Waffle House murder suspect now in custody
NASHVILLE — Travis Reinking, the man suspected of killing four people at a Nashville-area Waffle House on Sunday, is now in custody, Metro Nashville police said.
[Previous story, published at 1:52 p.m. ET]
Across Nashville, the mood oscillates from shock to grief to anxiety.
More than a day after a semi-naked gunman shot up a Waffle House and killed four people, 160 law enforcement officers are scrambling to find suspect Travis Reinking.
Nashville public schools are following “lock-out” procedures Monday while the killer is at large. Police say residents should keep their doors locked as authorities scour the woods and other places Reinking may be hiding.
“I think right now, you’re going to be looking in the general wooded area around Antioch, where he could have gotten so far,” CNN law enforcement contributor Steve Moore said.
“If you keep in mind that he’s still got this main currency — which is going to be a firearm — he can get pretty much whatever he wants.”
That’s the chilling reality facing many residents, including some who’ve spotted police and search dogs looking through their neighborhoods.
“It’s very possible that he’s carjacked somebody, stolen a car, taken somebody,” Moore said. “We won’t know until there are reports of missing items or missing people.”
There have been no credible sightings of Reinking, 29, since Sunday morning, Metro Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said.
He said a resident in a neighboring county found an abandoned laptop bag near a truck stop with a handwritten ID tag reading “Travis Reinking.”
But there was no laptop inside, and it’s unclear whether the bag was abandoned there before or after the Waffle House shooting.
Tragedy and heroism
Reinking arrived at the Waffle House in Antioch, part of the metro Nashville area, just before 3:20 a.m. Sunday.
He sat in his pickup truck for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes “just looking at people inside the restaurant,” Metro Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said.
Then, wearing only a green jacket, the killer got out with an “assault-type rifle” and fatally shot two people outside the Waffle House, police said.
He continued his rampage inside the restaurant, killing another two people. His motive remains unclear.
The carnage stopped only because of the heroics of a customer, James Shaw Jr., who monitored the gunman’s moves from afar and jumped into action when he saw an opportunity.
Shaw “saw the gunman looking at his rifle. At that point, the shots had stopped. So he decided to rush the gunman, actually wrestled that assault rifle away, tossed it over the counter. At that point, the gunman then fled,” Aaron said.
Shaw denied that he was a hero, saying his actions were “a selfish act” to save himself.
Shaw has started a GoFundMe account to assist victims of the shooting, a GoFundMe spokeswoman told CNN. Within hours, the $15,000 goal had almost been met.
A bizarre escape
Reinking fled the scene of the shooting completely naked, police said. They suspect he went to his apartment, put on a pair of pants and may have escaped into the woods.
“A man believed to be Travis Reinking was last seen in a wood line near Discovery at Mountain View Apts. on Mountain Springs Drive near the Waffle House,” police tweeted. “The man was seen wearing black pants and no shirt.”
A police helicopter and police dogs tried to track the suspect, but they’ve been hampered by rain.
“He’s murdered four times with no apparent reason and no apparent motive. So we’re very concerned,” Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said.
Police have warned residents to keep their doors locked and “eyes open.”
Sheriff’s deputies 400 miles north of Nashville in Tazewell County, Illinois, where Reinking recently lived, are also on high alert.
What we know about the suspect
Reinking is from Morton, Illinois, and police believe he moved to the Nashville area last fall.
He worked in construction but was fired from a job about three weeks ago, police said. Reinking started with another construction company last Monday, but did not show up for work Tuesday.
The 29-year-old has a history of delusions and run-ins with the law.
In May 2016, Reinking had a delusional episode and told first responders that he believed pop star Taylor Swift was stalking him, according to a police report.
Reinking’s family also told police he had made comments about killing himself.
Last summer, Reinking was arrested by the Secret Service for trespassing near the White House.
Reinking said he wanted to meet with US President Donald Trump and told a Secret Service officer at the northeast entrance that he was a “sovereign citizen” who had a “right to inspect the grounds,” according to a Metropolitan Police Department incident report dated July 7, 2017.
He was charged with unlawful entry, an arrest report states, but the charges were dismissed after he completed community service.
At the FBI’s request, Reinking’s Illinois firearms authorization was revoked, and four weapons — including the AR-15 style rifle used in Sunday’s shooting — were seized.
Authorities in Tazewell County, Illinois, later returned the seized weapons to Reinking’s father. Police said the father gave later gave them back to his son.
The lives lost
The four people killed were all under 30 years old.
Two of them were fatally shot outside the restaurant: Waffle House employee Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, of nearby Goodlettsville, and customer Joe R. Perez, 20, of Nashville.
Inside, the gunman killed two more young adults: 23-year-old Akilah Dasilva of Antioch and 21-year-old DeEbony Groves of nearby Gallatin.
Two more shooting victims, 21-year-old Shanita Waggoner and 24-year-old Sharita Henderson, were hospitalized.