SEBRING, Fla. (FOX 35 WOFL) - Five people were gunned down inside a Florida bank on Wednesday. The suspected gunman is now behind bars, but investigators are still working to find out why this happened.
Shaken and grieving, a small community in Sebring is searching for answers after police say a man murdered five people in cold blood inside a SunTrust bank along U.S. 27, south of Lake Jackson.
Investigators say that 21-year-old Zephan Xaver called 911 just after 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday to say that he shot several people inside the bank. A SWAT team surrounded the building, where they say the suspect barricaded himself inside. They attempted to get the suspect to surrender.
When negotiations failed, the SWAT team burst in, capturing Xaver and discovering the bodies, police said. Officers arrested and escorted suspect Xaver to jail. He has been charged with five counts of premeditated murder in the shooting deaths of four bank employees and a customer, all of them women. Police say the shooter had no apparent connection to the women or the bank.
A press conference was held on Thursday morning and police still do not known Xaver's motive.
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. She said his residence was listed as Sebring.
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.
A family friend of the suspect shared some more insight about who Zephen Xaver is.
“I would have never in a million years seen this coming at all,” Sharon Spillane told FOX 13 News. She is good friends with Xaver’s parents.
“We’ve cooked together, I’ve been in their house, we’ve watched movies. They’re a very normal family,” Spillane said. “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.”
The superintendent of a northern Indiana school district says a man accused of fatally shooting five people inside a Florida bank branch attended classes there for portions of two school years several years ago. But he went on to say that federal law prevents him from disclosing any details about any former student's school record.
However, he did say that suspected 21-year-old gunman Zephen Xaver attended Bremen High School for a portion of the 2012-13 school year and returned for a "brief period" the next year. He told the Associated Press that Xaver did not graduate from the school after attending classes there during what would have been his senior year.
Meanwhile, the families of Xaver’s victims are left to wait for answers about why this happened.
“When I heard what happened I was [totally] distraught. I was crying and my roommate said, ‘Jose, what’s the matter?’ and I said ‘A friend of mine worked in that bank,’” Jose Sanchez said of the moments after he learned about the shooting.
During the press conference on Thursday, Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said that Xaver "overtook the bank by force. He then shot everyone in the bank." And "after shooting them, he called 911" and "told dispatchers that he'd killed everyone in the bank."
The chief also said that some of the families don't want their names released, citing Florida's version of a victims' rights law, but he did identify two of them -- customer Cynthia Watson and bank employee Marisol Lopez. He said the community is mourning the loss of "our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and our co-workers."
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." They went on to say that the bank's "entire team mourns this terrible loss."
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.