Lakeland, FL – A methamphetamine-fueled gunman ruthlessly murdered four random people early Sunday morning, to include a woman and the three-month-old baby girl she was clutching during the horrific attack.
The only survivor is an 11-year-old girl who was shot seven times, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters, according to WFLA.
The incident began at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, when a woman called 911 to report a suspicious man had just showed up in her yard on North Socrum Loop Road near Fulton Green Road, WNYW reported.
The man was later identified as 33-year-old Bryan Riley, Sheriff Judd said.
The woman said Riley told her that God had sent him to the home to speak to her daughter, Amber, but there was no one at the home by that name, the sheriff told reporters.
The woman said she did not know the man and told him to leave, but he refused, WNYW reported.
She then alerted a man on a lawnmower about the reason for Riley’s visit.
Riley told the man that “Amber” was suicidal and that God sent him to their house to rescue her, Sheriff Judd said.
The man on the lawnmower reiterated that no one by that name lived there and told him he needed to leave or they would call the police, WNYW reported.
Riley allegedly told the man he didn’t need to call the cops because he is the cops for God, Sheriff Judd told reporters.
When Polk County deputies arrived at the family’s home six minutes later, Riley had already left, WNYW reported.
They spent nearly a half hour searching for the suspect, but did not find him or his vehicle, according to WFLA.
A Polk County sheriff’s lieutenant was out on another call at approximately 4:30 a.m. on Sunday when he heard two volleys of gunfire coming from a location approximately two miles away from his location, Sheriff Judd said.
Residents began calling 911 about the gunfire at approximately the same time, WNYW reported.
“It was the same exact house that (the gunman) showed up nine hours earlier,” Sheriff Judd told reporters, according to WFLA.
Deputies responded to the home and found a truck on fire and a path of glow sticks leading to the residence, Sheriff Judd said.
They heard a “popping” noise out in the front yard just before they saw a suspect outside the house, he explained.
The sheriff said Riley was “totally outfitted in body armor and looked as if he was ready to engage us all in active shooter situation, but we didn’t see a firearm,” WFLA reported.
The suspect ran into the home just before gunfire erupted inside.
Deputies said they could hear a woman screaming and a baby whimpering, Sheriff Judd said.
They tried to get into the home through the front door, but Riley had barricaded it, WFLA reported.
When deputies entered through the back door, Riley opened fire on them, according to the sheriff.
The gunman exchanged dozens of rounds of gunfire with the deputies before they backed out of the home.
At least one of the rounds hit the suspect, who surrendered a short while later.
“He came out with his hands up and that’s why there was no more gunfire,” Sheriff Judd said, according to WNYW. “It would be nice if he had come out with a gun and then we would have been able to read a newspaper through him and we’d be having a different conversation right now. But when someone gives up, we take them into custody peacefully.”
— Polk County Sheriff 🚔 (@PolkCoSheriff) September 5, 2021
“If (Riley) had given us the opportunity, we would have shot him up a lot, but he didn’t because he was a coward,” he added. “You see, it’s easy to shoot innocent children and babies and people in the middle of the night when you’ve got the gun, and they don’t. But he was not much of a man.”
Riley was transported to Lakeland Regional Hospital, where he allegedly grabbed a Lakeland police officer’s gun and tried to steal it, the sheriff said.
First responders were able to subdue him.
Law enforcement officers entered the house and found the 11-year-old girl suffering from at least seven gunshot wounds, WFLA reported.
“She looks our deputies in the eye and says, ‘There’s three more dead people in the house,’” Sheriff Judd told reporters.
The little girl was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital, where she was rushed into emergency surgery, WNYW reported.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) searched the home with robots to make sure Riley had not set up any booby traps before deputies went in to conduct a thorough search, according to WFLA.
Sheriff Judd said there are three residences on the property.
In the main house, deputies found the bodies of 40-year-old Justice Gleason, a 33-year-old woman, and a three-month old baby girl, who was in her mother’s arms, WNYW reported.
“I will never be able to unsee that mother with that deceased infant in her arms as they both lie there dead,” Judd said. “It is a horror of the utmost magnitude.”
The body of a 62-year-old woman was found inside a second home on the property, WFLA reported.
Sheriff Judd said the woman was the grandmother of the murdered baby.
Riley allegedly told detectives the victims “begged for their lives” but that he “killed them anyway,” Sheriff Judd told reporters, according to WNYW.
“He’s just evil in the flesh,” the sheriff said. “He is a rabid animal.”
The family also has a 10-year-old girl, who was found safe at another location, Sheriff Judd said.
The gunman fatally shot the family’s dog, Diogi, who was named in honor of a PCSO K9 who was killed in the line of duty 16 years ago, WNYW reported.
Investigators have found absolutely no connection between the family and their killer, Sheriff Judd said.
“This guy was on dope, on meth, what ‘those people’ think is low-level, non-violent meth- there’s your sign,” the sheriff added.
Riley is a U.S. Marine Corps sharpshooter who joined the Reserves after being honorably discharged after four years of service, WNYW reported.
He was working as a security guard with ESS Global Corporation at the time of the attack.
Sheriff Judd said Riley had no criminal history prior to the shooting.
His girlfriend told investigators Riley suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, but that he has never been violent in the past.
She said he went to perform security duties at a church in Orlando over the weekend.
When he came home, he told her he could talk to God and began acting erratically, she said.
He even went out and inexplicably bought $1,000 worth of cigars to give to Hurricane Ida victims to “help” them, according to his girlfriend.
Sheriff Judd said the woman told investigators Riley had talked to her about meeting with the man who was riding a lawnmower, WNYW reported.
She said Riley claimed God told him he needed to save the man’s daughter, at which point the girlfriend told Riley that he cannot actually speak to God, according to the sheriff.
“There’s no room for doubters in my life,” Riley allegedly told her.
His girlfriend said she went to bed after their argument, and that Riley was gone when she woke up at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, WNYW reported.
Riley allegedly told investigators that he is a survivalist and that he was using methamphetamine at the time of the murders, Sheriff Judd said.
“Crazy people with guns are dangerous,” the sheriff told reporters, according to WNYW. “Good people with guns keep crazy people with guns at bay and our deputies and police officers were the good people with guns tonight.”
Riley was treated for his gunshot wound at the hospital and has since been booked into jail.