A "good guy" with a gun (and Q-Anon-esque sex trafficking delusions)
Killing Bryan Riley's pathologies will take much much much more courage and action than fantasizing about killing Bryan Riley's body, Sheriff Judd. You can start with Saga Stevin's campaign.
If Michelangelo sculpted a modern-day “David” to embody the Capitol Lynch Mob/fake “Back the Blue”/Q-Anon anti-citizenship American cultural faction, this would be it:
This guy, Bryan Riley, is a literal American sniper, all jacked up, wearing a discolored and dishonored American flag as a shirt, looking for “child sex trafficking” to stop with his big guns.
Right up until the moment this living artwork used Polk County’s version of the second amendment to erase a Lakeland family a few days ago — including a baby and another Polk County dog named Diogi — Bryan Riley was Lakeland mayoral candidate Saga Stevin’s kind of man.
Check out Saga Stevin and Q-Anon congresswoman/Capitol Lynch Mob cheerleader Lauren “This is 1776” Boebert frolicking on Saga’s campaign page:
I have not seen clear reporting on where and how Bryan Riley developed his child sex trafficking delusions. I don’t know if he formally posted at Q-Anon chat rooms or whatever they are. But Q-Anon isn’t an organization one belongs to. It’s a group delusion and psychosis with a clear mythological core: child sex trafficking delusion. Here’s an excellent, informative story about it, with excerpt:
Others in the crowd on Jan. 6 held similar beliefs, bearing signs and shirts referencing QAnon, the mass delusion that a secret cabal is operating a global child trafficking network that Donald Trump was trying to stop.
And what did our heroic sculpture of traditional male values say to the surviving 11-year-old girl he shot multiple times with Lauren Boebert’s second amendment after killing the child’s mom, dog, and baby brother?
“Then this guy says to the 11-year-old, ‘Do you know why I killed your parents? They’re sex traffickers.’ He said next, “I shot her in the legs. And then when she wouldn’t tell me where Amber was, I eliminated her.’ [Amber did not exist. — ed]
In other words, looked at within the Q-Anon mass delusion, Bryan Riley was the ultimate “good guy with a gun,” doing God’s Christian will as he understood it by killing a real baby and two real adults and a real dog to save a fantasy child who did not exist. Forever war PTSD and meth sent this troubled veteran to the wrong home. But his heart and his second amendment were in the right place. Surely, Q-Anon-ers and sex traffic delusion peddlers will say, there’s a correct home somewhere. The next good guy with a gun will go there.
Perhaps God will tell the next buff patriot it’s my house — or yours.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd won’t do anything at all within his prodigious political and cultural and media power to try to prevent that from happening. But he will talk empty viral shit on TV to the broken killer after you and your family and your dog are dead.
So there’s that.
Grady should have a stern public talk with Saga Stevin, not happily let her use him in campaign pictures
Grady Judd is adored by anti-social, anti-citizenship, Q-Anon faction of Polk County. He’s adored by the Bryan Rileys in waiting. That’s why Grady can’t summon the moral courage to say “mass rightwing delusion” or “Q-Anon” or “large-scale child sex traffic hoaxes.” It’s why he can’t bring himself to have a long overdue moral public confrontation with the curdled citizenship of his political and cultural base.
But he can bring himself to pose with Q-Anon/Boebert-cavorter Saga Stevin and let her post it on her mayoral campaign page along with Boebert herself.
Nice company you’re in, sheriff.
Saga Stevin wants to be mayor of Lakeland. She wants to drape Munn Park in Lauren Boebert’s Q-Anon values and citizenship. If you doubt me on this, one of Stevin’s funders is Julie Jenkins Fancelli ($1,000), the Publix heir who worked with Sandy Hook denier Alex Jones to fund and organize the D.C. “Stop the Steal” rally that turned into the Capitol Lynch Mob.
(This is particularly sad for me to learn, for reasons stated here at length, concerning my very good personal and public working relationship with Gregory Fancelli, Julie Fancelli’s son. There is no evidence Mrs. Fancelli intended for the rally she helped fund to become the Capitol Lynch Mob; but the rally was disrespectful enough to her fellow citizens.)
