LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – The 11-year-old survivor of a Lakeland family massacre is now said to be in stable condition.
The Polk County Sheriff’s office says the survivor has now been able to speak with family members and was even able to tell them how she survived.
“She did tell some of her relatives how she survived. She said, I played dead and I prayed,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Sheriff Judd said former Marine sharpshooter Bryan James Riley, 33, shot and killed four people, including an infant, the baby’s mother, and the baby’s 62-year-old grandmother.
An arrest affidavit says Riley claimed he was sent to the house by God to save someone named Amber from suicide. No one named Amber lives at the home.
The arrest affidavit adds that Riley admitted to shooting the victim in “in her legs and extremities because she wouldn’t answer questions about Amber.”
“We know that some of our victims begged that their lives be spared and he said, I shot ’em anyway. That was his statement. He’s evil,” said Judd.
The sheriff says Riley’s girlfriend told investigators he suffered from PTSD, was depressed, and told her he could communicate directly with God.
He also told deputies he had been doing meth before the murders.
An expert in PTSD says the crime does not follow a pattern of someone suffering from PTSD.
“Saying that PTSD is going to cause a veteran to go off in a mass shooting event, the facts don’t bear that out. With over a million veterans with PTSD, you’re not seeing that,” said Daniel Jarvis who is a founder of the 22 Zero foundation.
Jarvis is a combat veteran who once suffered from his own PTSD problems and now helps other veterans survive. Jarvis also worked in local law enforcement after his service and says the crime does sound like Riley was suffering from drug-induced delusions.
“If he was on a Meth bender for four or five days, which isn’t uncommon, you are fully sleep-deprived and you enter what is called a drug-induced psychosis,” said Jarvis.
Sheriff Judd says a full-scale investigation is underway to determine why this family was murdered and if there is any connection between the victims and Riley.