5 Murdered In Mass Shooting At SunTrust Bank; Gunman Identified
Sebring, FL – Five people were gunned down in a SunTrust bank in Sebring Florida on Wednesday.
Authorities held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to release a few details about the horrific mass shooting at the SunTrust bank in Highlands County.
Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund told reporters that five people were dead inside the bank located on US-7 South.
“After an assessment of the scene we were sorry to learn that we have at least five victims, people who were senselessly murdered as a result of his act in this bank,” Chief Hoglund said.
No information about the identities of the people who were murdered was released.
Chief Hoglund said the identification of the victims was not complete, and that police were still processing the crime scene and have not yet notified all of the families.
But the chief did identify their alleged killer.
He said that Zephen Xaver, 21, was taken into custody when the Highlands County SWAT Team breached the bank after negotiations failed.
Chief Hoglund said that Xaver lives in Sebring, but said he had no other information about the gunman.
The incident started around 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 when a man called 911 to report that he had fired shots inside the bank, according to WFLA.
The town of Sebring is located about 2 hours south of Orlando.
Sebring police and the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene and set up a perimeter.
The suspect was reportedly barricaded in the bank and had been holding hostages, WFLA reported.
The Highlands County SWAT Team established communications with the suspect and began negotiating with him.
“Negotiations continued – we did breach in the bank with the Highlands County SWAT Team. At that point the subject did give up,” Sebring Police Commander Curtis Hart told reporters.
At the press conference, Chief Hoglund offered more details of the timeline.
“While engaged in negotiations… I asked the sheriff to send in the tactical unit of their SWAT team in an attempt to recover potential victims and take the suspect into custody,” Chief Hoglund told reporters.
Then paramedics who had been staged just outside the bank with stretchers rushed into the building through the glass entrance that had been destroyed to care for victims, CNN reported.
Witnesses reported seeing the stretchers being brought out empty a short while later.
The sheriff's office has asked families of anybody that was inside the bank at the time of the shooting spree to go to the Inn on the Lakes on Gulfview Road for more information.
Newly-elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was on hand at the press conference to offer his support to the community.
“This is a terrible day for Sebring, Highlands County, and for the state of Florida,” the governor said. “Obviously, this is an individual who needs to face very swift and exacting justice.”
SunTrust bank released a statement after the gunman was in custody.
"We are working closely with officials and seeking to take care of everyone affected," SunTrust Chief Communications Officer Sue Mallino said. "We will provide more information as soon as we can."
Officials took no questions at the press conference but Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman told reporters another press conference was planned for Thursday morning at 11 a.m.
The sheriff’s office will continue to assist the Sebring Police Department with the investigation, Sheriff Blackman said.