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Florida military vet and 'survivalist' shoots and kills 4 people, including infant, sheriff says

An 11-year-old girl was also injured
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Posted at 8:35 AM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-06 13:27:42-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — A military veteran that law enforcement officials described as a "survivalist" was responsible for a shooting that left four people dead — including an infant — and one person injured in unincorporated Lakeland, Florida, on Sunday morning.

The suspect was taken into custody Sunday after exchanging gunfire with police in a neighborhood on North Socrum Loop Road near Fulton Green Road. He's been charged with murder and attempted murder and has been denied bond.

"He killed four people this morning and tried to kill deputies," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Officials with the Polk County Sheriff's Office said they responded to the incident at about 4:30 a.m Sunday after deputies heard rounds of gunfire in the neighborhood.

When deputies arrived on the scene, they found a man dressed in camo who ran inside a home. Judd said that man did not have a gun at the time.

According to police officials, deputies heard another round of gunfire inside a home and heard screaming inside. The deputies then made their way around the home and entered through the back.

Law enforcement encountered the suspect shortly after entering the house, and Judd said deputies and the suspect exchanged gunfire. The suspect was reportedly wearing bulletproof gear from head to toe.

Moments later, the suspect came out the front door of the house with his arms raised and was taken into custody.

No deputies were injured.

After the suspect was taken into custody, deputies made their way inside the home and found an 11-year-old girl with multiple gunshot wounds. She was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. As of Monday morning, the girl remains in critical condition but doctors say she is "stable."

The girl told deputies there were more people dead inside the home. Deputies later found a 40-year-old man, a 33-year-old woman, a 3-month-old infant and the family dog dead. Judd added that deputies found the woman holding the baby in her arms.

In another home, a 62-year-old woman was found dead.

"It's easy to shoot innocent children and babies and people when you have a gun, and they don't. He was not much of a man," Judd said.

Judd said police shot the suspect once during the incident. Deputies transported him to a nearby hospital for treatment.

While being treated in the ER, the suspect tried to grab a Lakeland police officer's gun and fought with other officers. He was then medicated, treated and has since been released from the hospital. He remains in police custody.

Judd said the suspect, 33-year-old Bryan Riley, told deputies he took meth before the shooting and said he was a "survivalist." The shooter also allegedly told deputies, "you know why I did this."

In an affidavit, police allege that Riley denied knowing the victims. When asked for a motive, Riley allegedly told police, "because I'm a sick guy. I want to confess to all of it and be sent to jail."

Police also alleged in the affidavit that Riley admitted to "setting fire to a pick-up truck at the incident location for the purpose of creating an exit strategy" and grabbing the officer's gun at the hospital.

The suspect's fiance stated he "has been acting very strangely over the last seven days," according to the affidavit.

She told deputies he "does executive protection/bodyguard related work and after working a special detail at a church in Orlando, he believed he could speak with 'God.'"

Still, Judd said the woman had seen the suspect depressed but not violent. Judd added that Riley was a decorated Marine and served in Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2009-2010.

"At the end of the day, when you look, this guy, prior to this morning, was a war hero. He fought for his country in Afghanistan and Iraq," Judd said.

Judd added that Riley had virtually no criminal history.

Riley lives in Brandon, Florida and Judd said he isn't sure why he went to Lakeland.

Frank Pack, Riley's neighbor, said he saw the news of a shooting on Facebook earlier in the day but had no way of knowing the suspect lives across the street.

"To tell me this kid is over there doing a shooting — I can't believe it, really. I just can't believe it," Pack said.

Pack said he knows Riley's mother and describes them as "very nice people."

Pack said he's a Vietnam veteran, and his two sons have been deployed to Afghanistan in the past. He brought up the importance of mental health support for veterans.

"They used to have to go see people, talk about it," Pack said of his children. "I thought that was the greatest thing in the world. You know, you get over there, I mean I was over in Vietnam, so you know you get that stuff in there, and it's great when somebody can come along and get it out of you."

Judd said officials are working on pending charges against Riley.

As of Sunday night, the Polk County Sheriff's Office says it has not received any information regarding the 11-year-old girl's condition.

This story was originally published by Lisette Lopez on Scripps station WFTS in Tampa, Florida.