Four people, including a three-month-old boy, were shot dead with their family dog in a gun massacre which police say was carried out by sharpshooter Bryan Riley, a 33-year-old former Marine who served in Afghanistan and Iraq
A tragic family allegedly gunned down by an Afghanistan veteran in a horrifying shooting spree have been pictured for the first time.
Justice Gleason, 40, his 33-year-old partner Theresa Lanham, their three-month-old son Jody, the child’s 62 year-old grandmother and the family dog were all shot dead during the horrific incident in Florida on Sunday.
As tributes were paid to the victims it emerged that Mr Gleason was randomly seen by the gunman out cutting the grass just hours before the horror unfolded.
Police say the massacre was carried out by sharpshooter Bryan Riley, a 33-year-old former Marine with PTSD, at a home in the Lakeland area.
An unnamed 11-year-old shot seven times miraculously survived the attack and is now recovering in hospital.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Riley had no connection to any of his victims and Mr Gleason, ‘just happened to be the unlucky one mowing the yard’ when he was seen by the killer before the shooting.
Officers said that on his way to the family’s home the gunman placed glow sticks along the path to try and draw police into an ambush.
Sheriff Judd revealed that before the suspect gave himself up 100 rounds were fired between him and the officers, and he had been wearing a bulletproof vest.
He was shot once during the exchange and no police officers were injured.
The suspect reportedly told police his victims had ‘begged for their lives’ but he gunned them down anyway.
Eventually officers could get into the house where they found the injured 11-year-old and the four dead victims.
Riley appeared in court on Monday morning charged with 17 charges; four counts of first degree murder, seven counts of attempted first degree murder of a law enforcement officer, two counts of shooting into a building, two counts of armed burglary, second degree arson and attempted first degree murder with a weapon.
Detectives said that in the week before the deadly mass shooting the war veteran had begun ‘talking to God’ and was also high on drugs.
Fox News reports that the night before the shooting a woman had dialled 911 to say a man had told her that “God sent me here to speak with one of your daughters.”
Riley was then said to have claimed he was there to speak to a person named ‘Amber’ because she was ‘going to commit suicide’ and he needed to save her.
It was the next morning that the slaughter unfolded.
After his arrest he later tried to grab a police officer’s gun while being treated in the hospital for his own gunshot wound.
A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a sharpshooter, Riley had been 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, police said.
About a week before the massacre his mental health worsened and he told his girlfriend he had started speaking with God.
“He said at one point to our detectives, ‘They begged for their lives and I killed them anyway’.”
He was also said to have been high on methamphetamine.
After the killings many paid tribute on social media to the family.
One said: “Absolutely heartbreaking, praying for the family and praying for protection for everyone in this world.”
Another wrote: “This is just so terrible. Prayers for his family and especially for the little girl that’s battling in the hospital her life she will never be the same.”
Well-wishers have also created a fundraiser on Gofundme to help support the family and to contribute towards funeral costs.