A former US Marine sharp shooter who claimed to have received messages from God broke into two homes outside Lakeland, Florida and shot four people he didn’t know, including a 3-month-old baby and wounded an 11-year-old.
Outfitted in body armor, the suspect then barricaded himself in one of the homes and shot at law enforcement officers before eventually surrendering, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. Once in custody, he tried to take a gun from a Lakeland police officer and had to be subdued, Judd said.
The quadruple homicide, which Judd described as an “active shooter rampage,” had no clear motive, and authorities said they did not believe the suspect knew any of the victims.
“We just know we had a madman with a lot of guns that shot and killed innocent people,” Judd said Sunday.
Authorities identified the suspect as Bryan Riley, a 33-year-old who lives in Brandon, about a 45-minute drive from the scene of the shooting.
Riley admitted to deputies that he shot several people and “stated voices and ‘God’ told him to do it,” according to the criminal affidavit. He shot the infant “because I’m a sick guy,” he allegedly said. “I want to confess to all of it and be sent to jail.”
He now faces four counts of first-degree murder as well as charges of attempted murder, arson, armed burglary and shooting into a building, according to a criminal affidavit.
The incident began Saturday evening when a woman called authorities about a suspicious man, believed to be Riley, making odd statements at their home.
The caller said the man had parked outside their house and claimed that God had sent him there because a girl named “Amber” was going to die by suicide, according to a criminal affidavit. The caller did not have a daughter named Amber, but the man refused to leave, the sheriff said. The caller, joined by Gleason, told the man to leave and that they would call the police, spurring the man to leave the scene.
A deputy responded within six minutes and did not find the suspect or the car at the residence, Judd said.
About nine hours later, early Sunday morning a deputy two miles away heard two volleys of automatic gunfire. Deputies responded and calls reporting an active shooting began coming in as well, the sheriff said.
On arrival, deputies discovered a truck on fire and heard popping noises from the vehicle. A series of glow sticks were laid out on the yard forming a path, Judd said.
There, they saw a man wearing camo who quickly fled inside the home. Then they heard disturbing sounds.
Inside a home on the property, a 40-year-old man named Justice Gleason, a 3-month-old baby and the baby’s 33-year-old mother were found dead. The baby’s 62-year-old grandmother was also found dead in a second house on the property, Judd said. She had been hiding in her closet, according to an affidavit.
Each of the victims has multiple gunshot wounds, the affidavit said. The family’s pet dog, Diogi, was also shot and killed.
An 11-year-old girl had been shot multiple times and was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital for surgery. She is expected to recover. Another child who had earlier been missing was located alive and well, Judd said.
While in custody, the suspect admitted to shooting several people and described the victims’ harrowing final moments, according to the affidavit.
“The suspect confirmed while he was shooting the victims, they were pleading for their lives and he continued to shoot them anyway,” the affidavit states. “The suspect admitted one of the victims was hiding and kept saying, ‘please no, please no’ while he shot her.”