FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — A robber at a Florida bank took hostages after law enforcement arrived and was killed by a sheriff’s sniper as he held a woman in a headlock with a knife to her throat, authorities said.
Negotiators tried to defuse the situation Tuesday at a Bank of America branch in Fort Myers, but the suspect instead took two hostages in the building, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said.
“We were in fear for her safety,” Marceno told reporters. “This is exactly what we train for. We train for worst-case scenarios.”
The suspect was identified as Sterling Ramon Alavache, 36. None of the hostages was injured, and there were initially more people in the bank, but they escaped once deputies arrived. Alavache had a knife and claimed to have a bomb, but authorities did not immediately confirm that.
The sheriff’s office response included a robotic dog, drones, a battering ram and a SWAT team.
“It was a chaotic scene,” Marceno said.
Brett Sands told NBC 2 he works on the fifth floor of the building for a consulting firm.
“It wasn’t until the police came and started banging on doors that we realized that it was something more serious than just someone coming and threatening to rob the bank,” Sands said, adding that he and others had to take an Uber home because their car was still behind yellow police tape.
Charlie Lopez, a local radio host, said he was getting lunch near the bank. He watched the sniper shooting from his car and provided details to his followers on Facebook.
“I’ve never seen any of this before,” Lopez told Fox 4 News. “I didn’t even know the county had this. You see, in the video, it almost looks like they lift up the sniper in the air. Then they have a battering ram. I’ve never experienced seeing all of Lee County’s arsenal. They had drones, they had cameras.”
The deputy who killed the man was placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation, which is normal department policy.