Now, if you, as a candidate for mayor like Saga Stevin, are funded by the money behind the “Stop the Steal” Rally that became the Capitol Lynch Mob and you proudly display on your campaign material the Q-Anon congresswoman who tweeted on Jan. 6, “This is 1776,” you cannot belong more completely to the “fringe on the far right.”
That’s the phrase Grady Judd himself used on the day he had to arrest one of his deputies for cheering on the Capitol Lynch Mob and threatening representative democracy with uniformed violence. We’ll come back to that phrase.
For now, we should understand that no one who has ever run for city office in Lakeland more embodies the phrase “fringe on the far right” than Saga Stevin. She is the most radical, right-wing candidate ever to run for Lakeland City Commission or mayor — by far. She’s the first one to prominently feature a Q-Anon and Capitol Lynch Mob supporter on her campaign material.
She’s also an absolute out-of-town agitator who only recently returned to her childhood home of Lakeland after abandoning her actual home, which is Minneapolis, after George Floyd-related unrest. See this article. Her campaign is entirely about taking revenge in Lakeland on whatever “Marxist” forces she imagined “destroyed” Minneapolis, which is in fact not destroyed and growing faster as a city than it has since 1940s. Check out this downtown scene.
If Sheriff Judd meant anything he said about “fringe of the far right,” if he were a true citizen and a serious political and law enforcement leader, he would denounce Saga Stevin for using his picture — in uniform — as campaign fodder. He would denounce Saga Stevin for associating with Lauren Boebert and the Q-Anon fantasy sex trafficking delusions because those delusions can drive people like Bryan Riley to kill. He would tell Saga Stevin to return Julie Fancelli’s contribution because he has seen firsthand the dark effect the Capitol Lynch Mob mentality can have on the mind of one of his armed deputies — not to mention Bryan Riley. He would tell Saga: renounce Q-Anon and Lauren Boebert or I’ll campaign against you.
Any of that would be more useful citizenship — and take more public courage — than this empty posturing after Bryan Riley’s capture, which is the twisted violence version of “thoughts and prayers”:
It would have been nice if he would have come out with a gun and then we’d have been able to read a newspaper through him. But when someone chooses to give up, we take them into custody peacefully. If he’d have given us the opportunity, we’d have shot him up alive. But he didn’t because he’s a coward
Who’s a coward, sheriff?
Grady Judd will likely never say publicly any of those things I suggested to Saga Stevin and others. That’s because his base — his greatest source of love — would react badly to it. You turning into a lib, Grady? RINO.
He will never ever ever ever risk that. Why?
No performative politician or law enforcement officer in America is more aware of his audience — of their fears and imagined enemies and orgasmic triggers — than Grady Judd. No one is more aware of how profoundly those same American pathologies that drove Bryan Riley — degenerate gun culture, useless 9/11 occupation wars, unaddressed mental anguish, untreated drug war madness, warped manhood, and perverted communication with “God” — infect and motivate his political and cultural base.
It’s why he’s actually, very very quietly, a Florida leader in seizing guns from addled people in his base with risk protection orders. (Unfortunately, you don’t usually get to know how addled someone is until after somebody gets hurt or dies, as Bryan Riley shows.)
Anybody who has ever talked to Grady one-on-one away from cameras knows he’s quite capable of acting as a reasonable, professional, insightful professional sheriff. He just chooses to do it in public about 3 percent of the time. And that’s damning.
Grady knows full well how wayward and violent and anti-social and anti-citizenship some elements of his own base and most loyal audience can be. But he doesn’t want them to know he knows.
As potent as Riley’s meth
Why is Grady so afraid of his best public self?
No American politician — including Trump — is more addicted to the toxic love with which his audience doses him than Grady Judd. Those God Grady Guns shirt are a powerful drug. His emotional addiction overwhelms his very capable intellectual and professional judgement. TV cameras and reporters are his dealers, which is why he caters to them — and they love him back because he pays really well and regularly in copy and sound bites that pull ratings and move God Grady Guns shirts and gin up viral YouTube videos.
