Fifth Third seeks to regroup after fatal shootings at its HQ branch

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Fifth Third Bancorp was faced with a crisis situation Thursday after a gunman opened fire in and around the branch at its downtown Cincinnati headquarters and killed three people.

Police said the shooter also died in a gunfight with officers in the building lobby.

One of the victims died on the scene, and two died after being taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Two others were said to be in critical and serious conditions in the afternoon, according to local news reports. It was unclear whether the victims were customers, employees or both.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone caught up in this terrible event,” Fifth Third CEO Greg Carmichael said in a statement emailed to American Banker. “We continue to work with law enforcement as we ensure the safety of our employees and customers. We are grateful for the support and concerns from our neighbors throughout Cincinnati and the country.”

Fifth Third offered an identical update via Twitter, saying: “Earlier today, an active shooter entered our headquarters building in downtown Cincinnati. The situation is contained and the shooter is no longer a threat.”

According to local news reports, authorities evacuated the building after the event occurred. Fifth Third employees did not return to work later that day.

Authorities said they did not know the shooter’s motive in the Thursday morning violence. He was not a current or former employee of the bank, Fifth Third said.

Police received the call from 38 Fountain Square around 9:10 a.m., Chief Eliot Isaac said at a news conference. Police had secured the area by 9:15.

According to Isaac, the shooter opened fire upon entering the bank via the loading dock area. He proceeded to the lobby and continued firing; some witnesses told local news that they heard no fewer than a dozen shots ring out across Fountain Square.

One witness related a particularly heartbreaking detail to local news outlets: Several people tried to warn a woman against walking into the bank, but she did not hear them, as she was wearing headphones. She was shot as soon as she entered the building.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also responded to the scene in Fountain Square. A weapon was reportedly recovered, though not identified.

Later on Thursday, a local news outlet reported that authorities were searching a home in North Bend, Ohio, believed to be that of the shooter. The ATF’s bomb squad was reportedly searching the area and had evacuated the other residents of that apartment building.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Thursday’s shooting was the 15th mass shooting in the area, and also the deadliest, since 2013.

At a news conference Thursday morning, Mayor John Cranley called it “horrific, grotesque, unacceptable” and “a sickness.”

He said, “We’ve got to deal with this as a country.”

The American Bankers Association expressed its support for bank officials, employees and others. “Our hearts go out to all those affected by this horrific tragedy," spokeswoman Sarah Grano wrote in an email. "We are in contact with our colleagues at Fifth Third, and we stand ready to assist them in any way we can.”

James Thurston, a spokesman for the Ohio Bankers League, called it "just a shocking situation for all of us here in Ohio" and said league officials are confident in the bank's ability to overcome the tragedy.

"Fifth Third has such a strong culture that I am sure they will be doing everything they can really to help their employees and the wider community during this sad situation," Thurston said.

Though active shooter situations have become an all-too-common event in the U.S., banks have generally been spared the worst of the headlines in recent years.

An FBI report covering 50 active shooter situations in 2016 and 2017 named only one instance involving a bank: In March 2017, a man started shooting inside of the Marathon Savings Bank in Rothschild, Wis., where his estranged wife had worked. He killed two bank employees there before heading to a nearby law firm, where he shot and killed his estranged wife’s lawyer. Police apprehended the shooter after a gunfight at his apartment that also left one police officer dead. The shooter was injured during the fight and died a few days later.

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