Police: At least 5 people killed at SunTrust Bank in Sebring, Florida; suspect in custody

Posted at 3:04 PM, Jan 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-23 17:28:18-05

(CNN) — A gunman stormed a SunTrust Bank in Florida and killed at least five people on Wednesday, Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said.

It was unclear if those injured during the hostage incident in Sebring were bank employees or customers, authorities said.

The victims have not yet been identified and family notifications have not yet been made, Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman said.

The suspect, who was identified as Zephen Xaver, 21, of Sebring, is in custody, authorities said.

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

Overhead video of the scene from CNN affiliate WFLA showed a heavy police presence, several ambulances and a large SWAT vehicle. Medical personnel entered the bank after the glass entrance to it was destroyed.

The incident began when a man called police at 12:36 p.m. and said he had fired shots inside the bank, according to police. Sebring Police and Highlands County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the scene, according to police.

Initial negotiations to try to get the barricaded subject to exit the bank were not successful, so a SWAT team entered the bank and continued negotiations. The suspect eventually surrendered to the SWAT team, police said.

There was no danger to the surrounding area, police said. US-27 was shut down in both directions near the bank due to the incident. Law enforcement officials will provide more details at a 4:30 p.m. ET news conference, Elwell said.

Both the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are assisting in the case. DeSantis tweeted that he spoke with Blackman and FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen and offered them all the support they may need.

Two area hospitals, Highlands Regional Medical Center and Florida Heartland hospital, said they have not received any patients from the shooting.

“We are working closely with officials and seeking to take care of everyone affected,” said SunTrust’s Chief Communications Officer Sue Mallino. “We will provide more information as soon as we can.”

Family members, co-workers, and friends looking to reunite with loved ones after the incident were gathering at the nearby Inn on the Lakes, according to Yanique Blackellar, the front desk manager of the inn.

Sebring is in Highlands County in the south-central part of the state, and had a population of just over 10,000 people as of the 2010 US Census. The SunTrust Bank is along US-27, between Lake Jackson and Little Lake Jackson.