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Florida bank shooting: Police refuse to rule out robbery gone wrong

Investigators say they have no idea why a former corrections officer walked into a Florida bank and shot five people dead – though cannot rule out that it was a robbery gone wrong.

Zephen Xaver, 21, is accused of murdering five people inside the SunTrust bank in Sebring around 12.30pm on Wednesday before calling police to report himself.

As officers hunted through the bank for clues, Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund described the shooting as ‘a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime’ and hoped to give more information at a press conference Thursday morning.

Meanwhile neighbors of Xaver’s mother, who he moved o Sebring with shortly before the shooting, told of their shock at the news while describing him as a ‘quiet’, ‘well mannered’ and ‘well spoken’ boy.

Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund has admitted he has no idea why five people were shot dead in a bank in his city on Wednesday, but could not rule out it was a robbery gone wrong

Zephen Xaver, 21, was arrested inside the bank after calling police to report that he had opened fire on people inside

Zephen Xaver, 21, was arrested inside the bank after calling police to report that he had opened fire on people inside

Officers were scouring the bank yesterday for any clues to solving the 'senseless' crime

Officers were scouring the bank yesterday for any clues to solving the ‘senseless’ crime

Police were due to give an update on Thursday morning after spending Wednesday night scouring the crime scene

Police were due to give an update on Thursday morning after spending Wednesday night scouring the crime scene

Investigators have not yet named any of the five people who were shot dead inside the bank, saying their families needed to be informed first

Investigators have not yet named any of the five people who were shot dead inside the bank, saying their families needed to be informed first

FBI agents were among dozens of law enforcement officials at the bank on Wednesday

FBI agents were among dozens of law enforcement officials at the bank on Wednesday

Sharon Spillane, who spoke to Fox 13, said: ‘I would have never in a million years seen this coming at all.

‘We’ve cooked together, I’ve been in their house, we’ve watched movies. They’re a very normal family.

‘He had a job and he was very quiet and very well-mannered. Anytime that I saw him, he was very well-mannered, always good posture and well-spoken.’

She said officers spent the evening searching the Xaver family home – a simple one-story structure on the city’s west side, around four miles from the bank.

Xaver was arrested inside that bank on Wednesday after a standoff with police in which they tried to negotiate with him.

But after negotiations failed SWAT officers stormed in, prompting Xaver to surrender. It was then that the bodies were discovered.

Police have not yet named the victims, though relatives could be seen gathering at a nearby hotel on Wednesday afternoon to comfort one-another.  

Authorities say Xaver was a correctional officer trainee hired by the Avon Park Correctional Institution in November, but he resigned on January 9 without an explanation.

No disciplinary issues were reported.

Xaver had previously lived in Indiana and arrived in Sebring with his mother last fall, when they moved into their current property. 

The Xavers’ house was surrounded by crime scene tape for most of the day on Wednesday, according to local media. 

 

Sharon Spillane, a friend of Xaver's parents, said she was shocked at the news and described the 21-year-old as a 'quiet', 'well-mannered' and 'well-spoken' boy

Sharon Spillane, a friend of Xaver’s parents, said she was shocked at the news and described the 21-year-old as a ‘quiet’, ‘well-mannered’ and ‘well-spoken’ boy

Officers responded to the SunTrust Bank branch in Sebring  around 12.36pm after the suspected gunman allegedly called 911 and reported that he had fired shots inside the bank, according to the Sebring Police Department

Officers responded to the SunTrust Bank branch in Sebring around 12.36pm after the suspected gunman allegedly called 911 and reported that he had fired shots inside the bank, according to the Sebring Police Department

Blurry video showed Xaver being perp-walked through the parking lot after he surrendered

Blurry video showed Xaver being perp-walked through the parking lot after he surrendered

‘We are sorry to learn that we have at least five victims, people who were senselessly murdered as a result of his act in this bank,’ Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said at a press conference Wednesday evening.

‘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.

‘We ask that you please keep them in your prayers, keep them in your thoughts,’ he said if the victims’ loved ones. 

‘Help Sebring and our community stay strong.’ 

The sheriff’s office asked co-workers and family members of anyone who was inside the bank during the shooting should gather at the Inn on the Lakes on Gulfview Road. 

Hoglund declined to answer questions from reporters but promised to brief the media on emerging details Thursday morning. An FBI mobile unit has joined the investigation. 

Xaver's motive has not yet been determined. He is seen above in a Facebook photo

Xaver’s motive has not yet been determined. He is seen above in a Facebook photo

Gov Ron DeSantis also spoke during the press conference, saying: ‘The people of Florida stand with the community here in light of this tragic circumstance.

‘I’ve asked [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] to provide whatever resources we can at the state level to assist with the investigation. 

‘Obviously this is an individual that needs to face very swift and exacting justice,’ he said of Xaver.  

This was Florida’s seventh mass shooting in less than three years. 

Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman said: ‘I am heartbroken that this horrendous incident has occurred in our county. I pray for the victims, their families and our community. This tragedy will have a lasting impact on Highlands County and likely this community will never be the same. 

‘I have been in law enforcement all of my adult life and this horrific incident shocks and angers me more than anything I have encountered in my career. 

‘While we still don’t know what drove the suspect to commit this heinous act, there is no excuse that can justify the cold-blooded murder of multiple victims.’ 

