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.

Just Posted

Starry Nights purchases $16,000 Nordic wellness chair for long-term care centre

The chair reclines, rocks, plays music, and has programs for relaxation, anxiety and restlessness

Canim Lake Band native discovers passion for pow wow regalia

‘It’s a spiritual gift and every child should have the opportunity to dance’

Easter Egg Hunt returns to 100 Mile House

The 100 Mile Free Press and Canlan Sports team up for chocolate egg hunt

Historic building in Alexis Creek destroyed by fire overnight

“If it hadn’t been a heavy rain last night we could have lost many houses in the area”

Mile 108 Elementary myth busters take home awards at Cariboo Mainline Regional Science Fair

Kaitlyn Piccolo won awards for her project, which tested how music affects the plant growing process

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Bodies of 3 mountain climbers recovered after last week’s Banff avalanche

The men disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in the Icefields Parkway

Happy birthday: Queen Elizabeth II turns 93 on Easter Sunday

Sunday is the first of two birthday celebrations each year for the queen

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Most Read