Neighbours say the gunman lived in the apartment building

Six hostages lost their lives in a South Florida apartment during a stand off between a gunman and a police commando team in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The gunman was shot dead by police after refusing to co-operate.

Sgt. Eddie Rodriguez said police received a call at approximately 6.30pm on Friday evening over reports that shots had been fired in a five story apartment building complex in Hialeah, a suburb north of Miami.

Sgt. Rodriguez said upon arrival police discovered a gunman moving from floor to floor inside the building, before finally barricading himself in an apartment, holding two people hostage.

A crisis team was able to briefly establish communication with the man, whose identity is currently unknown. Sgt. Rodriguez said negotiators and a special weapons team attempted to communicate with him from the other side of the door of the apartment unit. However, talks "fell apart" and officers were forced to storm the building, fatally shooting the gunman after he engaged in gunfire. Both hostages survived.

There was no information available yet as to how long negotiations lasted.

He said police discovered two people, a male and female, dead in the hallway in front of one apartment. Three more, a male and two females, were found shot to death in another apartment on a different floor. Another man, who was understood to have been walking his children in a building across the street, was also shot dead. 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.

"From up there, he was able to shoot at people across the street, catching this one man who was just walking into his apartment," Sgt. Rodriguez said.

Fabian Valdes, a local resident, said he heard shots fired from across the street and then looked out his window to see a man lying on the floor, outside the front lobby. He was on his back and had his arms and legs outstretched.

"It's something you never expect," he said.

The entrance to the apartment buildings remained blocked off on Saturday.

Miriam Valdes, 70, lives on the top floor and reported hearing gunfire before smoke began entering her apartment.

She described running in fear to the unit across the hall, where she hid as officers negotiated with the gunman.

From the apartment, Ms Valdes said she could hear about eight officers talking with the gunman.

She said she heard the officers tell him to "let these people out."

"We're going to help you," she said they told him.

She said the gunman first asked for his girlfriend and then his mother but refused to cooperate.

Neighbours alleged the gunman lived in the building, but police could not confirm this. Rodriguez said police were still investigating the motive and identifying the gunman and victims.