A former Marine in a bulletproof vest shot dead four people, including a baby, his mother and his grandmother, on a property outside Lakeland, Florida, early Sunday morning.
The suspect, identified as Brian Riley, 33, was involved in a shooting with law enforcement officers before turning himself in to authorities, but then attempted to take a gun from an officer at a hospital, the Polk County Sheriff said, Grady Judd.
Officers later found four people dead: a 40-year-old man, a 3-month-old baby and the mother of the 33-year-old baby inside the home, and the 62-year-old baby’s grandmother in a second home on the property, said Judd. The family dog, Diogi, was also fatally shot, he added.
An 11-year-old girl was shot multiple times and flown to Tampa General Hospital for surgery. She is expected to recover. Another child who had previously disappeared was found alive and well, Judd said.
“This man killed four people this morning, tried to kill our agents and then surrendered,” he said.
In an interview with officers, the suspect described himself as “a survivor” and confessed to taking methamphetamine, Judd said.
The suspect’s girlfriend told authorities that he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and that the week he had been acting erratically for the past week and said he had received visions from God, according to the sheriff.
“He said he had PTSD. I’ve seen him depressed. I’ve never seen him violent,” Judd said. “But today a week ago, that is, last Sunday, he did a security job at a church in Orlando. And he came home and said that God spoke to him and now he can speak directly to God. And she said that I never I’d seen that kind of behavior.”
The suspect lives in Brandon, Florida, about 30 miles from where the shooting occurred. At a news conference Sunday afternoon, Judd said there did not appear to be any connection between the suspect and the victims, and he had trouble explaining why the suspect chose that particular family and property.
“We only know that we had a madman with many weapons who shot and killed innocent people,” he said.
How was the shooting
It all started on Saturday night when a woman called authorities to report a suspicious vehicle and said that a man who was parked outside her house told her: “God sent me here to talk to one of his daughters,” he told her. Judd told reporters Sunday.
An agent responded within six minutes and did not find the suspect or the car at the residence, he said.
Approximately nine hours later, at around 4:30 a.m., an officer 3 kilometers away heard two volleys of automatic gunfire. Officers responded and calls also began to come in reporting an active shooting, the sheriff said.
— Polk County Sheriff 🚔 (@PolkCoSheriff) September 5, 2021
Upon arrival, officers discovered a burning truck and heard popping noises from the vehicle. A series of light bars had been placed in the courtyard to form a path, Judd said. There, they saw a man dressed in camouflage who quickly fled inside the house. Then they heard disturbing sounds.
“At that moment, we heard another volley and the cry of a woman and the groan of a baby,” Judd said.
A lieutenant tried to enter through the front of the house, but there was a barricade. The lieutenant then went to the back of the house and entered and encountered the same suspect, now dressed in a bulletproof vest, camouflage, knee protection and head protection, according to the sheriff.
The suspect shot the lieutenant, who returned fire and withdrew from the home, Judd said. The suspect then began shooting at other officers, who also returned fire, he said.
There was a period of silence and then the suspect came out with his hands up, Judd said. The suspect, who had been shot, was arrested.
The suspect was taken to the Hospital Agent, Judd said. He was finally subdued and is being cared for. Judd said the suspect will be booked when he’s released.
Judd said there were “at least dozens, if not hundreds” of shots fired between the suspect and officers.
“It was a difficult situation and involved at least two close-range shootings with the suspect,” he said.
Photos released by the Polk County Sheriff showed the extent of the damage to the home Sunday morning. A glass door appears completely broken, two windows and one wall are riddled with bullet holes, and a burned-out truck stands outside the house.
What we know about the suspect
Riley served four years in the Marine Corps and was honorably discharged, then spent another three years on the reserve, Judd said. He was dispatched to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2009-2010 as a designated sniper, the sheriff said.
Riley was employed by ESS Global Corp as a bodyguard and to provide security, Judd said. He has a license to carry a weapon and has practically no criminal record.
“We are not dealing with a traditional criminal here. What we are dealing with is someone who obviously had mental health issues at least this past week, had PTSD,” Judd said.
While in custody, the suspect told deputies he was a “survivor,” the sheriff said. The term generally refers to a person proactively preparing for a post-apocalyptic world.
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