Gunman Kills 4, Including Mom Holding Newborn

Former Marine sharpshooter Bryan Riley charged in shooting spree
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 6, 2021 8:01 AM CDT
4 Dead in Fla. Mass Shooting, Including Mom Holding Baby
Polk County, Fla., Sheriff's officials work the scene of a multiple fatality shooting Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Lakeland, Fla. Four people are dead including a mother who was still cradling her now deceased baby in what Florida sheriff's deputies are calling a massive gun battle with a suspect.   (Michael Wilson/The Ledger via AP)

A man wearing full body armor fatally shot four people, including a mother and the 3-month-old baby she was cradling, and engaged in a massive gunfight with police before he surrendered, a Florida sheriff said Sunday. An 11-year-old girl who was shot seven times survived, notes the AP. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said that even after 33-year-old Bryan Riley was arrested Sunday morning, he was so aggressive that he tried to wrestle a gun from police as he lay on his hospital gurney. Judd said Riley, a former Marine who served as a sharpshooter in both Iraq and Afghanistan, seemed to have targeted his victims at random and appeared to be suffering from mental health issues. Judd said Riley's girlfriend told authorities Riley 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,” Judd said Riley told them during an interrogation.

Investigators said 40-year-old Justice Gleason just happened to be out mowing his lawn Saturday night when Riley drove by his home in Lakeland, saying God told him to stop because Gleason’s daughter was going to commit suicide. Authorities responded but never found Riley. Around 4:30am, Riley returned to the home, laying out glowsticks to lead officers to the house “into an ambush,” Judd said. Authorities exchanged heavy gunfire, with dozens “if not hundreds of rounds” fired, before Riley retreated into the home. Everything fell silent, Judd said, until a helicopter unit alerted authorities on the ground that Riley was coming out. He had been shot once and was ready to surrender. Meanwhile, officers heard cries for help inside the home, but were unsure whether there were additional shooters.

A brave sergeant rushed in and grabbed the 11-year-old girl who had been shot at least seven times. She told deputies there were three dead people inside, Judd said, adding that she was rushed into surgery and expected to survive. Deputies found the bodies of Gleason; the 33-year-old mother; the baby; and the baby’s 62-year-old grandmother, who was in a separate home nearby. Authorities said Riley’s girlfriend of four years, whom he lived with, has been cooperative and was shocked, saying he was never violent but suffered from PTSD and had become increasingly erratic. “Prior to this morning, this guy was a war hero. He fought for his country in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Judd. “And this morning he’s a cold-blooded killer.”

(Read more shooting stories.)

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