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Gunman 'Tortured' 11-Year-Old, Who Outsmarted Him: Sheriff

Girl saw family murdered, then faced an interrogation, say authorities
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2021 9:23 AM CDT
Gunman 'Tortured' 11-Year-Old, Who Outsmarted Him: Sheriff
Quadruple murder suspect Bryan Riley is led from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Lakeland, Fla., on Sunday.   (Kimberly C. Moore/The Ledger via AP)

(Newser) – A Florida couple and two children huddled together in the bathroom of their home, terrified. An intruder had just shot the woman's 62-year-old mother and the family dog, and now he was outside the door, per Fox News. Gaining entry, the intruder pulled away an 11-year-old girl before shooting her 40-year-old father, his 33-year-old partner, and their 3-month-old baby, cradled in his mother's arms. The man then "tortured" the girl, shooting her multiple times as he demanded to know where the couple had been hiding a child trafficking victim by the name of Amber, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday, per NBC News. Amber, Judd added, didn't exist. It was "all a figment of his imagination."

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The suspect—identified as Marine veteran Bryan Riley, 33—had spotted the adult male victim, Justice Gleason, mowing the lawn outside the Lakeland home Saturday evening, after visiting someone he knew in the neighborhood. He asked to speak to a person named Amber, whom he believed was on the verge of suicide. But after spotting the 11-year-old, he was turned away, per NBC. He returned early Sunday as the family slept, killing the 62-year-old home owner in her apartment, Judd said, per CNN. It was after killing the other three family members that he "called me Amber," the girl told police.

When she denied that she was Amber, he demanded to know where this person was, and "counted down" before opening fire, Judd said. At one point he asked the girl if she knew why he had to kill the family, then told her the couple were "sex traffickers," Judd added. "I asked God if a 12-year-old could be involved in sex trafficking and God told me yes and that's when I killed her," Riley allegedly told police, per Fox. But the girl, now recovering in hospital from seven gunshot wounds, outsmarted the gunman and survived by playing dead, Judd added.

Riley surrendered after a firefight with police, during which he was shot in the stomach by a bullet that pierced his protective vest, though he later tried to take an officer's gun while undergoing treatment, Judd said. The visibly angry sheriff called the suspect "truly an evil human being" and "a sniveling coward" with "zero remorse." Riley told investigators that he was high on methamphetamines, but that's unconfirmed, the sheriff said, adding that investigators believe Riley was illegally abusing steroids. Riley was denied bail on Monday ahead of his Oct. 12 arraignment. (Read more murder stories.)

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