UPDATE: Florida bank shooting suspect 'wanted everybody to die,' ex-girlfriend says
UPDATE: SEBRING, Fla. — 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 and has long been fascinated with death and guns.
WSBT in South Bend, Indiana, reported that Alex Gerlach said she tried to warn people about Zephen Xaver's potential for harm. Xaver was arrested by a SWAT team inside a SunTrust Bank branch in Sebring, Florida, on Wednesday after he called 911 to say he opened fire. Five people were killed.
Gerlach told the station in a phone interview that for some reason, Xaver "always hated people and wanted everybody to die."
She said "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."
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."
The Washington Post also interviewed Gerlach, reporting among other things 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.
Xaver, a former prison guard trainee who recently moved to Florida from Indiana, allegedly killed five people during a standoff at a small town bank before surrendering to a SWAT team that stormed the building, police said.
Investigators said Xaver, 21, called police from inside the SunTrust Bank branch Wednesday to report that he had opened fire. 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.
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," 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."
He said more information would be released at a Thursday morning press conference.
PREVIOUS STORY: A suspected gunman was in custody Wednesday after five people were shot dead at a SunTrust bank in Sebring, Florida, according to police and local officials.
The Highlands County Sheriff's Office said a SWAT team stormed the bank after negotiations failed and the suspect "eventually surrendered."
Highlands County Commissioner Don Elwell told NBC News.
Sebring police officials say the suspect called authorities around 12:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday and said he had opened fire inside the bank, according to NBC affiliate WFLA.
The Sebring police also released a statement on Facebook advising people of an "ongoing law enforcement incident."
"US 27 is shut down in both directions from Golfview to Drive to Lakeview Drive due to an ongoing law enforcement incident," the post said. "Co-workers and family members of anyone who was at the SunTrust branch during today's incident should go to Inn on the Lakes."
A spokeswoman for SunTrust said in a statement that the bank is working with law enforcement.
"We are working closely with officials and seeking to take care of everyone involved," the statement said.
Sebring is in central Florida, about two hours south of Orlando.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.