A Lee County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team ended a hostage situation at the Bank of America in Fort Myers, Florida, on Wednesday when a SWAT sniper shot and killed the suspect, who had taken a hostage and was restraining the victim in a headlock while also holding a knife to the victim’s throat. The suspect, later identified as 36-year-old Sterling Alavache, was claiming to be armed with a bomb, along with the kife seen by law enforcement.
The incident originally unfolded earlier that morning, around 11 AM, when police were called to the location of the Bank of America regarding reports that a man had entered the bank claiming that he had a bomb attached to him and that he was attempting to take hostages. It was unclear at the time if the suspect was attempting to rob the bank or if he had any other plans. When police arrived, along with a local FBI contingent, they surrounded the bank with armed officers. At the same time, witnesses saw officers escorting a shirtless man from the bank, with his hands behind his back and in zip ties.
Law enforcement personnel have surrounded the bank, and a shirtless man was seen being escorted by SWAT officers with his hands zip-tied behind his back. According to police, the man said that he was abducted from his home and had a bomb strapped to him. No other details or information has been provided by authorities in the area, and what appears to be an armed standoff is still ongoing.
The bank’s surveillance video system captured the moment when SWAT officers came into contact with Alavache in the bank. In the video, officers can be seen and heard on their body-worn cameras pleading with the suspect to surrender peacefully and that they wanted to work with him and for him to show them his hands. However, SWAT officers who were observing Alavache saw that he was holding a hostage close to himself and started to put the hostage into what they described as a “head-lock,” with his knife held to the victim’s throat. At that point, a SWAT officer can be heard on the body-worn camera firing a single round at Alavache, killing him.
Officers feared for the lives of the hostages and opened fire only after exhausting all other options to secure their safe release. Both of the two hostages were unharmed and were safely removed from the bank when the suspect was shot and killed. According to authorities, Alavache had an extensive criminal history. No known motive for Alavache’s actions is known. However, according to a GoFundMe page that was set up in June of 2022, Alavache had allegedly been recently diagnosed with advanced-stage Multiple Sclerosis and was a father of three young children. No other details regarding the suspect were released by authorities, and the former hostages were released without any injuries.