Marine has 'zero remorse' over slain Florida family, 'tortured' girl in delusional rescue op: sheriff

Florida Sherriff says gunman was ‘ready for battle’ before shooting mom, baby in Lakeland shooting

Fox News correspondent Alex Hogan details shooting that left four dead, one injured

A Marine sharpshooter has shown “zero remorse” after breaking into a Florida home and gunning down four people, including a baby in his mother’s arms, according to law enforcement, and has justified his actions to investigators by explaining that he “tortured” the only surviving victim, an 11-year-old girl, because he believed God sent him to save a victim of sex trafficking who was going to commit suicide. 

In the most recent press conference about the case Thursday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd provided insight detectives have gained through additional interviews with the quadruple murder suspect, 33-year-old Bryan Riley, as well as his girlfriend, a neighbor in the slain family’s Lakeland neighborhood, and the 11-year-old girl who remains in intensive care at Tampa General Hospital.

“This totally evil person,” Judd started. “There aren’t words to describe the rage that we feel about what he did to this totally innocent family who was simply sleeping in their home. And they happened to be the unfortunate ones that he passed by that afternoon when he saw a man and an 11-year-old girl. … It could have been anybody’s neighborhood who was out with their children that afternoon.” 

A new witness told detectives he worked security with Riley at an Orlando church the week before and told Riley to come to his house in Lakeland to pick up a first aid kit he had assembled to send to victims of Hurricane Ida. Riley’s girlfriend of four years described how Riley had grown more erratic and came back from the church believing that he could talk to God — though she claims he never threatened any violence. 

Riley came to the friend’s house at 6:45 p.m. Saturday and spent 25 minutes there before leaving at about 7:10 p.m., Judd said. 

In a Sept. 9, 2021, briefing, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd holds photos of Bryan Riley, who is accused of killing four people in Lakeland, Florida. 
(Polk County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook)

Between 7:10 p.m. and 7:22 p.m., around the time investigators received a 911 call about a suspicious person and vehicle, Riley first spotted one of his eventual victims, 40-year-old Justice Gleason, outside his Lakeland home cutting the lawn. 

Sheriff Judd said Riley spoke with Gleason and told him, “God said I need to talk to Amber because she’s going to commit suicide.” There was no one there by that name. 

Gleason’s 62-year-old mother-in-law, another eventual victim, came out and said, “Hey mister, we don’t know who you are, but we can assure you no Amber is here,” Judd said at the press conference. Riley spotted the 11-year-old girl who was also outside helping her dad in the yard and left angry with Gleason believing he had kept him from the girl he was meant to save. 

“Never did Bryan Riley make a threat,” Judd said. “Just a bizarre, irrational statement but no threats of violence.” 

He returned to his home in Brandon, Florida, where he admitted to investigators he began his mission operation plan, before driving back to Lakeland early Sunday. The sheriff described how Riley allegedly stated to investigators, “God told me to kill everyone and to rescue Amber because she’s a victim of sex trafficking.” 

“He was seeking out Amber, who wanted to commit suicide, who was a victim of sex trafficking and it was all a figment of his imagination,” Judd said, explaining how there was no one by the name of Amber at the home. “All fiction, all made up by him. There was no victims of sex crime in that house.” 

Riley, a Marine veteran who completed tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and was in the Reserves, has 16 certificates in security and tactical training and used such terminology to describe how did “recognizance” from outside of house in the moonlight, marking the beginning of his “execution plan.”

On Sunday morning, Judd said, the man repositioned his truck three times so he would have the opportunity for a fast departure and identified three entrance points to home. After planning “diversions and exit strategy,” Riley slashed tires on a sedan and on a pickup truck that he ultimately set on fire. He also set up a path of glow sticks so “he could find his way out during an emergency at night, and if he found Amber she could escape,” Judd said. 

Riley doused the vehicles with gasoline and set the truck on fire as a diversion. He used breaching tools and shot through the front door of the grandmother’s apartment before going around and shooting through a window, killing the woman in a process he described as “clearing the house.”

“I dumped a mag,” Riley told investigators, meaning he had used a whole magazine while entering the house and killing the victim, before he “immediately reset” to start a “methodical search for Amber in main house.” He shot through and entered the door, noting to detectives, “I know it made a lot of noise so I had to push through.” 

Upon entering the hallway, Riley told investigators, “God told me I was protected,” according to Judd. He admitted to shooting the dog two times, then cleared the hallway and shot through a bathroom door where the family was hiding.  

In a Sept. 9, 2021, briefing, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd holds photos of Bryan Riley, who is accused of killing four people in Lakeland, Florida. 
(Polk County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook)

He shot Gleason, who attempted to push back against the door, and then Gleason’s 33-year-old significant other and their 3-month old son in her arms, killing all three. Riley told authorities he then grabbed the 11-year-old girl from the bathroom and took her to the living room and asked her, “Where is Amber?” 

The girl said, “I’m not Amber, there is no Amber,” and Riley shot her. He demanded answers and counted “1, 2, 3” before shooting her again. According to Judd, he told investigators, “I tortured her in order to investigate, in order to find Amber.” 

“You know why I killed your parents? They’re sex traffickers,” Riley said he told the girl, adding, “I shot her in legs, then when she wouldn’t tell me where Amber was, I killed her.” Before he shot the girl, the suspect said, “I asked God if a 12-year-old could be involved in sex trafficking and God told me yes and that’s when I killed her.”

But miraculously the girl survived, telling detectives she played dead and prayed, until law enforcement rescued her from the home. Judd said the girl outsmarted the gunman and praised her courage.

“How she survived that is truly a God thing. He thought he left her for dead but she was smarter than he was. And God was truly with her that evening,” Judd said. “My editorial comment is, my God is pissed. That’s not the God I know but [Riley] blamed it on God.”

“Zero remorse,” Judd said of the suspect. “Truly an evil human being.” 

A lieutenant managed to enter the house from the back door and engaged in a shootout with Riley, who was shot in the stomach through the side of his bulletproof vest. Five deputies and one Lakeland police officer continued the shootout, firing an estimated 59 times at the suspect, who fired more than 100 times, Judd said. Three firearms belonging to the suspect were recovered.

Riley said he then dumped his bulletproof vest and his guns and walked outside with his hands up. 

“That’s right, he didn’t want to die. He consciously and intentionally decided,” Judd said, showing Riley’s photo. “He was an absolute coward. He looks like a man but he’s not a man, he’s a sniveling coward. He was a big bad dude when he had different firearms and shot and murdered a grandmother.” 

“There were no guns in the house,” Judd said, explaining the family was not armed. “They couldn’t protect themselves if they wanted to.”

The investigation into the incident is ongoing. The girl remains hospitalized at Tampa General and has undergone four surgeries so far, Judd said. She has at least seven gunshot wounds, though it’s unclear if she was shot seven times of if some are entry or exit wounds, Judd added. 

Riley stated to Lakeland officers taken into custody that he was high on methamphetamine, but investigators have yet to subpoena the hospital where he was treated after being shot once in the stomach to corroborate that information. Judd said there’s evidence Riley was illegally using steroids. He remains held without bond. 

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