SunTrust CEO and Chairman Bill Rogers said in a 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.’ 

Florida Gov Ron DeSantis (center) spoke alongside Sebring law enforcement at a press conference on Wednesday night. He said of Xaver: 'Obviously this is an individual that needs to face very swift and exacting justice'

Florida Gov Ron DeSantis (center) spoke alongside Sebring law enforcement at a press conference on Wednesday night. He said of Xaver: ‘Obviously this is an individual that needs to face very swift and exacting justice’

WHO IS FLORIDA SHOOTING SUSPECT ZEPHEN XAVER?

 Zephen Xaver, originally of Plymouth, Indiana, is suspected of opening fire at the SunTrust Bank in Florida, Wednesday, killing five people.

Friends were stunned by the news that the ‘normal’  21-year-old was capable of such a horrific crime.

But his former employers paint a more complex picture, of an undisciplined young man who quit his stable job without explanation.

 Xaver’s social media pages, removed shortly after the shooting, reveal something of a macabre fascination with death. 

Sprinkled among his few sparse selfies, appeared  photos of the Grim Reaper, a symbol of death. One Reaper meme read: ‘God is busy right now…may I help you?’

Even his booking photo shows obsession with death, and appears to show the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

His social media also reveals an admiration of the alt-right, and Xaver had ‘liked’ far-right activist Milo Yiannopoulos, and memes about rightwing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. 

Yet a friend of Xaver’s family described the 21-year-old as ‘very normal’.  

Zephen Xaver, 21, originally of Bremen, Indiana, is suspected of opening fire at the SunTrust Bank in Florida, Wednesday, killing five people

Zephen Xaver, 21, originally of Bremen, Indiana, is suspected of opening fire at the SunTrust Bank in Florida, Wednesday, killing five people

Zephen Xaver, 21, originally of Bremen, Indiana, is suspected of opening fire at the SunTrust Bank in Florida, Wednesday, killing five people

‘He’s definitely a normal person. I would have never in a million years thought anything like this would have ever happened,’ Sharon Spillane told WFLA.

Originally of Plymouth, Indiana, he also lived with his father in Bremen, Indiana, according to his social media pages. He later moved in with his mother and stepfather in Sebring, Florida, according to WESH. He also has two younger brothers.  

Neighbors described them as a ‘sweet family’ and Xaver as ‘quiet, responsible, and polite.’

Xaver’s ex-girlfriend confirmed on Facebook page that her ex was the suspect. 

Xaver wrote that he had attended Bremen Senior High School and Plymouth High School in Indiana, where he was on the wrestling team.

After his move to Florida, he started work as a correctional officer trainee at the Avon Park Correctional Institution, near the Avon Park Air Force Range, in November.

But officials say he resigned on January 9 without an explanation. 

Agency spokesperson Patrick Manderfield said the 21-year-old had no discipline during the six weeks he was employed by the department.  

Avon Park Correctional is a state-run institution and thus its workers would not have been affected by the government shutdown.      

Dozens of law enforcement and media vehicles flocked to the scene as a standoff unfolded during lunchtime on Wednesday.  

‘After negotiations to try to get the barricaded subject to exit the bank were not successful, the HCSO SWAT team entered the bank and continued the negotiations,’ the Sebring police said. 

‘The suspect eventually surrendered to the HCSO SWAT team.’

A witness on the scene, Stefan Roehrig, told WFLA: ‘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.’ 

Roehrig, who said police ‘slammed [the suspect] pretty good’ before escorting him outside the bank, recorded cellphone video of Xaver being taken into custody.  

‘He was young, very young,’ Roehrig said.  

According to state officials, Xaver began working at Avon Park Correctional Institution near the Avon Park Air Force Range on November 28. 

Agency spokesperson Patrick Manderfield said the 21-year-old had no discipline during the six weeks he was employed by the department. Manderfield said no explanation was given for his resignation.   

Avon Park Correctional is a state-run institution and thus its workers would not have been affected by the government shutdown. 

Social media pages believed to belong to the suspect are sparse bearing only a couple photos of Xaver himself along with a few of the Grim Reaper, a symbol of death. 

According to one of his pages, Xaver had recently moved to Sebring from Bremen, Indiana.

His ex-girlfriend from Indiana wrote on Facebook: ‘If anyone has seen the news about my ex killing 5 people. Please do not ask me to talk to you about it. I am devastated. I’ve been crying so much.’  

Xaver’s LinkedIn page indicates that he is a student at Stevens-Henager College, which is based in Utah but offers online classes.  

A witness recorded footage of officers setting up the perimeter as they carefully planned their next move

Officials confirmed that there were multiple injuries, but it's unclear how man people were shot in the incident

Officials confirmed that there were multiple injuries, but it’s unclear how man people were shot in the incident. Police didn’t release information regarding the conditions of those injured

Authorities said the suspect had called dispatch to report that he had fired shots inside the bank

Authorities said the suspect had called dispatch to report that he had fired shots inside the bank

The Sebring Police Department said on Facebook that officers responded to the bank located at 1901 US 27 South around 12.36pm

The Sebring Police Department said on Facebook that officers responded to the bank located at 1901 US 27 South around 12.36pm



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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