That’s also why no media organization will take a hard look at its unchecked complicity in enabling the worst anti-citizenship inertia of the Grady Show — even though there are individual reporters who would if given the chance. (I’ve spoken to them.)
Media organizations are just as trapped now as Grady in the anti-social rebellion against the very notion of citizenship that they’ve collaborated with him to gin up all these years. Trust me, I know. I left journalism, in part, because I did not want to participate in the ginning. Google “Grady Judd Mulberry High School cheerleader beatdown video” from 2008 to see the last straw for me.
Years before sex trafficking delusion executed that Lakeland family and drove the Capitol Lynch Mob, Grady Judd had turned sexual abuse in Polk and beyond (which is a real and massive and eternal human problem) into a cheap reality show with endless public stunts designed to 1) entertain you 2) make you think Grady is the only thing standing between your children and an ocean of sex perverts.
And abusive sexual pathology packaged for prurient entertainment is just one dark corner of the Grady show. There are many others. Google for a while. It’s endless.
Grady’s terrible year
The Grady Show is such a valuable media property for Grady and I-4 TV alike that no media organization has reported — or will report — critically, or even factually, on the sheriff’s absolutely, objectively terrible last year or so as an actual sheriff. These are all facts:
Grady oversaw a 68 percent spike in the Polk County murder rate in 2020. That’s, by far, the biggest jump of any of any of the top 10 largest counties in the state. Florida’s overall rate increase in 2020 was 13 percent. Of Polk’s I-4 Corridor neighbors, only Orange County has a slightly higher overall murder rate per population than Grady Judd’s Polk.
Grady widely publicized in a press conference a white supremacist hoax about “Antifa” hordes coming into Polk County neighborhoods at the most tense moment of the George Floyd protests last summer. (Polk had one tiny, completely contained moment of violence that slightly damaged one car in Lakeland.) And then Grady said this to the “Antifas” who were no more real than Bryan Riley’s “Amber”: “The people of Polk County like guns. They have guns. I encourage them to own guns. And they’re going to be in their homes tonight with their guns loaded. And if you try to break into their homes to steal, to set fires, I’m highly recommending they blow you back out of the house with their guns.” In doing so, he put a delusion-based target on every young person walking home from work, as surely as sex trafficking delusions put one on Riley’s victims. See full account here.
Grady had to arrest his Deputy Peter Heneen because of his open support for the violence of the Jan. 6 Capitol Lynch Mob and threats to the public. A heroic fellow deputy turned Heneen in. Grady remains afraid to name this deputy, public servant, and citizen, presumably because he’s afraid of what his Capitol Lynch Mob base will do this deputy because of his good citizenship. Again full account here.
Not long after arresting Heneen, Grady had to arrest three deputies for stealing cash from someone they arrested.
Grady brazenly campaigned in uniform for and and leant taxpayer-owned property as a venue to Gov. Ron DeSantis to promote his run-people down-in-the street with impunity “anti-riot” bill. That entirely political and pointless bill was just struck down as unconstitutional. And neither Portland, nor Black Lives Matter, nor Antifa, nor any racial justice protester has ever wiped out a Lakeland family and a baby and dog like Q-Anon-style mass sex trafficking delusion just did.
At one point in his DeSantis “anti-riot” campaigning, while he was apparently powerless to stop or even publicly address Polk County’s historic murder rate spike, Grady called voters who don’t support his failed policies “stupid”: "There's a reason why we have a 49-year-low crime rate. And the same people that don't think we should have an anti-rioting bill, or a rioting bill, are the same ones that think we ought to let more people out of prison...Welcome to Florida, but don't register to vote and vote the stupid way you did up north, or you'll get what they got."
[By the way, it’s not crime that’s historically low. It’s non-homicide, official UCR crime stats, which are systematically juiced everywhere. We don’t know about rates of crime itself with any precision. Homicide, which is generally up everywhere, is the exception because you can’t hide the bodies like you can robberies or burglaries. Ask any real cop about stats.]
