Ex-Marine Accused of Fla. Family Massacre Says He Was Trying to Save a Sex Trafficking Victim: Police

An 11-year-old girl, who was allegedly shot several times by Bryan Riley, is expected to survive

Bryan Riley
Photo: Polk County Sheriff’s Office

An ex-Marine is facing charges after allegedly killing four people and critically injuring an 11-year-old girl during an early-morning rampage in Florida.

On Thursday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd hosted a press conference, during which he detailed how the horrific incident transpired. Judd explained that during the early morning hours of Sep. 5, the 11-year-old girl witnessed a man, identified by police as Bryan Riley, 33, allegedly shoot her father, Justice Gleason, 40, his girlfriend, Theresa Lanham, 33, and her 3-month-old brother at a home located off of North Socrum Loop Road in North Lakeland.

Catherine Delgado, Lanham's 62-year-old mother, was also allegedly shot and killed by Riley in another home on the same property.

The 11-year-old girl was also shot multiple times. She was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, but is expected to survive, per authorities.

Judd revealed that Riley's alleged motive was that he believed he was saving a sex trafficking victim, adding that the suspect showed no remorse for his actions.

The incident unfolded on Saturday, Sep. 4 when Riley allegedly approached Gleason outside of the home as he was mowing his front yard, Judd told reporters during the press conference. Judd said that's when Riley allegedly told Gleason that God sent him to speak with a girl he called Amber — the alleged sex-trafficking victim he wanted to save.

Judd continued, sharing that during the alleged conversation, Gleason informed Riley that no one with that name was living at their address. He then demanded that Riley leave the property. However, Riley returned the next day and that's when he allegedly shot Gleason and the three other family members dead.

At one point, Judd said Riley allegedly escorted the 11-year-old girl into the living room, where he questioned her about Amber and her whereabouts. The girl insisted that she didn't know Amber, so Riley allegedly shot her in the stomach after a "three, two, one" countdown, Judd said.

Judd applauded the quick-thinking of the 11-year-old as she saved her own life by pretending to be dead after Riley allegedly delivered the final shot.

"This 11-year-old was very brave and very smart, and she out-thought him," the sheriff told reporters. "She said, 'I played dead and I prayed.' "

Authorities arrived on the scene around 4:30 a.m. after receiving reports of gunfire and saw a truck in the corner of the property on fire, ABC Action News reported on Tuesday. Officials also saw a man wearing camouflage sprint into the home before hearing a second round of gunshots followed by a woman's screams and a baby's whimpers.

Before being taken into custody, Riley allegedly exchanged gunfire with responding officers. He is currently being held at the Polk Country jail on no bond.

"There aren't words to describe the rage that we feel about what he did to this totally innocent family who was simply sleeping in their home," Judd told reporters during the news briefing, adding, "It could have been anybody's neighborhood who was out with their children that afternoon."

Riley now faces a slew of charges, including four counts of first-degree murder; one count of attempted first-degree murder; seven counts of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer; two counts of shooting into an occupied dwelling; two counts of armed burglary with battery; one count kidnapping of a minor; one count arson; and one count cruelty to an animal.

Judd said Riley has no prior criminal history and served for seven years between Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to ABC Action News, Riley was a self-described "survivalist." His girlfriend told investigators that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder but said she had no knowledge of him being violent.

The Polk County Sheriff's department is collecting donations to help the family pay for the four funerals and the 11-year-old's hospital bills on their website.

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