5 Women Were Shot At A Bank In Florida & Police Say It Was A Random Act

A 21-year-old man opened fire at a Sebring, Florida bank on Wednesday afternoon, killing five women, the Associated Press reports. Police said on Thursday that Zephen Allen Xaver had been charged with five counts of first-degree murder, and that the attack was a random act

“Zephen Allen Xaver knowingly and intentionally took the lives of five of our fellow community members,” Sebring police Chief Karl Hoglund said at a news conference on Thursday. The victims include 65-year-old customer Cynthia Lee Watson, SunTrust bank employees Marisol Lopez, 55, Jessica Montague, 31, and Ana Piñon-Williams, 38. The identity of the fifth victim has yet to be revealed per family wishes, NPR reports.  

“We believe it was a random act,” Hoglund said. “Aside from perhaps driving by and seeing it was a bank, we have no known evidence that he targeted this bank for any particular reason.” 

The attack didn’t seem to be a part of a robbery, and Xaver had no connection to the four employees and one customer at the SunTrust bank branch, police said. No evidence was found that the attack on Wednesday was planned. Xavier’s ex-girlfriend did mention to the Indiana TV station WSBT that he often talked about killing people and was “fascinated with death and guns.” 

“For some reason [he] always hated people and wanted everyone to die,” Alex Gerlach said. “He got kicked out of school for having a dream that he killed everybody in his class.” 

According to police reports, the victims were lying face down with multiple gunshot wounds. Xaver called 911 six minutes after the attack and told dispatchers that he had killed everyone inside, Hoglund said. When police arrived to the scene, Xaver refused to surrender and to allow officers inside to reach the victims. The chief ordered a Swat team to enter after more than an hour of negotiations, Hoglund said. They broke through the locked front doors and found Xaver in the back office. All five victims were found dead on site. 

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic shooting at our Sebring, florida branch this afternoon. We are working with officials and dedicating ourselves to fully addressing the needs of all the individuals and families involved,” said SunTrust CEO Bill Rogers in a statement on Wednesday per NPR

Sebring Mayor John Shoop told USA Today that the town of 10,000 were shocked by the tragedy. 

“We have not changed, but our world has,” Shoop said. “This event will pass, but unfortunately, it will never be forgotten.”