Police took 21-year-old Zephen Xaver into custody after they say he opened fire inside a SunTrust bank branch in Sebring, Fla. early Wednesday afternoon. He has been charged with five counts of premeditated first degree murder.
Xaver’s is the seventh mass shooting in Florida in less than three years.
Wearing black glasses and a tan t-shirt depicting the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Xaver surrendered to authorities as nearby schools were placed on lockdown, according to local NBC affiliate WFLA.
“This has been a tragic day for our community,” said Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund during a news conference. “We’ve suffered a significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime.”
Xaver, a former Florida Department of Corrections Officer and Sebring resident, had authorities respond to what was originally believed to be a hostage situation. Highland County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team members responded to the scene after Xaver called and alerted them that he had opened fire on bank customers and staff.
According to county officials, a negotiation team was unsuccessful in their effort to deescalate the situation before HCSO SWAT team members entered the building where Xaver had barricaded himself.
One witness, Stefan Roehrig, told WFLA that SWAT team members “hooked some cables up to it [bank door],” ripping the doors from their frame to gain entry.
Xaver was hired as a trainee by the Avon Park Correctional Institution in November before resigning on January 9th. His brief stint was free of disciplinary issues, according to Florida corrections department spokesman Patrick Manderfield.
“This individual needs to face swift and exacting justice,” said Governor Ron DeSantis, who urged Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials to provide any and all necessary resources needed for the ongoing investigation.
Little else is known about Xaver, whose scant social media presence has yielded few clues to his mental state or intentions. The alleged shooter’s most recent Facebook page listed few friends and has since been taken down. Another account boasting more than 300 friends, likely in use during his time living in Indiana, posted a lone image of the Grim Reaper.
A news conference is planned for Thursday.