Warning: The story may contains details of murder that could be bothersome to some readers.
The strength, bravery and resilience of a young girl made her the sole survivor in a terrifying incident that took the lives of four loved ones and their dog.
The unidentified 11-year-old child was shot multiple times by an ex-Marine named Bryan Riley, and she played dead until police officers arrived at the scene.
It was reported that Riley had absolutely no connection to the family that lived in Lakeland, Florida, according to ABC News. He first showed up at the family’s property on Saturday, September 4, when the girl’s father, Justice Gleason, 40, was mowing his front yard. Riley spoke to Gleason and claimed that he received a message from God about a girl named Amber attempting suicide at his house.
Gleason told him that there was nobody named Amber that lived there and demanded that he leave.
Riley then returned home to his girlfriend and told her about the message he claimed to have heard from God. When his girlfriend told him he couldn’t speak to God, Riley replied, “There’s no room for doubters in my life,” as quoted by The Sun.
Riley’s girlfriend went to sleep that night without the slightest doubt that her boyfriend might go out and murder a family in a few hours. By the time she woke up, Riley was no longer in the house; he was back at Gleason’s residence.
At about 4:30 am on Sunday, September 5, Riley broke into the property and shot 62-year-old Catherine Delgado, who is the mother of Gleason’s girlfriend.
The ex-marine was dressed in full body armor, and he shot his way through the house to find Gleason and his girlfriend, Theresa Lanham, 33, hiding in a bathroom. Also with them was their 3-month-old baby as well as Gleason’s 11-year-old daughter.
The terrified family members begged for their lives, but Riley shot Gleason, Lanham, and the 3-month-old baby that was in his mother’s arms.
After shooting her family members right in front of her, Riley took the 11-year-old girl to the living room and asked her where Amber was. When she said that she didn’t know any Amber, she was shot in her stomach. Riley then continued shooting other parts of her body until he thought she was dead.
Once deputies arrived at the scene, a shootout followed before Riley eventually surrendered.
The bodies of the four victims as well as their dog was found dead in the house, but the 11-year-old girl was still alive and rushed to the hospital.
“She did tell some of her relatives, who told us how she did survive. She said, ‘I played dead and I prayed,'” said Sheriff Grady Judd.
Despite being shot multiple times, including seven times in her legs, the child is expected to survive.
Currently, Riley is facing a number of charges, including four counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, and seven counts of attempted first-degree murder on a law enforcement officer, as reported by WTSP.
“When we talked with him, he told us, ‘the guy on the lawnmower made me really really mad, so I decided to put an ops plan together,'” Judd said. “‘And you know when you put an ops plan together, you have to kill everyone.'”
Following the incident, a GoFundMe page was set up for the 11-year-old girl, who survived a living nightmare and came out alive. “There is a confirmed amount of 11 gun shot wounds most are below the waist and a broken leg. She also has some damage to her pinky finger and her big toe,” said an update on the fundraising page. “Even through this tragedy, somehow this little girl still manages to smile.”