A man accused of trying to rob a Bank of America was shot and killed by a sniper when he became aggressive toward a hostage, a Florida sheriff said.
The man, identified in a Facebook post as 36-year-old Sterling Ramon Alavache, walked into a Bank of America in Fort Myers around 11 a.m., Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said during a news conference.
Marceno said the sheriff’s office got a call about a “bank robbery in process with multiple hostages” shortly after.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Marceno said, joined by FBI agents. “It was a chaotic scene. We deployed all technology, that’s the robo-dog, our SWAT team, the electronic surveillance, drones.”
Deputies rushed into the building as dozens of people inside came pouring out, Marceno said.
The rest of the building was secured, according to the sheriff, and hostage negotiators made contact with Alavache inside the bank.
The man had a knife, Marceno said, and had taken two people hostage as he claimed to have a bomb.
“At one point during negotiations, he became physical,” the sheriff said. “He started to put one of the hostages in like a headlock, and he had the knife to her throat.”
The sheriff said when Alavache started to show potentially “deadly force,” a sniper from the SWAT team shot and killed him.
Both hostages were unharmed and safely rescued from the bank, Marceno said.
The shooter on the SWAT team will be placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues, as per the office’s policy, the sheriff said.
“This is exactly what we train for. We train for worst-case scenario. We train for hostage negotiations. And what that means, going from worst-case to best scenario. This is a very unfortunate incident, but I will tell you the two hostages being safe was our top priority,” Marceno said.
Alavache was a convicted felon and had faced charges of drug trafficking, aggravated assault and carrying a concealed firearm from several states.
The investigation is “open and active,” the sheriff said, and more details are expected to be released.
Fort Myers is about 130 miles south of Tampa.
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