Ex-Prison Guard In Training Shoots Five at Bank in Florida

February 2019


A former prison guard trainee, Zephen Xaver, who had previously expressed interest in killing people, shot five people in a bank in Florida on Wednesday, January 23. His ex-girlfriend told a CBS/FOX affiliated TV Station signals were ignored when it was clear that he was going to do something suspicious.


“For some reason he always hated people and wanted everybody to die,” Alex Gerlach told WSBT-TV in Indiana, shortly after Wednesday’s massacre in Sebring. “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,” Gerlach said.


Gerlach told the Washington Post that no one was suspicious of Xaver, 21, buying a gun because he had always expressed interest in guns. Their neighbors said that Xaver and his mother moved to Sebring in the fall from Plymouth, Indiana, a small city south of South Bend.


According to investigators, he turned himself into the police, telling them that he had shot five people inside of SunTrust Bank.


Then he barricaded himself inside and when negotiations failed, the SWAT team burst in, capturing Xaver and discovering the bodies, police said. Investigators did not offer a possible motive, and a police spokesman said he did not know if the attack began as a robbery. The victims were not immediately identified. No one else was inside the bank.


“Today’s been a tragic day in our community,” Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said during a news conference. “We’ve suffered significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime.”

Witness Stefan Roehrig told WFLA in St. Petersburg, Florida that the SWAT team attached cables to the door handles but ended up pulling the handles off, so they drove the strong vehicle into the bank. They then led Xaver out in handcuffs.


Florida Department of Corrections records show that Xaver was hired as a trainee prison guard at Avon Park Correctional Institution on November 2 and resigned January 9. No disciplinary issues were reported. Xaver lived in a non-descript instant home about 4 miles (6.5 kilometers) from the bank. No one answered the door Wednesday night after police finished searching the home.


John Larose, who lives next door, said Xaver didn’t reveal any information about what he was doing, but he could hear him playing and yelling at video games in the middle of the night.


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.


This was at least the fourth mass shooting in Florida with at least five people dead in the last three years. A gunman killed 49 at an Orlando nightclub in 2016, five died at the Fort Lauderdale airport in 2017 and 17 died last February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in a Fort Lauderdale suburb.

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.