A onetime Marine sharpshooter shot and killed four people, including a 3-month-old, at two homes near Lakeland, Florida, on Sunday morning, opening fire on responding deputies before being taken into custody, authorities said.
The gunman, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and appeared to have no connection to his victims, also shot and wounded an 11-year-old girl and killed the family dog, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a news conference. He surrendered after being struck once in a gunfight with deputies that involved “at least dozens, if not hundreds, of rounds,” the sheriff said.
When the gunfire was over, authorities found the wounded 11-year-old, who “looked our deputies in the eye and said, ‘There are three more dead people in the house,’ ” Judd recalled. The three – a 40-year-old man, a 33-year-old woman and an infant boy she held in her arms – were inside a house. A fourth victim, a 62-year-old woman who was the grandmother of the baby, was found in an apartment on the property.
Bryan Riley, 33, of Brandon, Fla., described by the sheriff as “ready for battle” in camouflage and body armor, was taken to a hospital after exiting the house with his arms raised. While being treated, he tried to grab an officer’s gun and had to be restrained and medicated, Judd said. He was taken into custody after the hospital released him. Officials said charges were pending.
After the shooting stopped, the deputies feared there could be booby traps. But one of them ran inside to get the 11-year-old girl, who was rushed to Tampa General Hospital. She had at least seven gunshot wounds and required surgery, Judd said, but is expected to recover. The sheriff’s office identified only one of the victims, 40-year-old Justice Gleason.
Investigators spent hours processing the scene, finding Riley’s truck stocked with materials for a gunfight, including kits to control bleeding. Authorities said they were struggling to understand what prompted such violence. The big question that all of us have is why – you know, that’s the thing that’s been on my mind the whole day,” said State Attorney Brian Haas. “We will not know the why today, maybe ever.
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