In the latest proof that police responses depend on the color of a suspect, a white man who admitted to killing four people, including a baby, a mother and a grandmother before shooting at police and later separately attacking a different officer, was notably alive after law enforcement managed to take him into custody alive without killing him.
The way Bryan Riley was able to have his day in court on Monday after the 33-year-old former Marine slaughtered four people he didn’t know and left an 11-year-old little girl in critical condition in Florida one day earlier may seem unfathomable to those who have been keeping up with the deadly responses cops have to Black suspects accused of doing far less. But here we are.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a press conference that Riley was “a cold, calculated murderer” who “was ready for battle” when he went on his shooting rampage in Lakeland, which is about 36 miles northeast of Tampa, around 4:30 a.m. Sunday.
Judd said his officers and Riley exchanged “at least dozens if not hundreds of rounds” and even though deputies “were directing fire back at him to try to stop him from shooting at us,” amazingly, Riley wasn’t hit once.
To exacerbate matters even more, reports indicate that Riley admitted to being high on methamphetamines during the shooting.
Later, while Riley was being transported to a hospital to treat the lone gunshot wound he sustained during the apparent shootout with cops with those “dozens if not hundreds of rounds,” he tried to grab another officer’s gun.
Riley ultimately suggested he committed the murderous mass shooting because he wanted to be caught, according to the Washington Post.
“Because I’m a sick guy,” Riley said when asked why he went on the shooting rampage, an affidavit says. “I want to confess to all of it and be sent to jail.”
In the end, Riley was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder on a law enforcement officer, armed burglary with battery, arson, cruelty to an animal and shooting into an occupied dwelling.
But, more importantly, Riley was able to have his day in court in an unpredictable legal system that has historically benefitted white criminal suspects accused of crimes that many times Black people accused of the same crime do not survive following the police response.
Riley’s arrest was at once proof that the police can respond to a felonious deadly act without resorting to deadly force and could prompt comparisons to any number of prior police responses to suspected misdemeanors that ended in deaths for Black suspects.
While data for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office was not immediately available, it should be mentioned that Sheriff Judd recently tweeted that he was in favor of qualified immunity, which grants cops protection from personal liability and accountability in police shootings — the same divisive and polarizing policy that has reportedly delayed bipartisan police reform legislation from being enacted.
This is America.