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Sisters, wives, co-workers: 4 of 5 women killed in Florida bank shooting identified

1 victim will not be identified under new state law

SEBRING, Fla. – Authorities have identified some of the women killed Wednesday in a shooting at a Florida bank.

Sebring police Chief Karl Hoglund said some of the victims' families have asked that their family members not be identified. Out of respect for the families, Hoglund said he wouldn't release their names Thursday.

Two of the victims were identified Thursday morning as Cynthia Watson, 65, a SunTrust customer, and Marisol Lopez, 55, an employee at the branch.

Cynthia Watson (Courtesy: Family photo/WTSP)

 

Marisol Lopez (Courtesy: Family photo/WTSP)

A third victim, Ana Piñon-Williams, was identified Thursday afternoon by family members. According to her brother-in-law, Piñon-Williams, 38, was an employee at the bank and loved her work and co-workers.

Ana Piñon-Williams, 38, was one of five women killed in a mass shooting at Florida bank on Jan. 23, 2019.

Piñon-Williams was also a wife and mother to seven children.

"Ana was a wife to my brother, mother to seven children, daughter, sister and family to everyone she knew," Tim Williams said.

The Piñon-Williams family started a GoFundMe page to raise money for her children. You can donate here.

Hoglund did say all the victims are women and four were employees at the bank. 

The Associated Press reported Thursday evening Maine Montague told NBC News that his 31-year-old wife Jessica Montague, with whom he has a 3-year-old child, was killed in the shooting. 

Authorities confirmed Friday that Montague was the fourth bank employee killed in the shooting.

The decision to not release victims' names marks the first high-profile use of the new constitutional amendment, known as Marsy's Law, Florida voters approved in November, which establishes the right to prevent disclosure of information that can be used to locate or harass victims or their relatives.

The accused 21-year-old gunman was wearing a bullet proof vest during the attack, according to the incident report from the Highlands County Sheriff's Office. Another employee was in the break room when they heard gunfire. That employee ran out the back door and called 911, police said.

Zephen Xaver "knowingly and intentionally took the lives of our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and our co-workers," Hogland said, his voice shaking. "Perhaps (it's) most unfortunate that we will now know them as victims."

Sebring police said Xaver dialed 911 from inside the SunTrust bank branch Wednesday at 12:36 p.m. and said he killed five people. Hogland said Xaver made that call immediately after killing all five women.

The bank employee who escaped and a customer who tried to enter the bank at the time of the shooting also called 911. Authorities were at the bank within two minutes, police said.

"He immediately contacted bank employees and a bank customer and overtook the bank by force. He then shot everyone in the bank," Hoglund said.

The suspect barricaded himself inside and when negotiations failed, the SWAT team burst in, capturing Xaver and discovering the bodies, according to authorities.

All of the victims were women and were found lying face down in the bank with gunshots to the backs of their heads, Hoglund said. Shell casings from the shooter's 9 mm handgun were scattered on the floor, and authorities said they found the shooter in an office in the rear of the bank.

Xaver is being held without bond on five counts of premeditated murder after his first appearance before a judge the morning after the mass shooting.

Xaver was appointed a public defender Thursday morning during a brief court appearance in Highlands County. He wore a black-and-white striped prison uniform.

Authorities still do not know the motive behind the shooting.

"I don't know what his true intent was," Hogland said.

Tenth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brian Haas said in a few weeks they will assemble a grand jury and plan to indict Xaver on five counts of first-degree murder.

Sebring is about two hours south of Kissimmee. The Highlands County town is home to a population of 10,696 people, according to state records.

The Emmanuel United Church of Christ in Sebring will host a gathering Thursday night for grieving community members, reports CBS affiliate WTSP. Pastor George Miller said the church is open to anyone as a "safe place."


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