A suspected robber holding two people hostage at knifepoint inside a Florida bank was shot and killed Tuesday by a law enforcement sniper during a tense standoff, authorities said.
The suspect, identified by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office as Sterling Ramon Alavache, 36, had a long criminal history, which included drug trafficking, aggravated assault, and carrying a concealed firearm from several states, officials said.
Deputies responded to a Bank of America branch located near Bell Tower Shops in Fort Meyers just after 11 a.m. following a call about a bank robber holding several hostages, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno told reporters, alongside the FBI.
As deputies ran inside the bank to secure the area, dozens of people ran out, Marceno said.
“Quickly, we were face-to-face with a male suspect who was armed with a knife,” the sheriff said. “He also claimed he had a bomb.”
Alavache had two hostages and authorities tried to initiate negotiations, Marceno said. At one point, he allegedly put one of the hostages in a headlock and put a knife to her throat.
“When he presented deadly force like that, our SWAT sniper shot and killed the suspect,” Marceno said. “We were in fear for her life and her safety.”
Both hostages were safe, he said. The SWAT sniper will be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting.
“It’s a sad day when innocent lives are placed in jeopardy due to the senseless acts of others,” Marceno later said in a statement posted to social media. “My family members were faced with a tough decision today to neutralize an active threat to the public during a very volatile situation.
“Let this serve as a reminder of how important it is to remain vigilant. I’m beyond grateful none of the victims or my team were injured today.”