Bryan Riley, 33, was identified on Sunday as the man who killed three adults and a three-year-old baby in their home in North Lakeland, Florida
A man who shot and killed three adults and a baby at a home before ambushing police while wearing body armor has been identified as a former Marine sharpshooter turned ‘survivalist’ who allegedly told his girlfriend that he could speak with God.
Bryan Riley, 33, was arrested for the massacre of the family in Lakeland, Florida, in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Riley told his victims he wanted to save their daughter from a suicide attempt, before killing them, police have said.
He later told police the family begged for their lives, but he shot them anyway, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
He was so aggressive that he tried to wrestle a gun from police from his hospital gurney after being captured.
In a news conference on Sunday afternoon, announced that has been taken into custody after fatally shooting Justice Gleason, 40; a white female whose family does not want her name released; a three-month-old baby girl; her 62-year-old grandmother and their family dog in their Florida home.
He also injured an 11-year-old girl who suffered from seven bullet wounds, and was taken to Tampa General Hospital for surgery.
Sheriff Judd said 33-year-old Riley appeared to be suffering from mental health issues and had been slowly unravelling for weeks, repeatedly telling his girlfriend that he could communicate directly with God.
After a gunfight with police and deputies — where dozens ‘if not hundreds of rounds’ were exchanged outside the Lakeland home, Judd said, authorities found an 11-year-old girl shot multiple times, as well as the deceased victims.
When officers arrived on the scene, Judd said, they saw a truck on fire
A backdoor, which a deputy used to gain entrance into the home, was completely shattered
Gunshots are seen in the window of the North Lakeland home where the shooting occurred
There were also bullet holes on the side of the house
Riley, a United States Marine who served as a sharp-shooter for four years in active service in Afghanistan and Iraq before being honorably discharged, reportedly suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and had a job as a security guard.
He described himself as a ‘survivalist’ and told police that he was high on methamphetamines at the time of the shooting.
He had a concealed weapons license and ‘virtually no criminal history,’ according to the sheriff. He turned himself into authorities following the shooting.
‘This guy, prior to this morning, was a war hero,’ Judd said, adding that he is not a ‘traditional criminal.’
As of now, he said, ‘We find zero connection between our shooter and our victims.’
Charges against Riley are pending.
His girlfriend of four years reportedly told authorities he has PTSD, and was working as a security guard.
Last week, she said, he was working security at a church in Orlando and said God spoke directly to him and he could speak back to God.
He reportedly said God told him to help out with Hurricane Ida relief, but as the week went on, his girlfriend said, he became more erratic.
She reportedly told authorities that he returned to their home in Brandon, Florida and told her he saw a man on a lawnmower, and that God gave him a vision that his daughter was going to commit suicide.
That man appeared to be Gleason, police said.
At that point, the girlfriend reportedly told him he could not speak to God, to which he replied: ‘There’s no room for doubters in my life.’
The girlfriend said she then went to bed, and he was gone by the time she woke up.
She said he had never been violent before, but authorities said on Sunday his actions appeared to have been premeditated.
In a news conference Sunday afternoon, Sheriff Grady Judd said Riley is an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran
Authorities do not believe there was a connection between him and the victims
Judd said his office first received a call at around 7:30 Saturday night of a suspicious car parked on the side of the road in North Lakeland, Florida.
By the time officials arrived on the scene six minutes later, the car and the suspect were no longer there, but a woman told a deputy who responded to the call that the driver told her: ‘God sent me here to speak to one of your daughters, Amber.’
He allegedly saw a man on his lawnmower in the front lawn, about 33 miles away from his home in Brandon, and told him he needed to speak to Amber because God gave him a vision she was going to commit suicide.
The man, now believed to be Gleason, replied that there was nobody by the name of Amber at the house, but Riley allegedly refused to leave, so Gleason got another one of the future victims to confirm to him they did not have a daughter named Amber.
They reportedly told him that if he didn’t leave, they would call the cops, to which Riley responded: ‘I’m the cops for God.’
Riley was no longer on the scene when officers arrived at 7:36 p.m., and Judd said, they spent more than 20 minutes scouring the area for him and his vehicle, but did not find him.
Judd announced earlier on Sunday that three adults and a baby were fatally shot in two homes north of Lakeland, Florida early in the morning
About nine hours later, though, at around 4:23 a.m. on Sunday, a lieutenant responding to another call about two minutes away heard two volleys of automatic gunfire coming from the area, and notified deputies.
Within a few seconds, Judd said, the sheriff’s office started to also get some phone calls about an active shooter.
When officers and officials from the Lakeland Police Department arrived on the scene, they saw a truck on fire and heard it popping as it burned. They also reportedly found glow sticks forming a path up to the entrance to the house.
They then noticed a man outfitted in body armor who, Judd said, ‘looked like he was ready to engage us all in an active shooter situation, but we didn’t see a firearm,’ and he went back inside the house.
Judd noted that it is not unusual to see someone wearing camouflage in the highly-rural area, and they ‘didn’t know who he was.’
But soon, they heard another round of gunshots, a woman scream and a baby whimper.
The lieutenant tried to get into the front of the house, Judd said, but it was barricaded. He then made his way to the back of the house, gained entrance and was immediately shot at by the suspect, who was now wearing head protection and a bulletproof vest.
The officer fired back before retreating, and other officers responded with gunfire to free three deputies who were pinned down in the shootout.
Soon though, Judd said, everything went silent, and a helicopter saw a suspect coming out with his hands raised.
Police shot at him one time before handcuffing him and taking him to Lakeland Regional Hospital for treatment.
While there, Judd said, Riley jumped up and tried to grab one of the Lakeland Police Officers guns, and they had to fight with him once again in the emergency room before subduing him.
It came about nine hours after officers responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle
The shooting occurred at around 4:30 Sunday morning in a residential area
Meanwhile, Judd said, officers on the scene found an 11-year-old girl shot multiple times who could barely walk out of the house.
One of the sergeants, Judd said, rushed into the house and took her to emergency medical service workers on the scene before they airlifted her to Tampa General Hospital where she was treated for surgery.
The girl reportedly told authorities there were three more dead people in the house.
The officers feared there would be booby traps, though, and sent robots into the house first to ensure there were no explosive devices.
When they were given the all-clear, the officers entered the house and found a man, a woman and an infant in the woman’s arms all shot to death, along with their family dog, ironically named after a police dog who was fatally shot in the line of duty.
They then went to the small apartment behind the house, and found the 62-year-old grandmother also fatally shot.
‘This man killed four people this morning, tried to kill our deputy and then gave up,’ Judd said.
The 11-year-old girl, though, he said, is alive and doing well. She was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital for surgery.
Another 10-year-old who was connected to the scene was found alive and well, after spending the night away from the house, where authorities found at least two guns.
Riley reportedly told police later he was very ‘in tune’ with what he was doing.
‘He played word games with us in the interview to set a defense.’
But, Riley reportedly told authorities the victims ‘begged for their lives and I killed them anyways.’
‘He’s evil in the flesh,’ Judd said. ‘He’s a rabid animal.’
‘It would’ve been nice if he came out with a firearm,’ Judd said earlier in the day. ‘If he’d given us the opportunity, we’d have shot him up a lot, but he didn’t because he was a coward.
‘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,’ he said, ‘but he was not much of a man.’
Judd concluded the news conference Sunday morning by saying: ‘Crazy people with guns are dangerous – good people with guns keep crazy people with guns at bay.
‘Our deputies and police officers were the good people with guns tonight.’