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There Were More Than A Few Red Flags Before The Waffle House Shooting Suspect Got Arrested

Police on Monday arrested a man accused of killing four people at a Waffle House this weekend, ending a 34-hour, door-to-door manhunt that locked down schools and sent fear rippling across the Nashville, Tennessee, region.

Authorities discovered Travis Reinking, 29, hiding in the woods behind a construction site about a mile from the restaurant where the shooting occurred in the community of Antioch, southeast of downtown Nashville. Police said Reinking immediately lay on the ground and surrendered when an officer approached him with his gun drawn.

Reinking was taken to a hospital after his arrest and booked later Monday at the Hill Detention Center on four counts of criminal homicide.

Reinking requested a lawyer and refused to answer questions or make a statement, said Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. He did not explain how Reinking eluded officers, police dogs and search helicopters, and he would not say what drove the suspect to allegedly open fire on apparent strangers early Sunday morning.

Reinking’s bond was set at $2 million — $500,000 for each homicide count. He is scheduled to make his first appearance in court Wednesday morning.

Reinking had accumulated a long list of red flags in recent years; police said he showed signs of mental instability, had extensive run-ins with authorities, and had his firearms license revoked and his guns taken away by authorities last year. He allegedly carried out the mass shooting with one of the guns police had removed.

Last summer, Reinking was arrested outside the White House after he tried to cross a security barrier, declaring himself a “sovereign citizen” who wanted to speak with President Trump. The incident put Reinking under the scrutiny of the Secret Service and the FBI, as well as state and local police in Illinois, where he lived at the time.

In August, state and local authorities seized his guns and gave them to his father, Jeffrey Reinking, who agreed to keep the firearms secure and away from Travis, officials said. Since Sunday’s shooting, the father has told police that he eventually gave the guns back to his son.

Federal officials said Monday that the transfer was probably illegal and that the older Reinking might be charged. A young man answering the door at the Reinking family’s house in Morton, Illinois, said the family had no comment.

Police suspect that Travis Reinking is the gunman who opened fire at the Waffle House in Antioch just before 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, wearing nothing but a green jacket.

The man kept shooting as he walked inside, shattering the restaurant’s glass windows. At one point, he stopped, presumably to reload. That’s when customer James Shaw Jr. says he lunged at the gunman, wrestled the weapon away from him and tossed it over the counter.

Among the victims is 29-year-old Taurean C. Sanderlin of Goodlettsville, Tenn., a restaurant employee who was fatally shot while standing outside. The others killed were customers: Joe R. Perez, 20, of Nashville; Deebony Groves, 21, of Gallatin, Tenn.; and Akilah Dasilva, 23, of Antioch.

Two others — Shanita Waggoner, 21, of Nashville, and Sharita Henderson, 24, of Antioch — remained hospitalized at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in stable condition on Monday. After the shooting, police said, Reinking was spotted fleeing shirtless into a wooded area behind his apartment.

Just an hour before arresting Reinking, police acknowledged having “no confirmed sightings” of the suspect. Even as authorities expanded their search, with 160 officers scouring surrounding neighborhoods, they said they weren’t sure if he remained in the area.

Late Sunday, a resident of a nearby county told police he had found an empty laptop bag containing a handwritten ID card with Reinking’s name, Aaron said, suggesting that the 29-year-old was in that area the same night the shooting occurred. It remains unclear if the bag was dropped before or after the gunfire, police said.

Reinking’s arrest provided few clues about his activities since the shooting. He was wearing a maroon shirt and had a backpack when taken into custody. Inside the backpack, police said, was a loaded handgun, .45-caliber ammunition, a flashlight and a holster.

Beginning in May 2016, Reinking had a number of increasingly fraught encounters with authorities. That month, an emergency response officer found Reinking in a CVS parking lot in Morton, Ill. Reinking told police that pop star Taylor Swift was stalking and harassing him, according to police records. Reinking believed that Swift had hacked into his Netflix account and that his family was involved in the harassment. He told police a bizarre story about a Dairy Queen meetup with Swift that ended with him searching for the singer on the restaurant’s roof.

His parents told officers that he had threatened to kill himself and owned guns at home. Eventually, Reinking agreed to go to a hospital for evaluation, something he told police he had done before.

On June 16, 2017, police said, Reinking went to a local pool wearing a women’s pink housecoat; he swam in his underwear, exposed his genitals and tried to pick fights with lifeguards.

 

That same day, records show Reinking — who was living in a shop above the offices of his father’s construction business in Tremont, Ill. — walked down to the offices wearing a pink dress, holding a rifle and shouting expletives at employees, before throwing the rifle in his car and speeding away.

An officer called his father, Jeffrey Reinking, who was out of state at the time, according to reports from the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office. The father told police that he had taken three rifles and a handgun away from Travis because his son was having problems. But he eventually returned the guns to his son.

In the report, an officer said he later called Jeffrey Reinking and told him that “when he gets back home, he might want to lock the guns back up until Travis gets mental help which he stated he would.”

 

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