National news digest: July 28, 2013

Florida

6 slain in shooting at

apartment building

A man living with his mother in a South Florida apartment complex set the unit on fire Friday and then went on a shooting rampage through the building, killing six people before being shot to death by police.

At one point, Pedro Vargas, 42, held two people hostage at gunpoint until he was killed by a SWAT team, police said. The hostages were not hurt, they said.

Police were called to the five-story building in Hialeah, near downtown Miami, at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The first calls reported a fire, but when firefighters arrived, they heard shots and notified police, said Lt. Carl Zogby, a spokesman for Hialeah police.

Police said Vargas had set a combustible liquid on fire in the fourth-floor unit. His mother was not home at the time. Building manager Italo Pisciotti and his wife, Camira, saw smoke and ran to the unit, Zogby said. Vargas opened the door and killed them.

Zogby said Vargas went back into his apartment and fired 10 to 20 shots from a 9mm pistol into the street, killing Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33. The gunman then kicked his way into a third-floor apartment, where he killed Patricio Simono, 54, Simono’s wife, Merly Niebles, 51, and their teenage daughter.

Vargas then engaged officers in an hours-long shootout and chase, eventually forcing his way into a fifth-story unit and holding two people captive. Sgt. Eddie Rodriguez said that negotiators tried talking with him from outside the door but that Vargas would not surrender. Officers stormed the unit, killing Vargas. Zogby said Vargas had several rounds of ammunition when he was killed.

— Associated Press

Texas

Ft. Hood suspect:

A war with Islam

The Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood mass shooting said in a statement to Fox News that the U.S. government is at war with Islam.It’s the first statement Maj. Nidal Hasan has given to a U.S. news organization.

“My complicity was on behalf of a government that openly acknowledges that it would hate for the law of Almighty Allah to be the supreme law of the land,” Hasan said in the statement released to Fox News on Saturday. He said in reference to a war on Islam, “I participated in it.”

Hasan, 42, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 attack at the Army post. His trial is set to start Aug. 6.

The American-born Muslim is serving as his own attorney and has made similar declarations during pretrial hearings and jury selection.

— Associated Press

Massachusetts

Teresa Heinz Kerry leaves hospital

Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, was discharged from a Boston hospital Saturday about three weeks after she suffered a seizure at their Nantucket home, a State Department spokesman said.

Heinz Kerry, 74, is expected to make a full recovery from the July 7 seizure, spokesman Glen Johnson said.

“I’m extremely grateful for the quality of care Teresa received,” John Kerry said in the statement.

Heinz Kerry thanked her caregivers. “They are the kindest people, who love what they do and do it superbly well,” she said.

Johnson has said that the cause of the seizure had not been determined but that doctors had ruled out a brain tumor, heart attack or stroke.

— Associated Press

New York

Boat driver charged with manslaughter

A deadly speedboat crash Friday night on the Hudson River hurled a bride-to-be and her fiance’s best man overboard and injured the groom and three others, including the boat’s operator, who was charged with vehicular manslaughter Saturday.

Six friends were onboard when the Stingray struck a barge near the Tappan Zee Bridge, sending Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon, both 30, into the river. Stewart was to wed Brian Bond on Aug. 10.

A body matching Stewart’s description was recovered Saturday, and Lennon is presumed dead, the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department said. The search for Lennon’s body was to resume Sunday.

Authorities charged the boat’s operator, Jojo John, 35, of Nyack, with vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault. He was arraigned from a hospital bed and ordered held on $250,000 bond, authorities said.

— Associated Press

Michigan attorney general says pensions are protected: Michigan’s attorney general said Saturday that the state’s constitution protects public employees’ pensions from being reduced and that he will join the Detroit bankruptcy case on behalf of retirees and current workers facing benefit cuts. Earlier this month, Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) helped block state court lawsuits seeking to protect pensions. Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy July 18, the biggest bid for court protection by a U.S. city. Schuette said he would file an appearance Monday in federal bankruptcy court as the “people’s attorney” on behalf of pensioners. He also said he would also continue to represent Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) in legal proceedings related to the Detroit bankruptcy.

Three killed in church bus crash: A bus carrying teens coming home from a church camp crashed Saturday on a busy Indianapolis thoroughfare, killing three people and sending 26 others to hospitals, officials said. A fire official said the dead included a man and a woman; he did not have information about the third victim. Witnesses said the bus came off Interstate 465 at high speed Saturday afternoon, struck a retaining wall as it tried to round a curve and overturned. WTHR-TV reported that the bus driver told witnesses that his brakes had failed. The bus was carrying 40 members of Colonial Hill Baptist Church in Indianapolis. The Fire Department said those injured included children and adults and that survivors were taken to hospitals.

— From wire reports

 
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