LAKELAND, Fla. — Five people were shot and four are dead, including an infant, after an active shooter situation in unincorporated Lakeland Sunday.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said around 4:30 a.m., deputies responded after hearing rounds of gunfire in a neighborhood on North Socrum Loop Road near Fulton Green Road.
“He killed four people this morning and tried to kill deputies,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.
When deputies arrived on the scene, they found a man dressed in camo who ran inside a home. Sheriff Judd said that man did not have a gun at the time.
Deputies heard another round of gunfire inside a home and heard screaming inside. Deputies made their way around the home and entered through the back.
Sheriff Judd said deputies were met with the suspect and they exchanged gunfire. Deputies now saw the suspect in bulletproof gear from head to toe.
No deputies were injured.
Shortly after, the suspect came out the front door of the house with his arms raised and was taken to Lakeland Regional to get checked out. Sheriff Judd said the suspect was shot once.
While being treated in the ER, the suspect tried to grab a Lakeland officer’s gun and he fought with other officers. He was later medicated and treated, Sheriff Judd said.
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 where she was in surgery, Sheriff Judd said.
The 11-year-old 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 in one home, Sheriff Judd said. Sheriff Judd also said 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,” Sheriff Judd said.
Sheriff Judd said the suspect told deputies he took meth before the shooting and said he was a survivalist. The shooter also told deputies, “You know why I did this.”
The suspected shooter was later identified as 33-year-old Bryan Riley.
There is no known connection between Riley and the victims.
According to an affidavit, “when asked for a motive for shooting the infant, the suspect replied, “… because I’m a sick guy. I want to confess to all of it and be sent to jail.”
The suspect’s fiance stated he “has been acting very strangely over the last seven days,” according to the affidavit.
She told deputies the suspect “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, Sheriff Judd said the woman had seen the suspect depressed, but not violent.
Sheriff Judd said 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,” Sheriff Judd said.
Sheriff Judd said Riley had virtually no criminal history.
Riley lives in Brandon and Sheriff Judd said they are not sure why he went to Lakeland.
Frank Pack, Riley’s neighbor, told ABC Action News 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.”
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.”
Riley was treated and released from the hospital and is now in custody.
The affidavit states:
“In summary, the suspect admitted to shooting several people at the incident location and stated voices and ‘God’ told him to do it. The suspect described details of the indicant that were not public knowledge. The suspect denied knowing the victims and when asked for a motive for shooting the infant, the suspect replied, ‘… because I’m a sick guy. I want to confess to all of it and be sent to jail.’ The suspect also admitted to setting fire to a pick-up truck at the incident location for the purpose of creating an exit strategy. The suspect also admitted to grabbing and attempting to take Officer Mcguirk’s gun.”
The sheriff’s office said on Monday that the 11-year-old girl was in critical but stable condition.
On Monday morning, a judge denied bond for Riley on murder and attempted murder charges.