on Saturday morning.—AP