The Other McCain

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QAnon? Meth? PTSD? Marine’s Florida Massacre Leaves Questions Remaining

Posted on | September 9, 2021 | No Comments

Bryan Riley, a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran, murdered four people — including a grandmother and an infant shot in its mother’s arms — during a bizarre pre-dawn rampage Sunday in Polk County, Florida.

The senseless killing of innocent people that Riley did not know enraged Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who lamented the fact that the suspect surrendered with his hands up: “It would’ve been nice if he’d have come out with a gun. . . . If he’d have given us the opportunity, we’d have shot him up a lot.” Sheriff Judd hates criminals that much.

Did I mention that this massacre was completely senseless? Because the victims were strangers to Riley. During a Thursday press conference, Sheriff Judd explained that what had happened was this: Riley, who lived 30 miles away from the crime scene, in the Tampa suburb of Brandon, went to a friend’s house to pick up a first aid kit. Riley had been planning to travel to Louisiana to help victims of Hurricane Ida, and this friend — apparently someone Riley knew from his job as a security guard — had offered to donate a first-aid kit to Riley’s effort.

The friend lived near the Lakeland home where the murders happened. Riley goes to the friend’s house, gets the first aid kit, hangs out about 15 or 20 minutes, and leaves about 7:10 p.m. Less than 15 minutes later, there is a 911 call from the Gleason family, reporting an encounter with a suspicious man, who later proved to be Riley.

Driving from his friend’s house, Riley passed the Gleason home, where Justice Gleason, 40, was mowing his lawn. Riley stopped his truck and spoke to Gleason, telling him “he was sent there by God to talk to someone named Amber because she was going to commit suicide. Gleason told him there was no one there named Amber.” Riley refused to accept this answer. Then Gleason’s mother-in-law, 62-year-old Cathy Delgado, who lived in a separate home behind the main house, came out and told Riley to leave or she would call the cops:

“When our suspect, Riley, left, he was very angry,” Judd said. “And he was very angry at Justice [Gleason] because he thought Justice had kept him from seeing this child, Amber, that was going to commit suicide.”

Delgado did call 911, and deputies searched the area for the suspicious stranger, but apparently Riley left the area before deputies arrived. Riley went back to Brandon, where he lived with a girlfriend he had been dating for about four years. In the days leading up to the incident, she had become concerned about his behavior, and now there was an argument as Riley told the girlfriend that God had told him to rescue the human trafficking victim “Amber” and she told him, basically, you’re crazy. She went to bed and Riley then began to prepare the “operational plan” for his “mission” — kill everybody and rescue Amber.

Watch the video of Sheriff Judd’s Thursday press conference:

 

Obviously, the sheriff isn’t buying any insanity defense of Riley, emphasizing the methodical planning he put into this massacre, and the heinous brutality of Riley’s crimes. But the motive for this senseless slaughter was a paranoid delusion about sex-trafficking, with a military veteran who quite clearly was suffering a mental breakdown. Riley’s girlfriend mentioned PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and Riley himself told deputies that he had been using methamphetamine, but the nature of Riley’s homicidal mania is still mysterious.

Riley served in the Marines and was deployed to Iraq (2008) and Afghanistan (2009-2010). He was wounded in Afghanistan and is “classified as a disabled veteran,” according to the sheriff’s office. Any defense attorney would point to this as evidence of PTSD as a contributing factor, but Riley seemed to adjust well to civilian life, working in what is called “executive security” — basically a bodyguard for VIPs — and had obtained numerous certificates for advanced training in that field. Why did he so suddenly come unraveled?

Is it possible that the recent collapse of Afghanistan triggered Riley’s mental breakdown? I just throw that out there, speculating, because based on what Sheriff Judd says Riley’s girlfriend told them, Riley descended into a delusional condition in a matter of weeks or days.

Riley’s condition appears to have been acute, rather than chronic.

Of course, there could be multiple factors contributing to a psychotic breakdown. Stress from work or relationships, the death of a loved one, financial difficulties, etc., but here you have a Marine veteran of Afghanistan whose rapid descent into madness coincided with the chaos surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which seems too much of a coincidence to ignore. But what about the specific content of Riley’s delusion, the belief that this family home near Lakeland was the site of a sex-trafficking ring where he had to rescue “Amber”?

Is this some kind of QAnon thing? Or had Riley just seen too many action-adventure movies and was living out a Liam Neeson fantasy?

No doubt investigators in Polk County will go through all of Riley’s online activity to discover whether he visited conspiracy theory websites, and I’ll be interested to learn more about the timeline of how Riley went from being a security professional to being a mass murderer. For now, however, there are just a lot of unanswered questions about this, and the only indisputable conclusion is: Crazy People Are Dangerous.




 

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