Grady fancies himself “America’s sheriff.” He’s been the president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, president the Major County Sheriffs of America, and the most hyper-vocal and aggressively political member of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas shooting Commission.
Yet, it took him two months and an arrest of his deputy to acknowledge Joe Biden won the presidential election. It took him a week to clearly acknowledge and address the Trump insurrection/lynch mob at the Capitol. To my knowledge, he has NEVER publicly criticized the members of the Lynch Mob or the political and cultural delusions that drive them. He has never, to my knowledge, issued a statement of support for the officers beaten in the line of duty of the officers who died in the aftermath from injuries and suicide.
He has never, to my knowledge, publicly praised Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd, whose righteous, “officer-involved” killing of Ashli Babbitt tamed Lauren Boebert’s “This is 1776” Capitol Lynch Mob at its most dangerous moment. See full description here.
As I wrote in that article, Grady’s base has generally taken Ashli Babbitt’s side against Lt. Byrd and the police officers who fought with him. Watch how many show up for the next DC rally next week to protest their prosecution as “political prisoners” or something.
Grady was afraid to tell the world he got vaccinated or urge or mandate (this is a guy who will mandate just about anything but a vaccine) his people to get vaccinated publicly until it was much too late and he’d already lost a young deputy for no damn reason.
Grady utterly cowered before his base in the case of Lakeland’s own Capitol Lynch Mob fugitive, Jonathan Pollock. The same exact sheriff who talked all that public shit about anti-riot bills, and how you shouldn’t vote, and blowing away white supremacist hoax fantasies, hid from the world and behind Facebook to meekly “spread the word” about helping catch Pollock, who remains at large.
Pollock was caught on video taking part in the failed Capitol Lynch Mob, invading the People’s House, and inflicting violence on multiple police officers fighting for their lives. And “tell it like it is” Grady is terrified of him. Full account here.
More specifically, “tell it like it is Grady” is terrified of the hundreds of Facebook comments cheering Pollock on and denouncing law enforcement from the supposed “Back the Blue” crowd following the Sheriff’s Office on social media.
Back the blue!!!
Indeed, the “tell it like it is” sheriff has a standing invitation to come have a serious and polite talk about all of this with the “tell like it is” Public Enemy Number 1 from Lakeland. That’s me. We can do a podcast if he wants. We can put him in front of TV cameras if he wants. Together, we can establish what “it” actually “is.”
One of us seems afraid of that. (Saga Stevin has a standing invitation to be interviewed, too. Anytime.)
Indeed, I believe I am the only reporter in history to submit Grady Judd to a tough, but fair, interview. I just did it as an elected School Board member in a public meeting in 2018. That interview is one big reason why Polk didn’t jam guns into teachers’ hands and make them soldiers — like Bryan Riley — in response to the Stoneman Douglas shooting, which Grady was lobbying hard to do.
The rare Grady quote unlikely to titillate anyone
At first blush, all those facts make one wonder who Grady is even talking to when he has this fantasy about killing Riley:
It would have been nice if he would have come out with a gun and then we’d have been able to read a newspaper through him. But when someone chooses to give up, we take them into custody peacefully. If he’d have given us the opportunity, we’d have shot him up alive. But he didn’t because he’s a coward.
Grady’s base — the Saga Stevin voter — does not and will not feel the same tribal bloodlust for a literal American Sniper who erases a family while on meth as they did for Angilo Freeland, perpetrator of the first Diogi murder in 2006, who does not share their racial and cultural markers.
The Grady base will see Bryan Riley as fundamentally one of them, with a war-torn story that is tragic, not evil. They will pity Riley because they see him as human in the way they don’t see their imagined racial and cultural enemies.
(By the way, they are not wrong in how they see Bryan Riley. But it would be nice to extend the same humanity to everyone, not just buff fascist members of their tribe.)
