NewsDeSoto, Highlands, Hardee County


Hundreds come out and race to raise money for the families of the SunTrust bank shooting victims

Posted at 12:19 PM, Mar 24, 2019

SEBRING, Fla. — The whistled sounded right at 8:05 a.m. and they were off. Over 350 people in Sebring, racing with a purpose much greater than a winning title.

"This community is just so strong," said Sue Ryan.

RELATED: Five women dead after shooting at SunTrust Bank in Sebring; 21-year-old suspect denied bond

Ryan is one of the many who will never forget what happened on January 23, around 12:30 p.m.

"It rocked the community," Ryan said.

According to police, 21-year-old Zephen Xaver walked into the SunTrust Bank on U.S. Highway 27 and started shooting.

Marisol Lopez, 55, Cynthia Watson, 65, Ana Williams, 38, Jessica Montague, 31, and Debra Cook, 54, were killed.

"Our hearts go out to those five ladies, their families, and the co-workers," said Mayor John Shoop.

Many of the runners said that the shooting changed Sebring, but it didn't break their community.

HIGHLANDS COUNTY NEWS | The latest headlines from Highlands County

"It's a wonderful place to live, which is why it hit us so hard," said Ryan.

Mayor Shoop found comfort in seeing the hundreds who showed up to run or walk in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters 5K.

"It's very encouraging," he said.

Every dollar earned will go to the families of the victims.

The mayor and others said they'd like to see the 5K become an annual event. Organizers have talked about doing it, but they haven't made a decision on that yet.