NASHVILLE – After a frantic day-long manhunt, the gunman accused of killing four people at a Nashville-area Waffle House is now in custody, police said Monday.
Metro Nashville police say Travis Reinking, 29, unloaded an assault-style rifle at the restaurant in Antioch early Sunday morning.
The tragedy sparked a cycle of shock, grief and anxiety among residents throughout Nashville.
Nashville public schools started “lock-out” procedures Monday while Reinking was on the loose, and police warned residents to keep their doors locked.
But it’s not clear what Reinking did during his roughly 35 hours on the run. And the motive for the attack remains a mystery.
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 gunman 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.
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 was met, and as of Monday afternoon, the total stood at more than $31,500.
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.
Shortly after the shooting Sunday, Reinking fled the scene completely naked, police said. They suspect he went to his apartment, put on a pair of pants and may have escaped into the woods.
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 people: 23-year-old Akilah Dasilva of Antioch and 21-year-old DeEbony Groves of nearby Gallatin.
DaSilva’s cousin said the world lost a talented young man who excelled in computer science and music.
“He was a genius. He was super smart. Smarter than me,” Kareem DaSilva said.
“One of the things I liked about him is that he was a hard worker. He never gave up, and he was quick to learn. He was very impressive.”