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SEBRING (CBSMiami) – Police in a Central Florida city responded to a possible hostage situation at a bank on Wednesday, but it turned out to be something far worse.

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According to the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, the Sebring Police Department responded to an incident at a SunTrust Bank branch just after 12:30 p.m.

Police say a subject contacted their dispatch line and told them he had opened fire inside the bank.

Officers from the SPD and HCSO deputies responded to the bank and quickly established a perimeter.

Mugshot for 21-year-old Zephen Xaver (Source: Highlands County Sheriff’s Office)

Authorities say negotiation efforts failed when the subject refused to exit the bank, so a SWAT team entered the bank.

Some time after that, police say the subject surrendered to the SWAT officers.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis joined SPD Chief Karl Hoglund and Hhighlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman at a press conference held at HCSO headquarters.

It was there that police confirmed at least five people had been killed in the shooting.

The suspect in custody was identified as 21-year-old Zephen Xaver of Sebring.

“Today’s been a tragic day in our community,” said Hogland. “We’ve suffered significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime.”

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You can watch the entire press briefing below.


Police did not identify any of the victims and they are asking that co-workers and family members of anyone who was at the bank during the incident to go to the Inn on the Lakes, a nearby hotel.

“I didn’t realize it was this bank,” said customer Jose Sanchez. “A friend of mine works there. When they say five died, I was like oh my god, you gotta be kidding me.”

Earlier in the day, DeSantis tweeted that he had spoken to multiple authorities about the shooting and that he and his wife were praying for the victims.

The governor said during the press conference that he instructed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to provide any necessary resources at the state level to help with this ongoing investigation.

Authorities will not release any additional information until an 11 a.m. press conference on Thursday.

SunTrust Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers released the following statement on Twitter early Wednesday evening:

“We’re deeply saddened by the tragic shooting at our Sebring, FL branch. We’re working with law enforcement & are dedicated to supporting the people & families impacted by this horrible & senseless tragedy. Our entire team mourns this terrible loss.”

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Police are still in the early stages of their investigation.