A former U.S. Marine allegedly said that God sent him to brutally massacre a Florida family over the weekend. He had no connection to his victims other than a chance encounter with several of them as he was leaving a friend’s house just hours before he targeted them in a horrific mass murder, police said.
Though authorities say his motive was entirely delusional, the suspected killer allegedly provided investigators with a detailed account of how he planned and executed the slaughter, including by torturing a child whose parents and baby brother had just been murdered.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd on Thursday said that the investigators were able to piece together a timetable detailing accused killer Brian Riley’s movements and whereabouts in the hours leading up to the Saturday evening slaughter. The carnage left four dead and one 11-year-old girl injured.
Judd said that a witness who lives in the area and is friends with Riley told police that a few days prior to the shooting, Riley had mentioned that he was going to volunteer with the Hurricane Ida relief assistance effort. The friend offered to make him a first-aid kit.
“We can document that mass-murderer Riley was at his friend’s house picking up the first-aid kit at about 6:45 p.m. on Saturday,” Judd said, adding that Riley left “about 25 minutes later.”
A few minutes later, Riley spotted 40-year-old homeowner Justice Gleason mowing his lawn. Unprovoked, Riley stopped in front of the house and told the man, “Hey, God said that I need to talk to Amber because she’s going to commit suicide,” according to Judd. Despite Gleason explaining that no one by that name lived there, Riley insisted, saying, “I’m not leaving until I talk to Amber.”
Gleason, whose mother-in-law and 11-year-old daughter were also in the yard at the time, told Riley to leave or he would call the cops.
Riley ominously responded that there was “no need to call the cops, I’m the cops for God,” Judd said, emphasizing that “never did Brian Riley made a threat—just bizarre and irrational statements.”
In fact, Riley was apparently delusional and allegedly told investigators that after leaving Gleason he received a second message from heaven.
“God told me to kill everyone and rescue Amber because she is a victim of sex trafficking,” Riley allegedly said during an interview with police, adding that he then began putting a “ops plan” together.
“It was all fiction and it was all made up of him,” Judd reiterated. “There were no victims of sexual trafficking in the house.”
According to Judd, Riley told police that in the hours before the 4:22 a.m. carnage, he performed “reconnaissance” on the home, repositioned his truck for a quick getaway, planned an outdoor diversion so he could break into the home, and laid down glowsticks so he “and Amber” would know where to go when the left the house.
Per Judd, Riley also explained his own actions in great detail, telling police that he entered through the back apartment and “cleared the house,” killing a 62-year-old female by shooting “an entire magazine” into her.
Believing he was protected by God, Riley then entered the main house where he first shot and killed the family dog then shot down the bathroom door where the family was hiding, Judd said. Once inside he allegedly said he shot Gleason first then his 33-year-old wife and 3-month-old son, who was clutched in his mother’s arms.
Riley then allegedly found the 11-year-old girl and “tortured her in order to investigate, in order to find Amber,” Judd said. The sheriff added that Riley would ask the girl where Amber was and then count down from three; when the girl responded that she didn’t know, Riley would shoot her. This happened several times. According to Judd, the girl told police that Riley said he murdered her parents because “they’re sex traffickers.”
The sheriff said the girl only survived because she tricked Riley by “playing dead.”
Riley surrendered after being shot in a shootout with law enforcement.
“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 of Riley. “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.”
Riley was released from the hospital after being treated for the gunshot wound and is being held without bond and was charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted first-degree murder on a law enforcement officer.
Judd also asked that those wanting to help the family can donate through the Polk Sheriff’s Charities website, saying there are “no administration fees” and “100-percent of all proceeds will go directly to the family.” To donate, follow the link, click “make a donation,” and then select “quadruple homicide” from the dropdown box.
Watch the press conference below.
[image via Polk County Sheriff’s Office]
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