5 fatally shot inside Florida bank, suspect arrested

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Law enforcement officers stand near a Florida Department of Law Enforcement vehicle that is parked in front of SunTrust Bank branch on Jan. 23, 2019, in Sebring, Florida, where authorities say five people were shot and killed. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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Law enforcement officials take cover outside a SunTrust Bank branch on Jan. 23, 2019, in Sebring, Florida. Authorities say they've arrested a man who fired shots inside the Florida bank. (The News Sun via AP)
Updated 24 January 2019
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5 fatally shot inside Florida bank, suspect arrested

  • Authorities identified the suspect as 21-year-old Zephen Xaver, who was arrested at the SunTrust branch
  • Investigators did not offer any potential motive, and a police spokesman said he did not know if the attack began as a robbery

SEBRING, Florida: A gunman opened fire inside a Florida bank Wednesday, killing five people before surrendering to a SWAT team, police said.
The shooter called police to report that he had fired shots inside the bank in Sebring, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) southeast of Tampa. Negotiations failed to persuade the barricaded man to leave the building. The SWAT team then entered the bank, and the gunman eventually gave up, police said.
“Today’s been a tragic day in our community,” Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund told a news conference. “We’ve suffered significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime.”
Authorities identified the suspect as 21-year-old Zephen Xaver, who was arrested at the SunTrust branch, Hoglund said.
Xaver briefly was an online student of Salt Lake City-based Stevens-Henager College. A spokeswoman for the college, Sherrie Martin, confirmed that Xaver was enrolled from September 2018 until December, when he withdrew. She said his residence was listed as Sebring.
Investigators did not offer any potential motive, and a police spokesman said he did not know if the attack began as a robbery. The dead were not immediately identified.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was in the region for an infrastructure tour and traveled to Sebring after the shooting. He said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would assist Sebring police and the Highlands County sheriff’s office.
“Obviously, this is an individual who needs to face very swift and exacting justice,” DeSantis said of the suspect.
An FBI mobile command unit arrived at the bank Wednesday evening to join the investigation.
Late Wednesday, police investigators still swarmed the bank, which sits between a hotel and a hair salon located in a business district of US 27. The four-lane highway passes through farming communities and small towns as it connects South Florida and central Florida.
Meanwhile, police had wrapped up work at Xaver’s nicely maintained, pre-fabricated home about 4 miles (6.5 kilometers) from the bank.
John Larose, who lives next door to Xaver’s home, said Xaver and his mother had moved in several months ago. Xaver kept to himself, but Larose said he could hear Xaver playing and yelling at video games in the middle of the night.
SunTrust Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers released a statement saying the bank was “working with officials and dedicating ourselves to fully addressing the needs of all the individuals and families involved.”
The bank’s “entire team mourns this terrible loss,” he said.
Sebring is a small, rural city northwest of Lake Okeechobee. The Sebring International Raceway hosts an annual WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race.


US vice president Mike Pence accuses Iran of Nazi-like anti-Semitism

Updated 19 min 27 sec ago
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US vice president Mike Pence accuses Iran of Nazi-like anti-Semitism

AUSCHWITZ, Poland: US Vice President Mike Pence accused Iran on Friday of anti-Semitism akin to the Nazis following his visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland that had strengthened his resolve to act against Tehran.
"We have the regime in Tehran that's breathing out murderous threats, with the same vile anti-Semitic hatred that animated the Nazis in Europe," Pence told reporters on Air Force Two before landing in Munich.
He said that being in Auschwitz had made him reflect to "strengthen the resolve of the free world to oppose that kind of vile hatred and to confront authoritarian threats of our time."
His comments at the former Nazi concentration camp came a day after he said Iran was the “greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East” at a conference on the region taking place in Warsaw.
Pence accused Washington's European allies of trying to break US sanctions against Tehran and called on them to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
"Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative. In fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions," Pence said.
Pence added that his country will keep a strong presence in the Middle East, continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with allies, and work with coalition partners to defeat Daesh to make the region safe for peace and prosperity.
He also said that there are winds of change happening in the region, with the recent historic visit of Pope Francis to the UAE and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Oman.