Alleged Killer of Family of 4 to Cops: 'You Know Why I Did This'

But authorities say suspect had no connection to Florida family
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2021 2:58 AM CDT
Updated Sep 7, 2021 5:33 AM CDT
He Said 'You Know Why I Did This' Before Allegedly Slaying Family of 4
This booking photo provided by the Polk County, Fla. Sheriff's Office shows, Bryan Riley.   (Polk County Sheriff's Office via AP)

After allegedly slaying four members of a Florida family and their dog, Marine veteran Bryan Riley reportedly told the police who apprehended him, "You know why I did this." But authorities say that Riley, 33, had no known connection to the family, and that it may never be known why he allegedly carried out the Sunday massacre in Lakeland. The only victim officially identified is Justice Gleason, 40, but the AP reports that public records and social media posts show he was in a relationship with Theresa Lanham and the couple had a newborn baby boy.

Lanham's mother, Catherine Delgado, owned and lived in the property where the shootings took place, and media outlets presume those are the victims—police say the victims other than Gleason were a 33-year-old woman, her infant son, and the baby's grandmother. Lanham also had an 11-year-old daughter; a girl that age was rescued from the horrifying scene after being shot seven times.

Riley's girlfriend told investigators he'd been claiming to be able to communicate directly with God and said he was on a mission for God, and authorities believe Riley, who had served as a sharpshooter in Iraq and Afghanistan, may have been mentally ill. His girlfriend said his behavior had been erratic. He allegedly stopped his truck and confronted Gleason on Saturday night as he was mowing the lawn, claiming God sent him there to prevent someone's suicide, and Gleason and another eventual victim told him to leave and called 911.

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Riley was already gone when police arrived, but he allegedly came back around 4:30am and started shooting. Police responded, finding Riley outside with his truck, which was on fire, and after he ran back inside and barricaded the door, a massive gunfight ensued. He eventually surrendered after being shot once, but he allegedly attempted to grab an officer's gun en route to the hospital, the Washington Post reports. A judge denied bond for him Monday, reports WFLA, which lists the charges he faces. (More Florida stories.)

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