Motive unknown in Florida bank shooting, gunman no connection to victims: police

The former prison guard who confessed to fatally shooting five women in a Florida bank Wednesday had no connection to his victims or the bank, police said.

Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said officials don't know why 21-year-old Zephen Xaver targeted the SunTrust Bank branch and “shot everyone in the bank.”

He said at a news conference Thursday that Xaver entered the bank around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday with a gun and opened fire, killing four female employees and one customer inside the bank at the time. No one else was inside the bank.

“After shooting them, he called 911 [and] told dispatchers that he’d killed everyone in the bank,” Hoglund said.


When police arrived at the scene, the doors were locked and Xaver would not allow authorities into the building after more than an hour of negotiations. Eventually, Xaver surrendered to authorities.

By the time a SWAT team breached the building “all the victims had succumbed to their injuries,” Hoglund said.

A police affidavit said all five women were found lying face down in the bank’s lobby with gunshot wounds to the back of their heads. Shell casings from the Xaver’s 9 mm handgun were scattered on the floor.

The SWAT team found Xaver in an office in the rear of the building and he was taken into custody without incident. He has been charged with five counts of premeditated murder.

He was ordered held without bond Thursday.

Hoglund identified two of the victims as Cynthia Watson, a 65-year-old bank customer, and Marisol Lopez, a 55-year-old bank employee.

A third victim, 38-year-old Ana Pinon-Williams, was identified later Wednesday during a news conference held by her brother-in-law Tim Williams.

“Her life was truly a light in this world, she made it a better place,” he said of Pinon-Williams. “We are determined to let Ana’s memory be marked by the life she lived, the people she loved and the difference she made.”

Pinon-Williams was a bank employee and was married with seven children.

And, on Thursday night, a fourth victim was identified as 31-year-old Jessica Montague. Her husband, Maine, told NBC News the couple has a 3-year-old child. The fifth victim's identity was not yet known.


Police said Xaver, 21, had moved to Florida from Indiana less than a year ago and had been fired as a trainee prison guard at Avon Park Correctional Institution on Nov. 2. He resigned Jan. 9 and had no disciplinary issues, Florida Department of Corrections records show.

A woman who identified herself as Xaver’s ex-girlfriend told a television station he had long been fascinated with the idea of killing people.

Florida law enforcement responded to a bank Wednesday afternoon after a suspect claimed to dispatch that he’d opened fire inside, authorities said.

Florida law enforcement responded to a bank Wednesday afternoon after a suspect claimed to dispatch that he’d opened fire inside, authorities said. (Highlands News – Sun)

Alex Gerlach told WSBT-TV, in South Bend, Indiana, that 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,” she said. “Every single person I’ve told has not taken it seriously, and it’s very unfortunate that it had to come to this.”

Gerlach told The Washington Post that Xaver said he purchased a gun last week and "no one thought anything of it" because he had always liked guns.


This was at least the fourth mass shooting in Florida, with five or more 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 in 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.

Fox News' Paulina Dedaj and The Associated Press contributed to this report.