SEBRING, Fla. — At least five people where killed Wednesday in a shooting at a Sebring bank that was described as a hostage situation. 

Authorities said a suspect, identified as 21-year-old Zephen Xaver, is in custody. He faces five counts of 1st degree murder.

The names of the victims haven't been released.

"After an assessment to the scene, we are sorry to learn that we have at least five victims, people that were senselessly murdered as a result of his act in this bank," Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said.

Zephen Xaver (Courtesy of Sebring Police Department)


The Sebring Police Department said it responded just after 12:30 p.m. to the SunTrust Bank at 1901 U.S. Highway 27 South.

"A (male) subject contacted dispatch and reported that he had fired shots inside the bank," police said in a post on Facebook.

This was the scene outside the bank after the shootings occurred. (The Highlands News-Sun)

Officers and deputies responded to the scene and established a perimeter, they said.

After negotiations to try to get the barricaded man to leave the bank failed, Highlands County SWAT officers entered the bank and continued the negotiations.

Xaver eventually surrendered to the SWAT team, authorities said.

Mary Lutz, who said she was vacationing in Sebring, saw what was going on.

"I said, 'Oh my gosh, look, there's helicopters.' We came up this way, I went, 'Oh my God, look in the window; everything is gone and the SWAT team is there.'"

Earlier, the Sheriff's Office had posted on Twitter that "co-workers and family members of anyone who was at the SunTrust branch during today's incident should go to a nearby hotel, Inn on the Lakes, for more information." They stressed that only family and coworkers should go to the hotel.

The situation was confined to the bank, and there was no danger to the surrounding area, authorities said.

U.S. 27 has been reopened after being closed in both directions for the investigation. Nearby schools also had been placed on lockdown.

"I can't say how horrific this is for our small little county," Highlands County Commissioner Don Elwell told Spectrum News.

Officials plan to hold another news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday.

"This individual will face swift justice," Gov. Ron DeSantis said.