The “active shooter rampage” had no clear motive. “We just know we had a madman with a lot of guns that shot and killed innocent people.” Make that innocent strangers. The victims seem to have been chosen purely by chance. When asked why he shot the infant boy in his mother’s arms, Bryan Riley replied, “because I’m a sick guy.” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd agrees. “If he’d given us the opportunity, we’d have shot him up a lot, but he didn’t because he was a coward.”
Ex-Marine on a Rampage
Bryan Riley, the 33-year-old maniac behind Sunday morning’s random massacre rampage, believed he was on a mission from God. He drove almost 45 minutes from his home in Brandon, Florida to warn his victims Saturday evening. On September 4, in the early evening, he parked outside their house and rang the bell.
When one of the occupants answered the door, he explained, “I’m here to talk to Amber, you see, God sent me here because she’s going to commit suicide.” They didn’t know anyone named Amber. They told him that and threatened to call the cops if he didn’t leave. He eventually left when they called the cops.
A deputy “responded within six minutes and did not find the suspect or the car at the residence.” Everybody hoped that was the end of it. It wasn’t. Riley returned home and argued with his girlfriend for a while.
She later told police that he served “four years in the Marines and was honorably discharged, and then he did another three years in the reserve.” His “deployment to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2009-2010 as a designated sharpshooter” seems to have taken a toll on his mental health. That didn’t stop him from getting a job as a bodyguard and a concealed weapon license to go with it. That was before his rampage killing spree.
Riley’s companion told police he had definitely been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and “had been acting erratically in the past week.” Ever since he did security for a church rally. Before this weekend, “he had PTSD. ‘I’ve seen him depressed. I’ve never seen him violent,'” the sheriff relates. That changed with his murderous rampage.
Riley “did security at a church in Orlando. And he came home and he said, you know, God spoke to him and now he can talk directly to God.” That was a new one for the girlfriend. When he got back from visiting the family around 10 p.m. he also told her “that God told him to intervene and prevent ‘Amber’s’ suicide.” She tried to talk him down but “he locked himself in a room.” When she woke up he was gone and his phone GPS said it was in the victim’s driveway.
An evil, evil, evil act
What happened in Sunday morning’s rampage, Sheriff Judd declares, “was an evil, evil, evil act by a very well-trained military person who knew better and still did it.” He’s been around long enough to see some nasty things in his career but this “ranks right up there with the worst ever” in his 50-year career. “He said to one of our detectives, ‘They begged for their lives and I killed them anyway.'” This “rabid animal” is “evil in the flesh.”
To Sheriff Judd, what “makes it so gut-wrenching is that these innocent people died and they were randomly picked out. This wasn’t a fight that went bad, this wasn’t a disturbance that escalated. When you see a 3-month-old, little, beautiful baby boy deceased in the arms of his mother, where she’s trying to protect him, and she’s murdered, he’s murdered, and his daddy’s murdered — that’s pretty rough.”
As described in the charging affidavit, the “suspect confirmed while he was shooting the victims, they were pleading for their lives and he continued to shoot them anyway.” It adds during the rampage, “the suspect admitted one of the victims was hiding and kept saying, ‘please no, please no’ while he shot her.” That was the grandmother. He shot the family dog too.
In the main home, Riley killed a 40-year-old man named Justice Gleason, a 3-month-old baby and the baby’s 33-year-old mother. In the cottage behind the main home they discovered the “baby’s 62-year-old grandmother” deceased in the closet where she had been hiding. An 11-year-old girl survived multiple gunshot wounds after being airlifted for surgery. Another child managed to escape unharmed and was recovered in good health.
About 4:30 a.m. Sunday, “a deputy two miles away heard two volleys of automatic gunfire.” The whole team responded as “calls reporting an active shooting began coming in as well.” When they got there, “deputies discovered a truck on fire and heard popping noises from the vehicle.” The rampage was still in progress. Eerily, a “series of glow sticks were laid out on the yard forming a path” making officers “fear that the property could be booby-trapped.”
That’s when they spotted “a man wearing camo who quickly fled inside the home.” The sounds they heard next were “disturbing.” Deputies heard “another volley and a woman scream and a baby whimper.” One lieutenant “tried to enter the front of the house, but it was barricaded.” They went around back and he got inside. As soon as he entered, “The suspect shot at the lieutenant, who returned fire and retreated out of the house. The suspect then started shooting at other deputies, who also returned fire.”
Two rampage shootouts
During the final stages of the rampage, “dozens if not hundreds” of rounds were exchanged with the maniac. “It was a tough situation, and it entailed at least two shootouts in close quarters with the suspect.”
As soon as he took a single bullet, he gave up. “There was a period of silence, and then the suspect came out with his hands up.” That still wasn’t the end of it.
“While on the way to the hospital and while at the hospital he made statements like he’d been taking meth,” Sheriff Judd added. That could explain some of what triggered the rampage. “He also said that he was a survivalist.” While inside the Emergency Room, Riley “jumped up and tried to grab a Lakeland police officer’s gun.”
Medical staff dosed him hard. “He was then sedated and is expected to be treated and released from the hospital. He then will be booked, and exact charges are pending.”
They aren’t pending any longer. The bill for his rampage has been tallied, he will be charged for “four counts of first-degree murder as well as charges of attempted murder, arson, armed burglary and shooting into a building.” Judge Heather Beato ordered him held without bond.