A former Marine went on a shooting spree in Florida Sunday, killing four people including an infant before surrendering to authorities, according to a sheriff’s office.
Bryan James Riley, a 33-year-old war veteran who served as a sharpshooter in Afghanistan, allegedly shot and killed four people and a dog in two adjacent Lakeland, Florida homes before briefly exchanging fire with sheriff’s deputies, The New York Times reported. Riley ultimately surrendered and officers then quickly transported him to a nearby hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound.
“If (Riley) had given us the opportunity, we would have shot him up a lot, but he didn’t because he was a coward,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a press conference Sunday, according to WFLA-TV. “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.”
On Saturday evening, a woman called the police to report a suspicious man on her property, WFLA reported. She told officers that the man, later identified as Riley, showed up to her home and said he was there to save her suicidal daughter.
Deputies responded to the incident and searched the area near the woman’s home for 22 minutes, but were unable to locate Riley or his vehicle and departed, according to WFLA. Several hours later, at around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, the sheriff’s deputy’s office received multiple reports of gunfire coming from the same area.
“I will never be able to unsee that mother with that deceased infant in her arms as they both lie there dead,” Judd told reporters, WFLA reported. “It is a horror of the utmost magnitude.”
Lakeland Police Department Assistant Chief of Police Sam Taylor said no police officer had been injured during the exchange of gunfire with Riley “by the grace of God,” WFLA reported.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Department said it hadn’t yet established any connection between Riley and the individuals he murdered, WFLA reported. Riley doesn’t have a criminal history.
Riley, who is a survivalist, was high on meth at the time of the shooting spree, according to Judd, WTVT-TV reported. Judd added that Riley’s girlfriend told police that he has struggled with post traumatic stress disorder related to his military service and recently began claiming that he could talk to God.
Judd said Riley has lacked remorse in interviews with detectives since the shooting, according to the NYT. At one point he acknowledged his victims begged for their lives, but that he killed them anyway.
“He’s evil in the flesh,” Judd said, the NYT reported. “He was a rabid animal.”
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Thomas Catenacci on September 6, 2021
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