If Grady’s base feels no bloodlust for Riley; and people like me feel no bloodlust for Riley, then where did that Grady quote come from? And for whose benefit?
It came from the name “Diogi,” I suspect. And it’s aimed at the local TV stations and newspaper reporters who remember the day of the first Diogi death and the sound of Grady’s mouth vividly. I’m one of them.
On a terrible day in 2006, a very lethal guy named Angilo Freeland, who seems to have been some kind of drug organization enforcer (although it was always vague), murdered Deputy Matt Williams, shot another deputy, and killed Williams’ K-9 Diogi after fleeing a traffic stop.
The next day, as part of a massive manhunt, one particular search team (of many search teams) made up largely of Florida Fish and Wildlife officers killed Freeland in a panicky close quarters confrontation after stumbling upon him, armed with Matt Williams’ gun and concealed under a tree stump in deep, jungle-like underbrush.
As the Polk County reporter for the Tampa Tribune in 2006, I covered that story from beginning to end, including the funeral for Matt Williams and Diogi and the final detailed investigation of how — and by whom — Freeland was killed. I have always considered Freeland’s killing 100 percent justified. These guys were not cold executioners; they were mostly Fish and Wildlife officers in a deeply dangerous and stressful situation, who fired a lot of bullets at a guy they couldn’t see until they all but stepped on him, who had nothing to lose, and who had proven himself very very good at killing police.
I would have done the exact same thing in their position.
Memory is funny. But I think I was there, shortly after Freeland was killed, when Grady said this, which launched his public legend beyond Polk:
I suspect the only reason 110 rounds was all that was fired was that’s all the ammunition they had. We were not going to take any chance of him shooting back. Ladies and gentlemen, God will be the judge and jury. The killer chose his end. He raised his hand, and it had a firearm in it. That was the last thing he ever did.
On paper, it doesn’t even read that outlandish. Grady has said much more indulgent things over the years. But it got translated, with his joyful assistance, into a shit-talking shorthand for radio show hosts and the Internet. And that made him a star. Man, did ya’ll hear what that awesome sheriff said: “Why did we shoot him 98 times? Because we ran out of bullets.” Fuck yeah, I love Grady Judd.
Again, Grady knows media and is acutely aware of every audience. Riley’s victims clearly named their dog after the first Diogi, who became a K-9 martyr and beloved totem in Polk County. We have a dog park named for him. Grady knew he’d be asked about the symmetry of the dogs, which means it would be very very difficult for even I-4 TV reporters to avoid asking about a lack of symmetry in quotes. The easiest way to avoid that was to create symmetry in the shit talk right from the start.
But I doubt anybody inside or outside of Grady’s base read that quote and went: “Yeahhhhhh, read a newspaper though the holes in that dog and baby-killing American sniper, fuck yeah. Grady’s the man, dude.” Grady himself seemed to acknowledge the incoherence of his performance as he performed it, saying Riley was a “hero” one day and then “evil” the next, lurching from one emotion to another, not sure which one to settle on.
It’s because Grady Judd doesn't know who he is — or what he’s about — beyond his need for adoration.
Know thyself, sheriff
This version of Grady Judd, in the process of arresting Deputy Peter Heneen on Jan. 19, 2021, for violent threats against representative democracy, sounds quite reasonable:
We are far afield when we take these radical comments and say that all 320 million people believe that. Let’s get away from this fringe on the far right and far left and get back to the middle of this bell curve. The overwhelming majority of people are right of center, left of center and are God-fearing, good people. I love the people of this county, of this state, of this nation and there will always be white noise and radical opposition. And I'm just sorry in this environment that we just choose to put all this out there…
This is the RINO Grady Judd you get 1 percent of the time. He’s very good at it. But you only get it when he senses that he’s about to get scrutinized, like when a deputy acts on the culture war of neighbor-against-neighbor he’s stoked for his entire public career. Is this the real Grady Judd? Who knows? I wish it was.
I do know that the rare moments of potential scrutiny are the only moments, as a politician and public leader, that Grady Judd will ever seek to morally or publicly defend or support the citizenship of the 44 percent of his Polk constituents who did not vote for Trump from the “fringe of the far right.”
