At least five killed in shooting at SunTrust branch in Florida

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Police have taken a man into custody after he shot and killed multiple people during a hostage situation inside a SunTrust Bank branch in Sebring, Fla., early Wednesday.

The Sebring Police Department responded to a call from a man saying he had fired shots inside the SunTrust branch on U.S. 27 South around 12:36 p.m. The SWAT team from the Highland County Sheriff’s Office soon joined Sebring police and set up a perimeter around the bank.

Police tried to persuade the suspect to leave the branch, but when that proved unsuccessful, the SWAT team entered the bank to continue negotiations. In a statement posted to Facebook, Sebring Police said that the shooter, identified as Zephen Xaver, age 21, eventually surrendered.

"Today’s been a tragic day in our community," Sebring police chief Karl Hoglund said at a press conference late Wednesday. "We’ve suffered significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime."

Hoglund said that at least five people were killed in the standoff. He did not say if the victims were bank employees, customers or both. It was also not immediately clear if the shooter had any connection to the bank.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic shooting at our Sebring, Florida branch this afternoon," SunTrust Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers said in an email sent to reporters. "We are working with officials and dedicating ourselves to fully addressing the needs of all the individuals and families involved. Our entire team mourns this terrible loss."

The Atlanta bank is "working closely with officials and seeking to take care of everyone affected," a spokesman said.

Banks have generally been spared the very worst active shooter situations in recent years, but last fall, a gunman opened fire on the ground floor of Fifth Third’s headquarters in Cincinnati.

That shooting happened on the loading dock and in the lobby, not inside a bank branch. Three people died and two were critically injured. The shooter was also killed in a gunfight with police. He had no apparent connection to the bank or the building, and his motive has remained unknown.

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