Suspect in Florida bank shooting recently quit his job

Posted at 5:12 AM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-24 06:14:45-05

The suspect in a fatal shooting of five people at a bank in Florida resigned his job as a correctional officer trainee two weeks ago, authorities said.

Zephen Xaver, 21, allegedly took hostages at a SunTrust Bank in Sebring on Wednesday afternoon and opened fire before barricading himself in the building, police said.

Police responded after a man called dispatch and said, "I have shot five people," Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said in a statement.

It was unclear whether the victims were bank employees or customers. They have not yet been identified pending family notifications.

Investigators spent hours collecting evidence at Xaver's home and talking to people who know him Wednesday night, according to CNN affiliate Bay News 9 . A crime scene unit remained at the house for hours.

"This is a terrible day for Sebring, Highlands County and for the state of Florida," Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

'I have shot five people'

The incident began with the phone call to authorities shortly after 12:30 p.m., officials said. Sebring Police and Highlands County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to the scene.

Initial negotiations to try to get the barricaded suspect to leave the bank were not successful, so a SWAT team entered the bank and continued negotiations.

The suspect eventually surrendered to the SWAT team at the bank. Authorities are still investigating the motive.

Suspect's father says he is heartbroken

Josh Xaver, an Indiana resident who described himself as the suspect's father, said he's "heartbroken for the victims." In a phone interview on Wednesday, the elder Xaver said his son moved to Florida about a year ago.

"He wasn't raised to be like this. He's always been a good kid. He's had his troubles," he said without elaborating. "But he has never hurt anyone ever before. This is a total shock."

Neighbor and family friend Sharon Spillane said the suspect's family are "just absolutely normal people." The suspect, she said, is "just very quiet."

"I can't comprehend it right now. I don't understand how or why or what. I just, you go to their house, you go to somebody's house and you're there, and you hang out with them, they're friends, and this happens," she said.

The neighbor said Xaver's mother was on a planned work trip.

He previously worked as a correctional officer trainee

Xaver was employed as a correctional officer trainee at Avon Park Correctional Institution and resigned two weeks ago, according to Patrick Manderfield, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections.

He was hired by the facility on November 2 and resigned on January 9, Manderfield said.

SunTrust Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers said company officials "are deeply saddened by the tragic shooting" at the branch.

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

Sebring is in Highlands County in the south-central part of the state, and had a population of just over 10,000 during the 2010 US Census .

"We ask that you please keep them in your prayers, keep them in your thoughts," Hoglund said of the victims. "Help Sebring and our community stay strong."


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