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Five people killed in shooting at Florida bank

Five people killed in shooting at Florida bank
Law enforcement officials take cover outside a SunTrust Bank in Sebring, Fla., on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

A gunman opened fire inside a central Florida bank Wednesday, killing five people before surrendering to a SWAT team, police said.

The shooter called police just after 12:30 p.m. local time to report that he had fired shots inside the SunTrust branch in Sebring.

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Negotiations failed to persuade the barricaded man to leave the building.

A Highlands County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team then entered the bank, and the gunman eventually gave up, authorities said.

Authorities identified the suspect as 21-year-old Sebring resident Zephen Xaver.

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 until December, when he withdrew. She said his residence was listed as Sebring.

Shooting suspect Zephen Xaver.
Shooting suspect Zephen Xaver. (Highlands County Sheriff's Office)

Florida Department of Corrections records show that Xaver was hired as a prison guard trainee at the nearby Avon Park Correctional Institution on Nov. 2 and resigned Jan. 9. No disciplinary issues were reported.

“Today's been a tragic day in our community. We've suffered significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime,” Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said at a news conference. “This is something that you hope will never happen anywhere, much less in your hometown.”

Officials have not released the identities of the victims. A police news release said the five victims were the only people in the bank at the time of the attack.

(Los Angeles Times)

Investigators did not offer any potential motive, and a police spokesman said he did not know whether the attack began as a robbery.

An FBI mobile command unit arrived at the bank Wednesday evening to join the investigation.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was in the region for an infrastructure tour and traveled to Sebring after the shooting. He said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would assist Sebring police and the 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 Chief Executive 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.

Sebring is a city of about 11,000 people in rural central Florida, nestled amid several lakes east of Sarasota and south of Kissimmee. It’s known for the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance auto race held each March.

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