Sebring Bank Shooting


Tyler Kieft, Staff Writer

On the morning of January 23, 2019 at 12:36 p.m. authorities were contacted about a shooting at a SunTrust bank in Sebring, Florida, which left five people dead in the wakes of a killer. The call was made by the man himself, Zephen Xaver, stating “I have shot five people,” before barricading himself inside the bank until the SWAT team was able to break in. Arrested, Xaver was charged with five counts of premeditated murder.

According to the authorities, Xaver took hostages at the bank, forced them to lie down, and then began shooting. It’s worth noting that all the hostages were innocent women in which he had no affiliations with. When processing the incident, the police force came to the conclusion that the shooting was a random act of violence. Police Chief Karl Hoglund made a statement saying, “We believe that it was a random act. We do not believe that anybody was specifically targeted. Today’s been a tragic day in our community. We’ve suffered a significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime.”

Not long after the massacre, Xaver’s ex-girlfriend and family came out to give their comments on what he had done. According to Alex Gerlach, his ex, Zephen Xaver “for some reason always hated people and wanted everybody to die. 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, and he’s been having dreams about it and everything. Every single person I’ve told has not taken it seriously, and it’s very unfortunate that it had to come to this.”

It seems that Zephen’s father, Josh Xaver, was one of those disbelievers, stating that “he 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.” Josh doesn’t elaborate on what he means by ‘troubles’ but it’s clear from his response that this occurrence was completely unexpected.

When interviewed, Xaver’s neighbor, John Larose also gave his thoughts on the killer. According to Larose, his anger issues were apparent through the walls of their homes, from his yelling at video games in the middle of the night, which could be heard by Larose clearly.

Governor Ron DeSantis happened to be in the region for an infrastructure tour at the time and got a chance to speak on the matter. “Obviously, this is an individual who needs to face very swift and exacting justice,” DeSantis stated, also adding that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would be helping Sebring and Highlands County police in the case.

SunTrust released a statement saying that the bank’s “entire team mourns this terrible loss” and that they are “working with officials and dedicating ourselves to fully addressing the needs of all the individuals and families involved.”

This is the fourth mass shooting in Florida with five or more dead in the last three years, added alongside the Pulse shooting in 2016 (49 dead), the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting in 2017 (5 dead), and the Parkland shooting in 2018 (17 dead). Something needs to be done to stop these tragedies from occurring almost everyday across the United States.