5 Killed After Gunman Takes Hostages in Florida Bank

A gunman in Sebring, Florida has reportedly been arrested after killing at least five people in a shooting at a bank.

Police rushed to SunTrust bank in Highlands County, Florida on Wednesday to respond to reports of a shooting, according to USA Today. They arrested a 21-year-old man named Zephen Xaver, who called them himself, saying he had just fired shots inside the bank. Five people were killed, with police not disclosing whether there were any survivors.

"We're sorry to learn that we have at least five victims," said Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund. "People that were senselessly murdered."

The shooting took place around noon, Hoglund explained in a press conference, along with Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman. They identified Xaver as a resident of Sebring, a town about 94 miles southeast of Tampa, but moved from Marshall County, Indiana. Photos from the crime scene — first published by the Highlands News-Sun — show him to be a white male in khaki shorts and a T-shirt. Police led him out of the bank in handcuffs.

"It's been a tragic day in our community," Hoglund said. "We have suffered a significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime."

Police reportedly formed a perimeter around the bank before entering, fearing that Xaver might have hostages inside. Once that was established, a SWAT team moved in, where they discovered his victims. There is still no word on whether they were employees or customers of the bank.

Police say that Xaver's intentions are unclear. They believe he entered the bank and locked the door behind him, forcing those inside to lie on the floor. While barricaded inside, Xaver reportedly refused to negotiate with the officers outside. In the end, he surrendered.

A man named Victor Sparks helped notify police of the situation. Sparks reportedly stopped by the bank to make a deposit, and found it locked. He told reporters that he looked through the window, where he saw people on the floor and heard a loud bang. He immediately retreated and called 911.

It is still unclear how the bank's front entrance sustained serious damage, as seen in the photos from the crime scene. However, police say that there was no danger to the surrounding area, and the whole situation was confined to the bank.

The shooting caused a stir on social media, with some noting how routine tragedies like this and their reporting has become.


Activists, Florida government officials and other big voices were quick to speak out.

Photo credit: Twitter / @CNN