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A man accused of shooting and killing four people, including a baby, has been identified as police revealed more about his alleged crimes.
Bryan Riley, 33, was arrested on Sunday, in Polk County, in the US state of Florida, on charges of quadruple homicide after the shooting on Saturday (local time).
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the gunman was dressed in full body armour — including a bulletproof vest — when he was found outside a Lakeland home that had been "booby-trapped".
“Hundreds of rounds” of ammunition were exchanged and police found a woman, her baby, the baby’s grandmother and another man dead. An 11-year-old girl was also found with gunshot wounds.
“They begged for their lives and I killed them anyway,” Sheriff Judd said Riley told them during an interrogation.
No connection with victims
Judd identified Riley, a former Marine who served as a sharpshooter in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and said he seemed to have targeted his victims at random as there was “zero” connections between them. He appeared to be suffering from mental health issues, he said.
He said Riley’s girlfriend told authorities Riley had been slowly unravelling for weeks and repeatedly told her that he could communicate directly with God.
“He pulled up and said words to the effect that, ‘God sent me here to speak with one of your daughters, Amber’,” Judd said, citing a witness.
He told the same thing to Justice Gleason, 40, who was mowing his lawn outside. Judd said Riley repeatedly asked for Amber. Witnesses told him no one by that name lived in the neighbourhood.
Riley claimed God had sent him to stop Amber from taking her own life. Residents told him to leave or they would call the police, which they did.
When police arrived, Riley was gone. They searched for his car for about 20 minutes and couldn’t find it.
Police return, 'ambush' set up
About nine hours later, around 4.30am, Riley returned to the home, laying out glow sticks to create a path leading to the house to draw officers “into an ambush,” Judd said.
Randomly, a lieutenant far in the distance heard popping noises of what sounded like gunfire from an automatic rifle and immediately put the agency on active-shooter mode, bringing all state and local police in the area to the scene.
Following the sounds of gunfire, authorities arrived at the home and found Riley’s white truck ablaze and an unarmed Riley outside, dressed in camouflage.
Riley immediately ran inside, where authorities heard another round of gunfire, “a woman scream and a baby whimper,” Judd said.
Officers tried to enter the front of the house, but it was barricaded. When they circled to the back, they encountered Riley, who appeared to have put on full body armour including head and knee coverings and a bulletproof vest.
Authorities exchanged heavy gunfire, with dozens “if not hundreds of rounds” fired, before Riley retreated back into the home, according to the sheriff.
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.
Girl shot 'at least seven times'
Meanwhile, officers heard cries for help inside the home, but were unsure whether there were additional shooters and feared the home was booby-trapped. 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 was expected to survive.
Deputies sent robots into the home to check for explosives and other traps. When it was clear, they found the bodies of Mr Gleason; the 33-year-old mother; a three-month-old baby; and the baby’s 62-year-old grandmother, who was in a separate home nearby. Authorities released only Mr Gleason’s name, and did not say if or how he was related to the other victims.
“I went into the crime scene and saw victim two, the 33-year-old white female, holding the infant in her arms,” Judd said.
“In addition to that, if he’s not evil enough, he shot and killed the family dog.”
Authorities declined to say how many times the victims had been shot or where they were in the home, but said they were all hiding and huddling in fear. Authorities said Riley’s girlfriend of four years, whom he lived with, had been cooperative and was shocked, saying he was never violent but suffered from PTSD and had become increasingly erratic.
She said he’d spent the previous week on what he called a mission from God, stockpiling supplies that he said were for Hurricane Ida victims, including US$1,000 worth of cigars.
“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.”
Riley, who had no criminal history, also told authorities he was on methamphetamines. His vehicle had also been stocked with supplies for a gunfight, authorities said, including bleeding control kits.
While being treated at the hospital, Riley jumped up and tried to grab an officer’s gun.
“They had to fight with him again in the emergency room,” Judd said, adding that Riley was ultimately tied down and medicated.
He is expected to recover and will be transferred to jail to face charges.
with The Associated Press
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