Photo on social media shows father with 2 kids posted under an hour before alleged Miami Lakes murder-suicide

Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office releases identities of victims, suspect

A grieving grandmother says she's going to miss her grandchildren and says she knew her son, who police believe shot his children then turned the gun on himself, needed help.

MIAMI LAKES, Fla. – A selfie, which appears to be taken inside of an SUV, shows a father and his two children smiling and happy together posted on social media at 8:36 p.m. Tuesday.

Under an hour later, a 911 call would come into police about a shooting. Local 10 News confirmed the photo is of Humberto Christian Tovar Zapata, 41, and his two children, Baleria Tovar, 12, and Matias Tovar, 9, who Miami-Dade police said were shot by their father Tuesday night in Miami Lakes before he turned the gun on himself.

Miami-Dade police said they responded to the 6400 block of Miami Lakes Drive around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The mother of the man who killed his children and himself said he suffered from depression.

[RELATED: Mother desperately tried to save her two children after they were shot by father]

Tovar Zapata’s mother told Local 10 News that her son and his wife were together for 12 years and had separated in August of last year. She said he had suffered from bipolar disorder.

“I am going to miss my grandchildren,” the mother of Tovar Zapata told Local 10 News. She said she knew her son needed help. “He was dealing with bipolarity. He never took care of it. He never wanted to take medication therapy,” his mother said.

According to police, the ex-husband had picked up his children earlier and their mother then attempted to contact him because it was getting late. Police said she was concerned because the children had school, but the man did not respond to her.

Police said Tovar Zapata’s ex-wife found their location and went to the area at the bank of the canal, where she found their bodies.

His mother said his mental illness was left untreated but that he would bicycle to help relieve his stress. A manager at City Bikes in Aventura told Local 10 News off-camera that Tovar Zapata had worked at the shop for six months but declined to say more.

(See Christina Vazquez’s report on investigation below.)

A witness talks about trying to help the shocked mother save her two children after her ex-husband allegedly shot them and then turned the gun on himself.

Magda Peña lives nearby and told Local 10 News that she was just out of the shower when she heard a woman screaming. Ring video captures the moment Peña and her son bolted out of their home toward the sound of anguish, where they found the mother of the children.

“After I heard her screaming, I just opened the door and I ran,” she said. “My son ran behind me. He didn’t even have shoes. I ran across the grass and when I got there, I saw the lady on top of the little boy. I couldn’t see the dad or the daughter because of the darkness at first.”

Set on the edge of the lake on Wednesday someone had placed a bouquet with a note in Spanish that translated into the words “Life is better with you.”

Miami-Dade Police Department’s Homicide Bureau is investigating the domestic-related shooting.

In a prepared release, they stated that officers responded to reports of three people shot and when they arrived they found two children suffering from apparent gunshot wounds and an adult male suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Police said they found a gun lying beside the man. When Miami-Dade Fire Rescue arrived, they said all three were already dead.

Investigators said that the mother and father of the children had a dispute over “the children’s whereabouts.” When the mother went searching for her children, she found all three near a Miami Lakes canal bank. A motive is unclear and the investigation is ongoing, according to police.

GoFundMe pages have been created to help the children’s mother.

Info for fundraiser by Jessica F. and fundraiser by Kendaly Alvarez.

*A spokesperson for GoFundMe tells Local 10 News that “both fundraisers have been verified by our team. It is not uncommon to see multiple fundraisers for the same cause started by those in the community wanting to help. When a fundraiser is created, donations are collected by our payment processors, held, and then released only to the person named as the recipient. Before funds are transferred, their personal information, including ID and banking information, must be verified. If any questions arise, our team will hold the funds until the recipient is verified to our satisfaction. Our Trust and Safety team will work with (the fundraisers) to ensure the funds are released to the intended beneficiary.”

About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."