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11-Year-Old Played Dead to Survive Florida Shooting

Sheriff Grady Judd calls it 'a horror of the utmost magnitude'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2021 12:27 PM CDT
He Planned 'to Kill Everybody.' She Survived by Playing Dead
Quadruple murder suspect Bryan Riley is led from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Lakeland, Fla., on Sunday by Deputy Steve Neil, left, Captain Bart Davis and Detective Brett Bulman.   (Kimberly C. Moore/The Ledger via AP)

(Newser) – The 11-year-old girl shot seven times in Sunday's massacre at a home in Lakeland, Fla., made it out alive after playing dead. The sole survivor of the shooting that killed four of her family members is now hospitalized in stable condition and told relatives that "I played dead and I prayed," Sheriff Grady Judd said Tuesday evening, per WFLA and Bay News 9. The alleged shooter, 33-year-old Bryan Riley, initially stopped by the home on Saturday evening. Justice Gleason, 40, was mowing the lawn when Riley, who lived 30 miles away in Brandon, stopped his truck, claiming he'd been sent to the home to prevent the suicide of a person named Amber.

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Gleason, who explained that no one by that name lived at the home, called 911, but Riley had disappeared by the time officers arrived. "He confessed later and told us, 'You know, he made me really mad, so I went home and created an opps plan, and you know what that means, if you create an opps plan you have to kill everybody,'" Judd said, per WFLA. Riley's girlfriend said the former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan was suffering from PTSD and had become increasingly erratic, claiming he could communicate with God. He allegedly returned to the home around 4:30am.

"He went there on a mission to kill all of those wonderful people, and he killed all but one," Judd said, per WFLA. While the wounded girl was rescued, Gleason, his partner, her mother, and the couple's 3-month-old son were killed along with the family dog. Judd said the victims had huddled together in fear. "I will never be able to unsee that mother with that deceased infant in her arms," he added. "It is a horror of the utmost magnitude" and "my prayers are that an event like this never happens anywhere in the world again."

Riley, who reportedly worked as a church security guard, is being held on four counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, and seven counts of attempted first-degree murder on a law enforcement officer. (Read more shooting stories.)

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