January 24, 2019

'Senseless criminal doing a senseless crime': Florida shooting results in multiple deaths

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Five people lost their lives on Wednesday when a gunman opened fire inside a Florida bank. The suspect eventually surrendered to a SWAT team.

The police have identified the shooter who called them to report his senseless crime. The gunman wore a "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" t-shirt while committing the tragic crime.

In Sebring, about 80 miles southeast of Tampa, a gunman called the police to report that he had fired shots inside a SunTrust bank. Zephen Xaver, 21, called 911 around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday to report his crime.


On arrival, a perimeter was set around the bank by Sebring police officers and Highlands County deputies. They tried to negotiate unsuccessfully at first with the suspect who had barricaded himself inside.

Eventually, Xaver surrendered after the Highlands County SWAT team went inside and continued to negotiate with him. The suspect relented and gave himself up.


Speaking about the incident witness Stefan Roehrig recalled:

"At first [SWAT] hooked some cables up to it [bank door], tried to rip the doors off. The door handles came right off. Then they just drove the SWAT machine right through the door.”

The witness recorded, via a cell phone, Xaver being taken out of the bank in handcuffs. He said, "The suspect, they slammed him pretty good I think and brought him out here. He was young, very young."


During a press conference in the evening, Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund confirmed the fatalities. He stated:

“This has been a tragic day for our community. We’ve suffered a significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime.”

Governor Ron DeSantis traveled to Highlands County to speak at the conference. Speaking about the suspect he said: “Obviously this is an individual that needs to face very swift and exacting justice.”


The victims haven’t yet been identified as their families are still being notified. Hoglund added, “We ask that you please keep them in your prayers, keep them in your thoughts. Help Sebring and our community stay strong.”

Florida Senator Rick Scott sent his prayers to all involved via a Twitter post. An FBI mobile command unit arrived at the bank on the same day to join the investigation.


SunTrust CEO and Chairman Bill Rogers issued the following statement:

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic shooting at our Sebring, Florida branch this afternoon. We are working with law enforcement officials and dedicating ourselves to supporting the people and families impacted by this horrible and senseless tragedy. Our entire team mourns this terrible loss.”


On November 2, Xaver was hired as a correctional officer trainee at the Avon Park Correctional Institution. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, he resigned on January 9.

The suspect had no disciplinary incidents while employed with the department.

In a similar incident that occurred last February on a Wednesday afternoon, Nikolas Cruz, 19, used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 17 people at his former school Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

He tried hiding in the crowd to get away after the massacre but he was arrested in nearby Coral Springs.


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