Gunman at Miami Herald arrested 2 hours after demanding to see editor, prompting evacuation

Friday, November 24th 2006, 11:19 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) A cartoonist carrying a gun and dressed in camouflage surrendered to police at The Miami Herald's building Friday, more than two hours after arriving and demanding to see an editor of the newspaper's Spanish-language sister paper, police said.

No injuries were reported, and no shots were fired.

Jose Varela carried a semiautomatic pistol loaded with 30 rounds of ammunition, police chief John Timoney said. Varela had problems with El Nuevo Herald, where he worked as a contractor, that included its position on Cuban emigres.

Varela was a contract cartoonist for the newspaper and had routine access to the building, officials said.

A police negotiator talked Varela into surrendering peacefully at about 2:45 p.m., Timoney said.

``Once he calmed down and he realized what he was doing was not appropriate, he decided we would work to bring him out,'' said police negotiator Serafin Ordonez, who spoke with Varela for 30 to 40 minutes in Spanish. ``No one was in danger. He kept repeating that he didn't want to hurt nobody, that he's not a violent person, that he's not a criminal.''

Varela told a reporter for The Miami Herald during the incident that he was ``the new director of the newspaper.''

``I'm here to unmask the true conflicts in the newspaper,'' Varela told The Miami Herald. ``They laugh at exiles here. There are problems with payment.''

Varela called attorney Joe Garcia a couple of times from inside the building, Garcia told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Garcia said Varela was concerned about a conflict of interest at El Nuevo Herald.

``All that he wants people to know is that he wants the truth to come out,'' Garcia said. ``I think he needs some time to work some things out.''

Varela isolated himself on the sixth floor of the downtown Miami building that houses The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, police said. The floor was evacuated, and officers carrying weapons and wearing protective gear set up a perimeter around the building, where evacuees gathered.

News staff remained on the fifth floor to cover the story.

The Herald reported on its Web site that Varela demanded to see El Nuevo Herald's executive editor, Humberto Castello.

It was the second situation involving a gun at the newspaper in the past year and a half. In July 2005, former city commissioner Arthur E. Teele Jr. fatally shot himself in the Herald lobby after asking to speak with columnist Jim DeFede. Teele had been under investigation for corruption and was just indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud charges.

DeFede was fired for recording his telephone conversations with Teele just before the incident without the politician's permission.

News broke in September that eight of El Nuevo Herald's reporters and 29 of its freelancers were paid to work for the U.S. government's Radio and TV Marti networks. The government beams programming into Cuba aimed at undermining the communist Castro government.

The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald are separate newspapers, but they share an office and are both published by The Miami Herald Media Co. El Nuevo Herald is one of the nation's largest Spanish-language newspapers.