This undated photo provided by the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office shows Zephen Xaver. Xaver opened fire inside a Florida bank Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, killing several people before surrendering to a SWAT team, police said. (Highlands County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Former prison guard trainee kills 5 in Florida bank

Investigators said Zephen Xaver, 21, called police from inside the SunTrust Bank branch Wednesday to report that he had opened fire

A former prison guard trainee who recently moved to Florida from Indiana killed five people during a standoff at a small town bank before surrendering to a SWAT team that stormed the building, police said.

Investigators said Zephen Xaver, 21, called police from inside the SunTrust Bank branch Wednesday to report that he had opened fire. He barricaded himself inside and when negotiations failed, the SWAT team burst in, capturing Xaver and discovering the bodies, police said. Investigators did not offer a possible motive, and a police spokesman said he did not know if the attack began as a robbery. The victims were not immediately identified.

READ MORE: ‘I still weep’: Parkland survivors write book on shooting

Late Wednesday, police investigators still swarmed the bank, which sits between a hotel and a hair salon located in a business district of U.S. 27. The four-lane highway passes through farming communities and small towns as it connects South Florida and central Florida. Sebring, with 10,000 residents, is known internationally for its annual 12 Hours of Sebring endurance auto race that draws world-class drivers.

“Today’s been a tragic day in our community,” Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said during a news conference. “We’ve suffered significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime.”

He said more information would be released at a Thursday morning press conference.

Florida Department of Corrections records show that Xaver was hired as a trainee prison guard at Avon Park Correctional Institution on Nov. 2 and resigned Jan. 9. No disciplinary issues were reported. Public records and neighbours said Xaver had arrived in Sebring last fall with his mother, living in a non-descript pre-fabricated home about 4 miles (6.5 kilometres) from the bank. No one answered the door Wednesday night after police finished searching the home. Public records and neighbours say he and his mother moved to Sebring in the fall from Plymouth, Indiana, a town south of Notre Dame University.

READ MORE: Florida city moves to ban sunscreens that could damage reefs

John Larose, who lives next door, said Xaver kept to himself, but he could hear him playing and yelling at video games in the middle of the night.

Xaver briefly was an online student of Salt Lake City-based Stevens-Henager College. A spokeswoman for the college, Sherrie Martin, confirmed that Xaver was enrolled from September 2018 until December, when he withdrew.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was in the region for an infrastructure tour and travelled to Sebring after the shooting. He said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would assist Sebring police and the Highlands County sheriff’s office.

“Obviously, this is an individual who needs to face very swift and exacting justice,” DeSantis said of the suspect.

SunTrust Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers released a statement saying the bank was “working with officials and dedicating ourselves to fully addressing the needs of all the individuals and families involved.”

The bank’s “entire team mourns this terrible loss,” he said.

(Canadian Press)

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 recovered cases continue to rise in Alberta

69 more recoveries Tuesday, bringing the total to 6,048

Drug trafficking charges laid in central Alberta investigation

Investigation included Ponoka, Brazeau, Leduc counties

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Ponoka County may see big road repair bill

Elkhorn Road could cost upwards of $300,000 to fix

Car slides off flooded Sunken Bridge

Unknown why driver drove over bridge twice

VIDEO: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Calgary bans businesses that claim to change sexual orientation or gender identity

Calgary bans businesses that claim to change sexual orientation or gender identity

Canada outspends Ireland, Norway in new pledging on Venezuelan refugee crisis

Canada outspends Ireland, Norway in new pledging on Venezuelan refugee crisis

‘I can’t live on:’ Daughter of man fatally shot by Regina police seeks answers

‘I can’t live on:’ Daughter of man fatally shot by Regina police seeks answers

Alberta legislature to resume with COVID work, other bills, sitting into July

Alberta legislature to resume with COVID work, other bills, sitting into July

Walt Disney World presenting plans for reopening parks

Walt Disney World presenting plans for reopening parks

‘Amazing Race Canada’ wins big on second night of Canadian Screen Awards

‘Amazing Race Canada’ wins big on second night of Canadian Screen Awards

Quebec to loan up to US$200 million to struggling Cirque du Soleil

Quebec to loan up to US$200 million to struggling Cirque du Soleil

UNB board votes to strip name from law faculty building over links to slavery

UNB board votes to strip name from law faculty building over links to slavery

Most Read