On Thursday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd held a news conference regarding the massacre of four people in Lakeland that occurred over the weekend.
“We have a family going through something right now no family should ever have to go through,” Judd said.
The sheriff stated he is going to try to answer the question: “How did this evil person” find the victims?
Judd reiterated there was no relationship between Brian Riley, 33, and the victims, but investigators now know why he came across the victims in the first place.
According to Judd, a witness that lives in the area said he spoke to his friend Brian Riley a few days before the massacre, and Riley said he was planning to help with Hurricane Ida. The witness offered to give Riley a first aid kit.
Judd said Riley was at his friend’s home picking up the first aid kit around 7 p.m. Saturday in the area of North Socrum Loop Road.
Just after 7 p.m. Riley noticed Justice Gleason mowing his lawn.
Riley approached 40-year-old Gleason and told him God gave him a vision that his daughter “Amber” would commit suicide. Gleason told him there was no one there by that name. Gleason threatened to call the police and Riley reportedly said, “No need to call the cops, I’m the cops for God” before leaving.
“He drove off mad,” Judd said. “But never did Brian Riley make a threat — just a bizarre, irrational statement.”
Judd said investigators now know that Riley was “very angry” because he thought Gleason kept him from seeing the person he believed would commit suicide.
According to investigators, Riley said he then received another statement from God.
“God told me to kill everyone and rescue Amber because she is a victim of sex trafficking,” Riley told police.
Judd said Riley said he then put an ops plan together, which “means you have to kill everyone.”
Investigators believe Riley left his home at 1 a.m. with a large bag.
The massacre didn’t begin until 4:22 a.m.
“So, where has he been between then and 4:22 in the morning?” Judd said, saying Riley explained the actions he took leading up to the shooting.
Riley told investigators when he left his home, he took the following actions:
He did “reconnaissance” on Gleason’s home.
Repositioned his truck three times so he would have a fast departure
Searched through the house to find three entrance points
Planned diversions and exit strategy
Slashed the tires of two vehicles, one of which he would set on fire
Set a path of glowsticks so he’d be able to find his way out, “and so ‘Amber’ would be able to find her way out”
“There were no victims of sex crimes in that house,” Judd stated.
Judd said Riley explained he shot through windows and entered the back apartment. He stated he “cleared the house,” and killed the victim inside, a 62-year-old white female.
“He shot an entire magazine into the victim,” Judd said.
Judd said Riley then entered the main house by shooting out the back glass door. He said, “I knew I made a lot of noise, so I knew I had to push through.”
Riley told investigators, “God told me I was protected.”
According to Judd, Riley said he first shot and killed the family dog. He then tried to open the bathroom door, where the family was hiding. He said he struggled to open the door before shooting through and entering. Judd said that’s when Riley killed Justice Gleason, before finding Gleason’s partner and child and killed them as well. Those victims were only identified as a 33-year-old white female and a 3-month-old white male.
Judd said Riley then found the 11-year-old survivor and asked, “Where is Amber?” According to statements from the girl and the suspect, Riley reportedly would ask her where “Amber” was and then shoot her when she would say she didn’t know.
Judd said Riley told police: “I tortured her in order to investigate, in order to find Amber.”
Judd said Riley also asked the 11-year-old, “Do you know why I killed your parents? They’re sex traffickers.”
Investigators believed Riley thought he ultimately had killed the girl, but she “played dead and prayed.” She survived despite suffering a total of seven bullet wounds.
Judd said Riley then had a shootout with law enforcement and was ultimately shot in the stomach before surrendering.
Judd said a total of five deputies and one police officer opened fire Sunday morning, firing 59 times. Judd said Riley shot “in excess of 100 times.”
“He was a coward, an absolute coward. He looks like a man, but he’s not a man, he’s a sniveling coward,” Judd said. “He was a bad dude when he went into this house and shot and killed a 3-month-old baby in its mother’s arms.”
Judd said Riley confessed at the hospital to the entire massacre. He stressed Riley’s advanced tactical training: Four years in the Marines, three years in the reserves, he worked in executive and private security. Judd said he was “well thought of and well-trained,” with 16 separate certificates in security.
The sheriff said investigators are still working on the scene and will continue to for perhaps the rest of the week.
“I was asleep when dad woke me up and took me in the bathroom to hide me,” the 11-year-old said, according to Judd. He said the child has suffered incredible pain and loss and called her “brave.”
“But she’s alive, and how she survived that is truly a God thing,” Judd said.
Riley “has shown zero remorse,” Judd said.
He also noted that investigators believe he was under the influence of illegal steroids. Judd said Riley also told deputies that he was on meth.
The sheriff said there has been a lot of interest in helping the family. He said the family desperately needs help, as there are hospital bills, funeral bills and two residences destroyed.
“I never had a class in high school to help me deal with this,” one relative reportedly said.
He said those wishing to help should donate to “quadruple homicide” at Polk Sheriff Charities, 100 percent will go to the family.
Riley has been denied bond and he faces the following charges:
Four counts of first-degree murder
Seven counts of attempted murder of law enforcement officer
Two counts of shooting into building
Two counts of armed burglary with assault/battery
Attempted murder in the first-degree with weapon