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A Florida Gunman Killed Five Women Inside A Bank In A "Random Attack," Police Say

Authorities believe that the 21-year-old shooter did not "intentionally target" any of the five women he killed inside SunTrust bank in Sebring.

Last updated on January 25, 2019, at 1:13 p.m. ET

Posted on January 24, 2019, at 1:33 p.m. ET

Chris O'meara / AP

Authorities believe the 21-year-old gunman who killed five people inside the SunTrust bank in Sebring, Florida, did not "intentionally target" any of them.

All five victims were women, police said at a news conference on Thursday.

Four of the victims were bank employees, including Marisol Lopez, 55; Ana Piñon-Williams, 38; and Jessica Montague, 31. A bank customer, Cynthia Watson, 65, was also killed in the shooting, police said.

Authorities said they were not going to identify the fifth victim to honor her family's request in accordance with Marsy's Law, a statute that protects victims' rights.

The suspect, Zephen Xaver, was formally charged with five counts of premeditated first-degree murder. He is being held in Highlands County Jail after a judge refused to grant him bond on Thursday.

NBC 2

Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said Thursday that authorities did not have information about the gunman's motive.

"We believe it was a random attack," Hoglund said. "We do not believe anyone was specifically targeted."

Authorities added they did not believe there was an attempt to rob the bank.

A woman who told media outlets that she dated Xaver on and off for three years said he often talked about hurting people and was fascinated by guns and death.

Alex Gerlach told the Washington Post that Xaver had recently bought a handgun, but that "no one thought anything of it" because he had always liked guns.

“Since the time we met he had this fascination with death,” she told the Post. “It got worse as we broke up."

Gerlach told WSBT that he "for some reason always hated people and wanted everyone to die."

Highland County Sheriff's Office

Zephen Xaver

At approximately 12:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Xaver allegedly entered the bank with a gun and immediately "overtook the bank by force," Hoglund said.

After shooting everyone in the bank, he called 911 at 12:36 p.m. and told dispatchers that he had killed all five people inside, Hoglund said.

Officers were at the scene in four minutes. During negotiations, the gunman indicated that he would not allow authorities access to the victims inside the bank. A SWAT team made a tactical entry into the bank at 1:54 p.m. and took him into custody at 2:28 p.m., police said.

All the victims had succumbed to their injuries inside the bank, Hoglund said.

The suspect "knowingly and intentionally took the lives of five of our community members, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, and our coworkers," Hoglund said through tears at the news conference. "Perhaps most unfortunate is that now we refer to them as victims of a senseless crime."

Marisol Lopez, who went by Marisol Rosado-Carmona on Facebook, had worked at SunTrust Bank for 20 years, according to Shelley Lopez, the bank's branch manager who hired Lopez as a teller in 1998.

"What always stood out about Marisol was her kindness, her giving heart, her sweet spirit, and her willingness to help everyone," Shelley Lopez said in Facebook post. "She never complained, never lost her temper, and had a work ethic second to none!"

Facebook

Marisol Lopez

Shelley added that Marisol "always went out of her way for others." She said that Marisol would take care of her "tiny new baby" during the days where Shelley had branch manager meetings.

The pastor of the Nuevo Pacto United Methodist Church where Marisol was a member asked for prayers for the woman's husband and children.

"Yesterday, the world lost this amazing lady in a senseless tragedy," Shelley Lopez's Facebook post said. "I am deeply saddened by the loss of Marisol and her co-workers. But I am forever grateful to have known her. She was a special person who will never be forgotten."

Ana Piñon-Williams, a mother to seven children, had recently started working at SunTrust bank, but she loved her work and her coworkers, her brother-in-law Tim Williams said at a press conference Thursday.

"Her life was truly a light in this world," Williams said. "She made it a better place."

This is a photo of Ana Piñon Williams - one of the victims in the Sebring bank shooting. She had only been on the job a few weeks. She was a wife and mother of 7 total children.

"We do not know what was going on in the mind of this individual when he committed this atrocious act," said Tim Williams. "He was influenced by the darkness in this world. We will not try to understand the darkness, but with God's help we will try and overcome it."

Jose Sanchez, a local resident and customer of the SunTrust branch, said he will remember employee Jessica Montague for her "beautiful smile."

"She always [had] a smile on her face," Sanchez said told BuzzFeed News. "She greets you all the time when you walk in the bank. She was friends with everybody she didn't know."

The 60-year-old Sebring resident said the tight-knit community was heartbroken over the loss of the five women.

"They’re watching down on us so we got to stay strong for them and not let fear take over our life," Sanchez said.

The gunman's Instagram and Facebook profiles were deleted after the shooting, a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, citing a policy of not allowing "mass murderers or the representation of them."

The spokesperson said the company will also delete any content that praises or supports the gunman or shooting.


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