Police: 5 Fatally Shot Inside Florida Bank, Suspect Arrested

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
January 23, 2019US News
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Police: 5 Fatally Shot Inside Florida Bank, Suspect Arrested
A Highlands County Sheriff's SWAT vehicle is stationed out in front of a SunTrust Bank branch in Sebring, Fla., where authorities say five people were shot and killed, on Jan. 23, 2019. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)

SEBRING, Fla.—A gunman who opened fire inside a Florida bank killed five people before surrendering to SWAT negotiators, police said on Jan. 23.

Zephen Xaver, 21, was arrested after the shooting at a SunTrust branch, Sebring police Chief Karl Hoglund said at a news conference.

“Today’s been a tragic day in our community,” Hogland said. “We’ve suffered significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime.”

The victims were not immediately identified.

A man called police dispatch Wednesday afternoon and reported that he had fired shots inside the bank, Hoglund said.

Initial negotiations failed to persuade the barricaded man to leave the bank, so the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team entered the building to continue negotiations, and the man eventually surrendered, he said.

Police didn’t say what charges Xaver would face or indicate a motive.

Law enforcement officials take cover outside a SunTrust Bank branch
Law enforcement officials take cover outside a SunTrust Bank branch, in Sebring, Fla., on Jan. 23, 2019. (The News Sun via AP)

Gov. Ron DeSantis was in the region for an infrastructure tour and traveled to Sebring after news of the shooting broke. He said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would assist Sebring police and the Highlands sheriff’s office in any way possible.

“Obviously, this is an individual who needs to face very swift and exacting justice,” DeSantis said of the gunman.

Sen. Rick Scott also sent a tweet that he had also spoken with Blackman, adding, “Ann and I are sending prayers to those involved.”

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

SunTrust Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers released a statement saying the bank is deeply saddened by the tragic shooting.

“We are working with officials and dedicating ourselves to fully addressing the needs of all the individuals and families involved,” Rogers said. “Our entire team mourns this terrible loss.”

Law enforcement officials take cover outside a SunTrust Bank branch
Law enforcement officials take cover outside a SunTrust Bank branch, in Sebring, Fla., on Jan. 23, 2019. (The News Sun via AP)

Violent Crime in the US

The number of murders and violent crimes committed in the United States dropped slightly in 2017, according to new crime statistics released in September 2018.

“Crime declined nationwide last year, consistent with our earlier analyses of 2017 data in the nation’s 30 largest cities,” Ames Grawert, senior counsel for the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, told the Washington Times.

“That’s the good news. The bad news is that even while crime is falling, the number of Americans incarcerated remains near-record highs. Now is the time to address the problem.”

The number of cases of manslaughter and murder dropped 0.7 percent in 2017 from the prior year, the report said.

Rapes rose by 3 percent and aggravated assault rose by 1 percent, but overall violent crimes dropped 0.2 percent, the report added.

The Epoch Times Reporter Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

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