Very early in the morning on April 22, a gunman entered a Nashville-area Waffle House and opened fire. The alleged murderer, Travis Reinking, killed four people and injured two others before one of the patrons, James Shaw Jr., disarmed him while he was reloading his gun. The shooter, wearing nothing but a green coat, fled the Waffle House naked after losing the struggle over the gun. The suspect was arrested on Monday afternoon, according to the New York Times.
29-year-old Reinking, originally of Morton, Ill., is a white man with short hair. He was first identified by his truck outside of the popular Southern restaurant chain. Although the motive behind Reinking’s murderous rampage is unclear, Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson believes he may have “mental issues.”
This is not the first offense Reinking has had with the law, according to the Times. Last July, he was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service after appearing in a restricted area around the White House, saying he wanted to meet President Trump. When he was arrested he declared himself a “sovereign citizen,” an FBI term used to describe anti-government extremists, per USA Today. Sovereign citizens also believe that “the federal government is operating outside its jurisdiction and they are therefore not bound by government authority—including the courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, and even law enforcement.”
Further investigation into Reinking after the White House incident led the FBI and Illinois police to remove four guns—including the AR-15 assault rifle he used to murder the four Waffle House patrons—from his possession. The authorities gave the weapons to Reinking’s father, who ended up giving the weapons back to his son at a later time.
In 2016, according to CNN, Reinking told authorities in Tazewell County in Illinois that he felt like he was being watched. Most outrageous of all, he believed he was being stalked by Grammy-winning artist Taylor Swift after he wrote a letter to her. He also believes she hacked into his computer and phone. He also swore people began to bait him into breaking the law and were watching him outside his home, “barking like dogs.”
His delusions got worse, however. In June 2017, just one month before his White House arrest, an employee of Reinking’s father’s construction crane business, J&J Cranes, called the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office after another incident. Reinking came down from the apartment above his father’s business, wearing a pink dress and holding a rifle. Reinking shouted at the employee saying, “Is this what you f—-ing want?” before getting into his vehicle.
From there, Reinking went to a public pool, where police responded to another call. The call informed the police that Reinking barged into the pool wearing a pink dress before diving into the pool, removing the dress and then flashing his genitals at the life guards.
Early Sunday morning, Travis Reinking walked into a Waffle House, and killed four people and injured two before he was stopped by James Shaw Jr.
“No doubt he saved many lives by wrestling the gun away and tossing it over the counter and prompting the man to leave,” police spokesman Don Aaron told the Associated Press.
Reinking sat inside his truck for several minutes and killed two patrons outside before entering the restaurant, where he killed a third person. The fourth patron died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Reinking has four weapons and police have acquired all but one, which means Reinking was still armed. After he fled the Waffle House, it is believed he returned home to get clothes to wear before retreating into the woods near his home. Murder warrants have been drafted against Reinking.
Six total people were shot. The victims were Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, a Waffle House employee, and restaurant patrons Joe R. Perez, 20, Akilah Dasilva, 23, and DeEbony Groves, 21. There are two people at the hospital being treated for wounds.
James Shaw Jr. is being called a hero after heroically stepping up and tackling Reinking to the ground while he was reloading his assault rifle. Shaw arrived at the Waffle House with some friends after a fraternity party. He felt a bullet graze his arm.
“I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it,” Shaw told local media outlet The Tennessean.
He rushed the gunman, grabbed the barrel of the gun, pulled the rifle away and threw it over the counter at the restaurant. Shaw Jr. suffered a gunshot wound and some burns from the gun’s barrel. “He is a hero in my books,” said Brennan McMurry, 28, a longtime friend of Shaw’s who was with him at the Waffle House.
Shaw Jr. pushed Reinking out the door but didn’t follow him in case he had more guns in his car, but he proceeded to flag down other cars for help.
The Mayor offered his condolences and thoughts after this tragic and evil event.