The shooter, alleged by police to be Bryan Riley, 33, a former US marine, also allegedly wounded an 11-year-old girl in a shootout in Lakeland near Tampa in central Florida on Sunday. The girl underwent surgery for seven gunshot injuries.
Riley, who had no connection to the victims, allegedly exchanged fire with police before giving up. He later tried to grab an officer’s gun while being treated in the hospital for his own gunshot wound, before being subdued again, Polk county sheriff Grady Judd told a news conference.
A veteran of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Riley was working as a bodyguard and a security guard. His girlfriend of four years told investigators he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and occasional depression, Judd said.
About a week ago his mental health worsened and he told his girlfriend he had started speaking with God, Judd added.
“He said at one point to our detectives: ‘They begged for their lives and I killed them anyway’,” Judd stated at a second news conference.
Riley also told sheriff’s deputies he was allegedly high on methamphetamine, Judd continued.
Police allege the shooter first appeared randomly at the house where the shooting occurred on Saturday night, making nonsensical statements, but left by the time police responded.
He returned early on Sunday morning, killing a 40-year-old man, the 33-year-old mother and her baby boy, Judd said. In the home next door, he also killed the 62-year-old mother of the woman, the sheriff added.
“In addition to that, if he’s not evil enough, he shot and killed the family dog,” Judd said.
Deputies responding to reports of two volleys of automatic gunfire arrived to find the suspect unarmed outside, wearing camouflage and body armour. Riley then went back inside and “we heard another volley, and a woman scream and a baby whimper”, Judd added.
A gunfight ensued before he came out unarmed and was arrested.
“It would have been nice if he would have come out with a gun … We would have shot him up a lot. But he didn’t because he was a coward,” Judd continued, stating, “When someone chooses to give up, we take them into custody peacefully.”