Hyderabad: A U.S marine who had served as a sharpshooter in Iraq and Afghanistan, shot four people in a massive gunfight with the police and other forces before surrendering.
Even after being arrested on a Sunday morning, 33-year-old Bryan Riley was so aggressive that he tried to wrestle a gun from the police as he lay on his hospital gurney, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told the media in a press conference.
An 11-year-old girl who was shot seven times survived.
Judd told the media that Riley is a former Marine who seemed to have targeted his victims at random and appeared to be suffering from mental health issues.
Judd further told the media that Riley’s girlfriend told authorities that he had been slowly unraveling for weeks and repeatedly told her that he could communicate directly with God.
“They begged for their lives and I killed them anyway,” remarked Riley to Judd who inturn narrated the incident in the press conference.
According to WOWK 13 news, investigators said that preliminary evidence shows that the 40-year-old Justice Gleason (one of Riley’s victims) just happened to be an unlucky stranger who was out mowing his lawn on Saturday night when Riley drove by his home in Lakeland, about 30 miles (48.28 kilometers) east of Tampa. Riley kept saying God told him to stop because Gleason’s daughter was going to commit suicide.
A second, unidentified person also confronted Riley, telling him that this story wasn’t true and warned him that they would call the police if he didn’t leave, Judd said. He referred to the person as a victim but declined to clarify which one.
Authorities responded to the scene but never found Riley.
About nine hours later, around 4:30 a.m., Riley returned to the home, laying out glowsticks to create a path leading to the house to draw officers “into an ambush,” Judd added.
Subsequently, a lieutenant far in the distance heard popping noises and immediately put the agency on active-shooter mode, bringing all state and local law enforcement in the area to the scene.
Following the sounds of gunfire, authorities arrived at the home and found Riley’s white truck ablaze and an unarmed Riley outside, dressed in camouflage.
Judd added that Riley then immediately ran inside, where authorities heard another round of gunfire, “a woman scream and a baby whimper.”
When the officers tried to enter the front of the house, they found it barricaded.
After encircling it to the back, the police encountered Riley, who appeared to have put on full-body armor including head and knee shields along with a bulletproof vest.
The Sheriff stated that the authorities exchanged heavy gunfire, with dozens “if not hundreds of rounds” fired, before Riley retreated back into the home.
“Everything fell silent until a helicopter unit alerted authorities on the ground that Riley was coming out. He had been shot once and was ready to surrender,” Judd explained.
Meanwhile, officers heard cries for help inside the home, but were unsure whether there were additional shooters and feared the home was booby-trapped. A brave sergeant rushed in and grabbed the 11-year-old girl who had been shot at least seven times.
She reportedly told deputies there were three dead people inside. She was rushed into surgery and is said to survive.
After the shootout, authorities sent robots into the home to check for explosives and other traps. When the scene was clear, they reported found bodies of Gleason, 33-year-old mother, her baby, and the baby’s 62 year-old grandmother, who was in a separate home nearby.
Authorities only disclosed Gleason’s name, and did not say if or how he was related to the other victims. The family dog was also shot to death.
PTSD, not terrorism?
Riley’s girlfriend of four years, whom he lived with, had been cooperative, stated to the authorities that she was shocked and said that the army veteran was never violent. However, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which had become increasingly erratic.
Furthermore, she said that he spent the previous week on what he called ‘a mission from God,’ stockpiling supplies that he said were for hurricane aid victims, including $1,000 worth of cigars.
“Prior to this morning, this guy was a war hero. He fought for his country in Afghanistan and Iraq, and this morning he’s a cold-blooded killer,” the sheriff stated.
Riley also reportedly told authorities that he was on methamphetamines; however, the authorities stated that he had no criminal history. His vehicle had also been stocked with supplies for a gunfight, authorities said, including bleeding control kits.
WOWK 13 news reported that while being treated at the hospital, Riley jumped up and tried to grab an officer’s gun. “They had to fight with him again in the emergency room,” Judd said, adding that Riley was ultimately tied down and medicated.
Bryan Riley is expected to recover and will be transferred to jail to face charges.