That is because the “far right” is not a “fringe” (neither is it close to majority.) We should neither overstate nor understate its real world power and influence. But it is the controlling faction in the national and local Republican party, which has shown itself far too weak and venal and scared of this “fringe” to confront it as an organization, as everyone knows, including reasonable Republicans and Grady Judd.
Almost 60 percent of Republicans claim to believe that citizens like me stole the presidential election from them. (They’re lying, by the way. They don’t actually believe it. They just hate the very idea of people who don’t vote like them. “Fraud” is a fig-leaf excuse for something much darker.) That’s not a fringe; it’s a large demented faction.
That’s why Saga Stevin is gonna win the Republican vote in Lakeland — by weaponizing that “right wing fringe” against an authentic evangelical Republican Christian and successful businessman with a long record of good citizenship. Why? Because they think he’s too nice to the “libs,” whoever the libs are.
Grady Judd will likely say absolutely nothing about it, even though Saga Stevin is as “far right” as a person running for mayor in Lakeland can possibly be.
The only question in this city election is whether Lakeland has a larger pro-good citizenship, pro-neighbor coalition right now among the remaining Republicans, independents, and Democrats to defend what our city has built together in the 20-plus years Saga Stevin wasn't here. (I’m an independent, if that matters to you, although I have registered with both parties at various times for primaries.)
The “far right fringe” that actually controls the Republican Party here and elsewhere LOVES Grady Judd when he’s not being a RINO. Just like it loves Saga Stevin and Bryan Riley until he wipes out a family and becomes a liability. Grady Judd shares a political, cultural, and social coalition with Saga Stevin and Bryan Riley (pre-mass shooting) that he continually weaponizes against me — and you — as citizens who are not part of the “fringe” of the “far right.”
Does RINO Grady Judd sound like this Grady Judd from June 1, 2020, literally weaponizing the “fringe from the far right” by citing a white supremacist hoax, to say this:
The people of Polk County like guns. They have guns. I encourage them to own guns. And they’re going to be in their homes tonight with their guns loaded. And if you try to break into their homes to steal, to set fires, I’m highly recommending they blow you back out of the house with their guns.
Is that the real Grady Judd? Who knows.
And which of the “overwhelming majority” of “good people” is he talking to here on April 19, 2021, a few months after his failed moral leadership forced him to arrest Deneen and other deputies stealing from the public — after silently overseeing the biggest murder spike of any big county in Florida.
Welcome to Florida, but don't register to vote and vote the stupid way you did up north, or you'll get what they got.
Is that the real Grady Judd? Who knows? I’m past caring.
Right now, I’d say there is no Grady Judd. There is just a mouth, a yapping mascot for a “far right” faction of people who hate the idea of sharing community and citizenship with fellow Americans who look and live and vote differently they do. They think our very existence is somehow a fraud.
We good citizens need to look that right in the face and understand it and not shrink from it. This Lakeland city election matters mostly in clarifying this civic reality for Lakeland’s people. Whether or not we elect a Q-Anon/Capitol Lynch Mob mayor with the sheriff’s silent assent or open support, the world doesn’t end. The battle for citizenship will go on and on, mostly outside the electoral process, regardless of the outcome of this election.
We Lakelanders who take citizenship seriously are considered “stupid” enemies in our own society by many neighbors with vicious fantasies about us that our sheriff encourages. Just listen to them. Listen. to. what. they. say. Look. at. who. they. idolize. and. elevate.
Q-Anon or the next Bryan Riley can visit you anytime, too. Don’t hide from it or pretend it’s not true. Confront it, calmly and honestly. And recognize that Grady’s Judd’s mouth is a lot like Bryan Riley’s biceps — a carefully constructed artifice of superficial tribal power designed to obscure profound personal weakness. And that weakness has lethal human and community consequences.
Ask the second Diogi. And the baby.
Oh that’s right, you can’t. And you’ll never be able to.