LAKELAND, Fla. - A horrific shooting in Polk County left four people dead, including a mother and her young infant. An 11-year-old girl was also injured by the suspect, a former Marine who was denied bond by a Polk County judge on Monday morning.
Detectives are trying to piece together what led up to the deadly shooting by the self-described survivalist who was on meth, said Sheriff Grady Judd. Authorities said 33-year-old Bryan Riley of Brandon is the suspect.
The 11-year-old girl who survived the shooting remained at Tampa General Hospital on Monday morning. Polk County deputies said she was the only person who made it out of the Lakeland home alive.
On Saturday, around 7:30 p.m., a woman dialed 911 to report a suspicious man in a vehicle. Deputies said the man was Riley.
Booking image for Bryan Riley
The woman said the man told her, "God sent me here to speak with one of your daughters."
She said she he wouldn't leave, and alerted a nearby man on a lawnmower, detectives said. Riley told him that he was there to speak to someone named, "Amber," because she was going to commit suicide and he needed to save her. They told Riley that there wasn't anybody at the house with that name, and if he didn't leave they were going to call the cops.
According to the sheriff's office, they said Riley replied with, "No need to call the cops, I'm the cops for God," and left. Deputies arrived within six minutes of the call, but the man and the vehicle were already gone.
Around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, a lieutenant with the Polk County Sheriff's Office heard rounds of an automatic gun going off nearby while out on a separate call.
He notified his deputies to respond to the scene. At the same time, PCSO began getting 911 calls about reports of shots fired and began community-wide active shooter protocols.
When they arrived on the scene, they found a truck on fire in the front yard of a home on North Socrum Loop Road near Fulton Green Road. Law enforcement said they spotted Riley, dressed in camouflage, in the front yard before he ran back inside the home.
Moments later, those outside the home heard another round of gunfire followed by a woman's screams and a baby's cry. Those on scene tried to make entry but quickly found out the front door was barricaded.
The lieutenant went to the back of the house where the suspect shot at him. The lieutenant returned fire and got away from the house. That's when the suspect starting shooting at deputies and officers with the Lakeland Police Department. Officials said at least one bullet struck Riley, who had put on a bulletproof vest.
Riley surrendered just a few moments later, walking out of the house with his hands up, officials said. He was taken to Lakeland Regional Hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound.
"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," Judd said. "But, when someone gives up we take them into custody peacefully. If he had given us the opportunity, we'd have shot him up a lot."
"But, he didn't because he's a coward," the sheriff added. "It's easy to shoot innocent children and babies and people in the middle of the night when you've got a gun, but he's not much of a man."
According to Judd, while at the hospital, the suspect jumped up and tried to steal a gun from a Lakeland police officer, but was subdued.
"It's just a blessing from the good Lord that they're in the shootout and the subsequent volleys of shootouts that my deputies and our colleagues from our colleague from Lakeland Police Department weren't shot and killed as well," said Sheriff Judd.
When deputies made it inside the house, they found the bodies of four people:
- 40-year-old man identified as Justice Gleason.
- 33-year-old woman found with a 3-month-old baby in her arms
- 62-year-old woman was found in an adjacent home on the same property
The fifth victim, the 11-year-old girl, was rushed to the hospital but is expected to recover. She had surgery Sunday night. Detectives said the family dog was also found shot to death in the home.
Law enforcement officers were searching for a 10-year-old girl, who is the sister to the 11-year-old, after the shooting, but she was safely located at a relative's home on Sunday morning.
"I will never be able to unsee that mother with that infant laying deceased in her arms as she lay dead," Judd said.
Courtesy: Polk County Sheriff's Office
The sheriff said Riley told detectives that the victims pled for the suspect to let them live.
"They begged for their lives and I killed them anyway." Judd said. "He is evil in the flesh. He is a rabid animal."
Riley made his first court appearance Monday morning in Bartow. His girlfriend told FOX 13 he’s never been violent before. The sheriffs office said he has virtually no prior criminal history.
Riley is a former Marine from Brandon, Judd said. He was honorably discharged after four years of service and then signed up for the reserves. Riley was employed with ESS Global Corporation as a security guard.
Judd added that Riley's girlfriend, who is cooperating with the investigation, said Riley suffered from PTSD and depression, but was not violent until now. She said Riley went to Orlando last weekend to do security at a church and when he came back he said he could talk to God.