Florida Bank Shooting Was Almost Even Worse

One bank employee managed to escape out the back door and alert police; 5 were killed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 25, 2019 4:42 PM CST
Florida Bank Shooting Was Almost Even Worse
This Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, booking photo released by the Highlands County Sheriff's Office shows Zephen Xaver, 21, who was charged with five counts of premeditated murder in the shooting deaths of the four bank employees and a customer in Sebring, Fla.   (Highlands County Sheriff's Office via AP)

As awful as this week's fatal bank shooting in Florida was, it nearly was worse: A bank employee escaped the massacre that killed five women at a SunTrust branch by running out a back door when the gunfire began, according to a sheriff's office. The employee was in a back break room when the attack began in the Sebring bank, Highlands County Sheriff's Office spokesman Scott Dressel said Friday. "Upon hearing the shots, the employee ran out a back door and contacted law enforcement," Dressel told the AP. No additional information about the employee was released. Four SunTrust employees and a customer were killed in the bank's lobby. Zephen Xaver, 21, was arrested after a standoff with police and now faces five counts of premeditated murder. State Attorney Brian Haas has said it is likely that he will seek the death penalty.

The shooting appeared to be a random act, not part of a robbery, and Xaver had no connection to any of the victims, said Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund. Xaver recently moved from northern Indiana to Sebring, about 80 miles southeast of Tampa. He also recently quit his job as a prison guard trainee. An Indiana police department released a 2014 report in which Xaver, then 16, said he had dreams of hurting other students in a classroom. The Bremen Police Department report said the Bremen High School Principal contacted police after Xaver reported having the dream the previous night and again during a nap at school. The report said Xaver's mother agreed to take him to a behavioral health center. Police took no further action. (An ex-girlfriend says Xaver was fascinated with death.)

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