A former Marine who was taking methamphetamine and described himself as a “survivalist” allegedly went on a shooting rampage in central Florida early Sunday morning, killing four members of a family and wounding an 11-year-old girl, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
The alleged shooter, 33-year-old Bryan Riley, then barricaded him in the victims’ home and got into a shootout with police before eventually surrendering.
Judd said that Riley originally went to the home in Lakeland, Florida around 7:30 p.m. Saturday night and allegedly told one of the eventual victims, “I’m here to talk to Amber, you see, God sent me here because she’s going to commit suicide.”
The man and another person at the house told Riley to leave then called 911, who searched for him in the area but couldn’t find him.
Riley returned to his home in Brandon, Florida, roughly 30 minutes away, and got into a brief non-violent argument with his girlfriend, Judd said.
About nine hours later, Riley returned to the home of the victims in Lakeland. A sheriff’s deputy in the area heard “two volleys of automatic gunfire” around 4:30 a.m.
When the deputy got to the house, he noticed a truck on fire in the front yard and a trail of glow sticks leading from the road to the home, leading police to fear that the property could be booby-trapped. The first deputy at the scene also saw the suspect outside of the house in camouflage.
“The suspect runs into the house and then there’s another volley of gunshots and they could hear a woman crying and a baby whimpering,” Sheriff Grady said Saturday.
Responding officers then attempted to enter the house through the front door, but it was blocked, so they went around the house to the backdoor and got into a shootout with Riley, striking him at least one time. Air support arrived shortly thereafter and saw Riley coming out of the house with his hands up, according to Judd.
“While on the way to the hospital and while at the hospital he made statements like he’d been taking meth,” Judd said Saturday. “He also said that he was a survivalist and he also made statements like, ‘You know why I did this.’
After apprehending the suspect, officers made contact with an 11-year-old girl who had been shot seven times. She was transported to Tampa General Hospital and is expected to survive.
Police entered the house and found three deceased victims: 40-year-old Justice Gleason, a 33-year-old female, and a 3-month-old infant boy. A 62-year-old woman, who was believed to be the grandmother of the infant, was also found deceased in the apartment next door. The family’s dog, Diogi, was also shot and killed.
Riley did four years of service in the Marines, deploying to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, Judd said. During that time, he was designated as a sharpshooter.
His girlfriend told detectives that last Sunday, Riley was working as a security guard at an Orlando church and returned home believing that he could speak directly to God.
She said that he became more erratic as the week went on, not sleeping and buying random supplies for Hurricane Ida victims, such as $1,000 worth of cigars.
“We’re not dealing with a traditional criminal here. But what we’re dealing with is someone who obviously had mental health issues at least this last week, had PTSD,” Judd said.
Once Riley was taken to the emergency room, he allegedly jumped up and tried to grab a Lakeland police officer’s gun. He was then sedated and is expected to be treated and released from the hospital. He then will be booked, and exact charges are pending.
“He said to one of our detectives, ‘They begged for their lives and I killed them anyway,'” Judd said. “He’s evil in the flesh. He’s a rabid animal.”