A police sniper shot and killed a suspected bank robber who had taken two people hostage in a busy branch in Florida on Tuesday.
A SWAT unit sniper opened fire when the suspect, named as Sterling Ramon Alavache, 36, held a knife to a female hostage's throat in a Bank of America branch in a shopping center off the US-41 south of Fort Myers, the Lee County Sheriff's Office said.
The sheriff's office said deputies responded to a call shortly after 11 a.m., entered the building and began negotiations as customers and staff ran outside. NBC News' affiliate station WBBH showed video that captured the moment a deputy carried out a tense negotiation with the suspect in the bank's lobby.
“Quickly we were face to face with a male suspect who was armed with a knife and who also claimed he had a bomb. He had two hostages at this point and we tried to negotiate with him continuously," Sheriff Carmine Marceno said in a news conference outside the bank Tuesday.
“At one point in the negotiations, he became physical — he put one of the hostages in like a headlock and he had a knife to her throat," he said.
“When he presented deadly force like that our SWAT team shot and killed the suspect. We were in fear for her life and safety — I’m giving you the details I can, this is a fresh scene.”
The sheriff's office used a "robodog" remote-controlled surveillance device and drones to monitor the suspect's actions, Marceno said.
"I'm proud to say that both hostages are safe," Marceno added.
The SWAT unit member who took the deadly shot has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation, which Marceno said was usual protocol in cases involving a death.
He said he "couldn't be prouder of the men and women of law enforcement today."
In a separate statement posted to Facebook, Marceno said his team was "faced with a tough decision today to neutralize an active threat to the public, during a very volatile situation."
"I’m beyond grateful none of the victims or my team were injured today," he said.
The suspect was a known convicted felon with an extensive criminal record across multiple states, the sheriff's office said, including drug trafficking, aggravated assault and carrying a concealed firearm.
Brett Sands, who works in the same building, told WBBH: "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."