Five people were killed Wednesday when a gunman opened fire inside a Florida bank, taking hostages before surrendering to police, authorities said.
“Today has been a tragic day in our community. We’re suffering from a senseless criminal committing a senseless crime,” Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said in a press conference Wednesday.
The Highlands County Sheriff’s Office identified the suspect as Zephen Xaver, 21, a Sebring resident who “eventually surrendered” after failed hostage negotiations forced a SWAT team to storm the SunTrust bank. Xaver is now in police custody.
“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 sheriff’s office said.
Police said Xaver entered the bank—located in central Florida about 90 miles southeast of Tampa—and locked the door before demanding customers fall to the floor. He called authorities around 12:36 p.m. after opening fire inside the bank.
When SWAT arrived, Xaver refused to negotiate with officers and barricaded himself and his hostages inside, forcing police to take action, police said. It is not immediately clear how many hostages were inside the bank.
“After an assessment of the scene we were sorry to learn that we have at least five victims, people who were senselessly murdered as a result of his act in this bank,” Hoglund said, adding that the identities of the five victims have not yet been released.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis thanked law enforcement for their “quick” response to the “horrific incident.”
“This individual needs to face swift and exacting justice,” he said at the press conference, asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to provide local authorities with whatever resources they may need for the investigation. “This is a terrible day for Sebring, Highlands County, and for the state of Florida.”
A spokeswoman for SunTrust told The Daily Beast that the bank is working with law enforcement.
“We are working closely with officials and seeking to take care of everyone affected,” SunTrust’s Chief Communications Officer Sue Mallino said. “We will provide more information as soon as we can.”
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was gunned down at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, tweeted about the Florida shooting and blamed the NRA for “trying to make it about anything but the gun.”
“NRA is having an assault today on Parkland and trying to make it about anything but the gun. They are politicizing just before the one year anniversary,” he wrote Wednesday. “Sadly, they are trying to divide the families to do this while innocent people still die from guns.”