A marine veteran charged with the murders of four people in Florida, allegedly targeted the family because he falsely believed they were holding a child sex-trafficking victim captive, police say.
According to authorities, Bryan Riley, 33, suspected that a suicidal child by the name of “Amber” was being victimised in the home in Lakeland and he intended to save her.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a press conference yesterday, September 9: "We know that he was seeking out Amber, who wanted to commit suicide, who was the victim of sex trafficking, and it was all a figment of his imagination”, NBC News reports.
Riley pulled up outside the family on Saturday, September 4, where Justice Gleason 40, lived alongside his girlfriend, Theresa Lanham, 33, their baby son Jody, and Lanham’s mum, Catherine Delgado, 62.
He told Gleason that God had instructed him to stop because Gleason’s daughter “Amber” was going to kill herself.
Gleason didn’t have a daughter named “Amber” and the police were called – but they couldn’t find any trace of Riley.
It's claimed he returned in the early hours of Sunday, September 5, and shot his way into the home carrying multiple firearms and wearing a bulletproof vest.
Once in the home, Riley “tortured” an 11-year-old girl by shooting her multiple times after she was unable to tell him where “Amber” was, it's alleged.
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Despite having been shot several times, the girl survived by playing dead and told the police what happened.
Judd said she told investigators: "'And that's when he called me Amber.' She said, 'I'm not Amber.’”
"He counted down and said 'three, two, one' before shooting the girl”.
She said as she was bleeding and in distress, Riley asked her whether she knew why he had to kill her parents.
"Because they're sex traffickers," Judd said he told the girl.
Riley is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, two counts of shooting into a building, two counts of armed burglary with assault/battery, second-degree arson and attempted murder in the first degree with a weapon.
"There's no words to adequately describe the rage that we all feel about what he did to this innocent family," Judd said.
"They happen to be the unfortunate ones that he passed by that afternoon where he saw the man and an 11-year-old girl.
“These just happen to be the unfortunate people that he picked on."
The Sheriff was visibly angry throughout yesterday's media briefing, calling Riley a "mass murderer," an "evil human being" and a "coward."
He spoke with pride however when discussing the courage and awareness the young survivor showed amid the horror.
He said: "I can't underscore enough her bravery. I can't underscore enough her ability to think through of how to survive when she has just witnessed her father, her baby brother and her stepmother viciously murdered right before her very eyes.”
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