The 11-year-old sole survivor of an ex-Marine’s massacre of a Florida family told cops she made it out alive by playing dead.
The girl, who police said was shot seven times by ex-Marine Bryan Riley in her family’s Lakeland home Sunday, told cops “I played dead and I prayed” after the gunman thought he had “eliminated” her.
“He thought he left her for dead, but she was smarter than he was,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference Thursday. “God truly was with that little girl.”
Riley is charged with killing the girl’s grandmother, parents and 3-month-old brother in what police said was a random attack on strangers — with no motive yet clear.
Judd, who could barely contain his anger during the press conference, described how Riley methodically burst into the home, claiming he was looking for a fictitious girl named “Amber.”
He said the accused killer fired more than 100 bullets and confessed to the fatal shootings using military terminology — telling cops he moved “into the fatal funnel,” “cleared the house” and “dumped a mag.”
Riley, who was wearing body armor, fired through the front door when he arrived at the home, then went around the back and shot out a glass door.
Inside the house, he emptied a magazine into the 62-year-old grandmother, then went upstairs and shot the family dog twice, Judd said.
Then he fired through the bathroom door, where the family was cowering — forcing his way in and gunning down 40-year-old Justice Gleason, his 33-year-old partner, who was clutching the baby boy, and killing them as well, the sheriff said.
That’s when Riley allegedly grabbed the 11-year-old girl and took her into the living room, with Judd describing the girl’s shooting in chilling detail.
“And he asked her, ‘Where’s Amber?’” Judd said. “She said, ‘I’m not Amber. There is no Amber.’ And he shot her in the thigh area, in the stomach.
“And she said, ‘And I grabbed the wound. And he asked me again and shot me again.’ Then this evil human being told us, ‘I tortured her in order to investigate, in order to find Amber,’” the sheriff said. “This is the big bad dude that tortured an 11-year-old child.
“Then this guy says to the 11-year-old, ‘Do you know why I killed your parents? They’re sex traffickers,’” Judd said. “Then he said, ‘Next I shot her in the legs and then when she wouldn’t tell me where Amber was I eliminated her.
“He thought he killed her,” he said. “But this 11-year-old was very brave and very smart, and she outthought him. She said, ‘I played dead and I prayed.’ And that’s the reason she’s alive today.”
Riley surrendered after he was wounded by sheriff’s deputies at the scene.
“He looks like a man, but he’s not a man,” Judd said Thursday. “He’s a sniveling coward.”
He said the girl has undergone four surgeries and is still recovering, while the investigation into the disturbing mass shooting is still ongoing.