The Latest: Witness says he heard big bang

SEBRING, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the killings of five people inside a bank in Sebring, Florida (all times local):

1 p.m.

A man who was trying to make a deposit at the bank where five women were fatally shot says he saw the shooting victims through the doorway and someone walking among them.

Victor Sparks is quoted by the Highlands News-Sun as saying that he and his wife went to the bank Wednesday but he couldn’t get in because the door was locked.

Sparks says when he peered inside, he saw people lying on the floor and someone walking among them.

He says that as he turned and walked away, he heard a big bang. Sparks says he and his wife, Deanna Sparks, then called 911. He says police arrived on the scene within two minutes.


12:15 p.m.

Police say some of the names of the Florida bank shooting victims will not be released under a new state law passed by voters in November.

Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said at a news conference Thursday that authorities would withhold the identities of three of the five female victims at the request of their relatives.

The decision marks the first high-profile use of the victim-shielding provision of a new constitutional amendment similar to a 2008 California initiative called Marsy’s Law.

The amendment establishes the right to prevent disclosure of information that can be used to locate or harass victims or their relatives.

Police have identified Wednesday’s shooter as 21-year-old Zephen Xaver, who had recently moved to Florida from Indiana.

He has been charged with five counts of premeditated murder.

(This item has been edited to clarify the reference to the constitutional amendment)


11:45 a.m.

Police say the man who confessed to fatally shooting five women in a Florida bank would not let authorities into the branch after more than an hour of negotiations.

Sebring, Florida, Police Chief Karl Hoglund said at a news conference Thursday that by the time a SWAT team breached the building “unfortunately, all victims had succumbed to their injuries.”

A police affidavit says all five women were found lying face down in the bank’s lobby Wednesday with gunshots to the backs of their heads. The affidavit says shell casings from the shooter’s 9 mm handgun were scattered on the floor, and authorities found the shooter in an office in the rear of the bank.

Police have identified the shooter as 21-year-old Zephen Xaver, who had recently moved to Florida from Indiana.

He has been charged with five counts of premeditated murder.

(This item has been edited to correct that the details of how the shooting victims were found were contained in an affidavit, not released by the police chief).


11:30 a.m.

Sebring, Florida Police Chief Karl Hoglund says they have no known motive for a massacre inside the SunTrust Bank branch.

He says 21-year-old Zephen Xaver has been charged with five counts of premeditated murder in the shooting deaths of four bank employees and a customer, all of them women. The chief says the shooter had no apparent connection to the women or the bank.

He says Xaver “overtook the bank by force. He then shot everyone in the bank.” And “after shooting them, he called 911” and “told dispatchers that he’d killed everyone in the bank.”

The chief said some of the families don’t want their names released, citing Florida’s version of a victims’ rights law, but he did identify two of them — customer Cynthia Watson and bank employee Marisol Lopez. He said the community is mourning the loss of “our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and our co-workers.”


11:10 a.m.

The father of an Indiana man who called police saying he killed five people inside a Florida bank branch says his son “wasn’t raised to be like this.”

Josh Xaver told CNN he’s “heartbroken for the victims” of his son, Zephen Xaver.

Xaver said his son “wasn’t raised to be like this. He’s always been a good kid. He’s had his troubles, but he has never hurt anyone ever before. This is a total shock.”

The Associated Press has reached out to both parents of Zephen Xaver requesting interviews, with no immediate response.


10:45 a.m.

The superintendent of a northern Indiana school district says a man accused of fatally shooting five people inside a Florida bank branch attended classes there for portions of two school years several years ago.

But Superintendent Jim White of Bremen Public Schools says federal law prevents him from disclosing any details about any former student’s school record.

White’s statement Thursday said the district offers its “deepest condolences” to “friends, family members, and others impacted” by Wednesday’s shooting in Sebring, Florida. He called it “a sobering reminder of how quickly a tragedy can befall upon any community.”

White said suspected 21-year-old gunman Zephen Xaver attended Bremen High School for a portion of the 2012-13 school year and returned for a “brief period” the next year.

White told The Associated Press that Xaver did not graduate from the school after attending classes there during what would have been his senior year.


9:50 a.m.

A man who dialed 911 from inside a bank branch where he said he killed five people is being held without bond on five counts of premeditated murder.

Twenty-one-year-old Zephen Xaver was appointed a public defender during a brief court appearance in Highlands County on Thursday morning. He wore a black-and-white striped prison uniform.

Sebring police say Xaver called them from inside the SunTrust Bank branch in central Florida Wednesday to report that he had opened fire. He barricaded himself inside and when negotiations failed, the SWAT team burst in, capturing Xaver and discovering the bodies.


7:50 a.m.

A witness is describing how police finally captured the suspect in a mass shooting inside a bank in Sebring, Florida.

Stefan Roehrig told WFLA-Ch. 8 that a SWAT team tried to storm the bank with an armored vehicle.

He says deputies attached cables to the door handles, but instead of ripping the doors open they just pulled the handles off. So Roehrig said deputies then drove the armored vehicle right through the doors. He says the SWAT team soon led the gunman out in handcuffs.

Zephen Xaver is in custody now, held for the deaths of five people.


7:10 a.m.

A woman identifying herself as the ex-girlfriend of the suspect in a mass shooting inside a Florida bank says he often thought about hurting people and has long been fascinated with death and guns.

WSBT in South Bend, Indiana, reported that Alex Gerlach said she tried to warn people about Zephen Xaver’s potential for harm. Xaver was arrested by a SWAT team inside a SunTrust Bank branch in Sebring, Florida, on Wednesday after he called 911 to say he opened fire. Five people were killed.

Gerlach told the station in a phone interview that for some reason, Xaver “always hated people and wanted everybody to die.”

She said “he got kicked out of school for having a dream that he killed everybody in his class, and he’s been threatening this for so long.”

Gerlach said “every single person I’ve told has not taken it seriously, and it’s very unfortunate that it had to come to this.”

The Washington Post also interviewed Gerlach, reporting among other things that Xaver told her last week that he had purchased a gun. She told the Post that “no one thought anything of it” because he had always liked guns.

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