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Florida Bank Robber Shot by Sniper as He Put Knife to Hostage’s Neck

Lee County Sheriff's Office
Lee County Sheriff's Office

A bank robber was shot and killed by a sniper on Tuesday after he grabbed a hostage and held a knife to her throat. The suspect was later identified as 36 year-old Sterling Avalanche.

“Shortly after 11 a.m. we received a call of a bank robbery in progress with multiple hostages,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno told reporters during a news conference outside of the bank on Tuesday. The FBI also responded to the call, and agents appeared with Marceno as he addressed the press.

Deputies at the Bank of America in Bell Tower, Florida said the incident began when Avalanche claimed that he had a bomb, according to Local10. Avalanche was in fact only armed with a knife.

Marceno described the incident as an “all-hands-on-deck situation” and a “chaotic scene,” in which law enforcement deployed a robo-dog, SWAT team, electronic surveillance, and drones.

With the knowledge that he had two hostages with him in the bank, officers “tried to negotiate with him continuously,” he said.

During negotiations, Avalanche pulled one of the hostages in a headlock, and held his knife to her throat. “When he presented deadly force our SWAT sniper shot and killed the suspect,” Marceno said. “We were in fear for her life and safety...this is exactly what we will not tolerate. I’m proud to say that both hostages are safe,” he added.

In a statement released later that day, the Sheriff’s office identified Avalanche, a convicted felon with an “extensive criminal history to include drug trafficking, aggravated assault, and carrying a concealed firearm from several states.”

In the statement Marceno said, “It’s a sad day when innocent lives are placed in jeopardy due to the senseless acts of others.”

The investigation remains open and active.

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