The gunman who opened fire inside a Florida bank on Wednesday afternoon, killing five people, has been identified by police officials as 21-year-old Zephen Xaver. This is Florida's seventh mass shooting in less than three years.
Reports state that Xaver allegedly fired shots inside the SunTrust Bank branch in Sebring just after 12.30 pm, killing everyone inside, and then called 911 to report the shooting and turn himself in.
Xaver also had a standoff with officers after they arrived at the scene of the incident and eventually surrendered to SWAT members. A video of the incident showed him being prep-walked in handcuffs through a parking lot to a police vehicle after he was arrested, the Daily Mail reported.
Shortly after the shooting, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis released a statement promising justice for the victims. The names of the victims are currently being withheld pending family notification. Reports state that police officials have not yet ascertained a motive in the "senseless murders" committed by the former correctional officer.
"The people of Florida stand with the community here in light of this tragic circumstance. I’ve asked [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] to provide whatever resources we can at the state level to assist with the investigation," DeSantis said during a press conference.
"Obviously, this is an individual that needs to face very swift and exacting justice," he said of Xaver.
Authorities on Wednesday released a statement stating that Zaver worked at the Avon Park Correctional Institution in November as a correctional officer trainee. The 21-year-old, however, had resigned on January 9 without providing an explanation.
A friend of Xaver's family, Sharon Spillane, described the 21-year-old as "very normal", adding "he's definitely a normal person. I would have never in a million years thought anything like this would have ever happened," she told WFLA.
"I am friends with his parents," Spillane said. "We've had barbeques together. My nine-year-old goes down with me. We've cooked together. We've watched movies. They are a very normal family."
Xaver's ex-girlfriend Alex Gerlach told Washington Post that he had a “fascination with death” and had talked about killing before.
Gerlach used to date Xaver intermittently for about three years. She told the publication they met at a psychiatric hospital in 2013 in Plymouth, Ind. and he had talked about killing before.
“Since the time we met he had this fascination with death,” Gerlach said. “It got worse as we broke up. We got back together on and off for a while. Then I decided it was too much for my mental health.”
Meanwhile, Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund addressed a press conference in the wake of the shooting on Wednesday evening and said: "We are sorry to learn that we have at least five victims, people who were senselessly murdered as a result of his act in this bank. This has been a tragic day for our community. We’ve suffered a significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime."
"We ask that you please keep them in your prayers, keep them in your thoughts," the police chief said of the victims' loved ones. "Help Sebring and our community stay strong."