SEBRING, Fla. - The man accused of fatally shooting five people inside a Sun Trust bank in Sebring was denied bail Thursday morning during his first appearance in front of a judge.
Zephen Xaver, 21, was booked into the Highlands County Jail just before midnight Wednesday.
According to an arrest report obtained by Channel 9 reporter Ken Tyndall, five women were shot execution-style and found lying on the ground.
“We will continue to pray for the families who lost loved ones,” Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman said during a Thursday news conference.
Investigators said Xaver called 911 Wednesday afternoon to say he had shot five people inside a SunTrust bank on U.S. 27 South in Sebring.
Sebring Police Department Chief Karl Hoglund said during the news conference that Xaver “knowingly and intentionally took the lives of our family members.”
Hoglund said several of the victims’ family members asked to not release the victims’ names. Others asked police to release their family members’ identity.
Three of the victims were identified as customer Cynthia Watson and employees Marisol Lopez and Ana Piñon-Williams. The other victims were women and employees of the bank.
Hoglund said there was no known motive for the killings.
“We believe that it was a random act,” he said.
Watch the latest news conference below:
When officers arrived, Xaver had barricaded himself inside the bank, officials said.
“He (Xaver) overtook the bank by force. He then shot everybody in the bank,” Hoglund said.
Hoglund said Xaver was not going to allow agents to access the victims in the bank, and Hoglund then made the decision to send in the SWAT team.
The SWAT team used an armored vehicle to breach the door, authorities said.
Xaver surrendered as law enforcement officers emerged and found the bodies of five people, investigators said.
Xaver was charged with five counts of first-degree murder.
Neighbors who live near Xaver’s family said they never would have expected those actions from him and were surprised by his arrest.
“I never would allow my 9-year-old around someone that I thought was a dangerous person, and I damn sure did not remotely get any type of inkling that he was dangerous,” neighbor Sharon Spillane said.
But, a woman identifying herself as Xaver’s ex-girlfriend, Alex Gerlach, said he often thought about hurting people and has long been fascinated with death and guns, according to The Associated Press.
Gerlach said she tried to warn people about Xaver's potential for harm, and that Xaver "always hated people and wanted everybody to die," according to AP.
LISTEN BELOW: Ex-girlfriend of Zephen Xaver talks to ABC News
“They are just innocent people living life, providing for their families like we all do every day. They had no idea today was their last day,“ bank customer Jose Sanchez said.
Victor and Deanna Sparks said they were making a midday stop at the bank when they noticed the doors were locked. When Victor Sparks looked inside, he saw something that prompted him to call police.
"They were on their stomachs, and there was an individual walking behind them," said Sparks.
The FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are assisting local authorities with the investigation. Gov. Ron DeSantis offered support to all law enforcement.
I’ve directed FDLE to provide the necessary resources at the state level to assist with the ongoing investigation. This is an individual that needs to face very swift and exacting justice.— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 23, 2019
“The people of Florida stand with the community here in light of this tragic circumstance," DeSantis said.
SunTrust Bank released the following statement:
"We are working closely with officials and seeking to take care of everyone affected at our Sebring, Florida branch. We will provide more information as soon as we can."
Xaver was hired by the Avon Park Correctional Institution as a correctional officer trainee in November, but he resigned Jan. 9, according to a press secretary with the Florida Department of Corrections.
I want to thank both the Sebring Police Department and the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office for their response and continued efforts during this tragedy.— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 23, 2019
© 2019 Cox Media Group.