A woman identifying herself as the ex-girlfriend of the suspect in a mass shooting inside a Florida bank says he often thought about hurting people as he was charged with five counts of first-degree murder.
Zephen Xaver was arrested by a SWAT team Wednesday inside a SunTrust Bank branch in Sebring, Florida after he called 911 to say he opened fire. Five people were killed in the shooting.
WSBT in South Bend, Indiana, reported that Alex Gerlach said she tried to warn people about Xaver’s potential for harm.
She told the station in a phone interview that for some reason, Xaver “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,” she said.
Gerlach said “every single person I’ve told has not taken it seriously, and it’s very unfortunate that it had to come to this.”
Xaver, armed with a 9mm handgun, stormed inside the SunTrust branch around 12:30 p.m. ET and “overtook the bank by force,” Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said during a press conference Thursday. Xaver then shot everyone inside the bank, he said.
“Yesterday our community suffered a tremendous loss at the hands of a heinous criminal,” Hoglund told reporters.
Xaver, a 21-year-old former prison guard trainee, was taken into custody just before 2:30 p.m. ET after negotiation attempts failed.
Five people were killed in the shooting, four of whom were employees at the bank, police said. Two of the victims were identified Thursday by authorities as Cynthia Watson and Marisol Lopez.
Lopez was a bank employee and Watson was a customer, according to police. One of the workers, a mother of two, had been hired only within the last couple weeks, sources told NBC News. All five victims were female and pronounced dead at the bank, officials said.
Another employee at the bank was able to escape out a back door and called 911, according to sources.
Police are still trying to determine a motive for the shooting, but said during the press conference they believe it may have been a random act. Investigators said it’s unclear if Xaver had any connection to the bank or anyone inside it at the time of the shooting.
He was wearing a T-shirt which appeared to depict the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from the Book of Revelation in the Bible, during the shooting.
“I would have never in a million years thought anything like this ever ever would have happened,” Sharon Spillane, a neighbor of Xaver’s and friends of his parents, told Fox13.
“They’re a very normal family, he was definitely a normal person,” she said, telling the station that she was “in shock” to learn that Xaver had been arrested for the mass shooting.
Gerlach also spoke with The Washington Post and said that Xaver told her last week that he had purchased a gun. She told the Post that “no one thought anything of it” because he had always liked guns.
Late Wednesday, police investigators still swarmed the bank, which sits between a hotel and a hair salon located in a business district of U.S. 27. The four-lane highway passes through farming communities and small towns as it connects South Florida and central Florida. Sebring, with 10,000 residents, is known internationally for its annual 12 Hours of Sebring endurance auto race that draws world-class drivers.
“Today’s been a tragic day in our community,” chief Hoglund said during a news conference Wednesday. “We’ve suffered significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime.”