Waffle House shooting suspect asks for lawyer as he’s arrested
ANTIOCH, Tenn. — Two days after a gunman opened fire with an assault-style rifle at a Nashville-area Waffle House, authorities are trying to establish what their suspect did in the 35 hours between the deadly attack and his arrest.
Wearing only a jacket, the accused gunman, 29-year-old Travis Reinking, allegedly fatally shot two people outside the Antioch restaurant, police said.
He continued his rampage inside the restaurant, killing two more. Reinking fled the scene completely naked after a customer intervened.
Police swarmed homes and swaths of woods in the area of the shooting, searching for the suspect, who was added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s “Top 10 Most Wanted” list.
He remained at large until a member of the public spotted him emerging from the woods Monday afternoon and phoned 911. Reinking is due in court Wednesday to face four counts of criminal homicide.
It’s not clear what he did during his time on the run. And a motive for the attack remains a mystery.
Sighting and arrest
A tip from the community led to Reinking’s arrest shortly after 1 p.m. Monday in a wooded area near his Nashville apartment, Metro Nashville Police said.
Reinking did not resist when a detective drew a gun on him, Lt. Carlos Lara said. He was carrying a backpack that contained a firearm, ammunition and a flashlight. He declined to give a statement and requested a lawyer, Lara said. He was booked into Metro jail Monday night on four counts of criminal homicide.
Construction worker Lydia French was the community member who called 911 after seeing a man who fitted Reinking’s description, the Tennessean reported.
The man — who had emerged from the woods near where French was working with her crew — looked “shocked” and “disorientated,” she told the outlet.
French said the man noticed her on the phone and went behind Cane Ridge Elementary School.
“When he seen me on the phone, he kept looking real nervous,” the Tennessean quoted her as telling reporters soon after Reinking was arrested.
“I’ve got kids,” French said. “I worked out here every day last week with him living right here. All day long I kept thinking that could’ve been us,” she said.
Nashville public schools had initiated “lock-out” procedures while Reinking was on the loose, which meant no guests or visitors could enter public buildings.
Car theft allegation
Police said that Reinking visited a car dealership in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood last week and somehow obtained a key fob for a 2018 BMW X6 without providing identification. He stole the car and led police on a brief chase, Brentwood Police said.
Using the car’s GPS, officers tracked the car to Reinking’s apartment complex and recovered it. Because they didn’t know the thief’s identity, no one was arrested.
Suspect showed signs of delusion
In May, a Tazewell County Sheriff’s deputy met him and his parents in a drug store parking lot after his parents had called for help, according to an incident report.
A paramedic told the responding officer that Reinking was “delusional” and believed that Taylor Swift was harassing him by stalking and hacking his phone, the report states.
“Travis believed everyone including his own family and the police are involved,” the officer said in the report. “Travis stated he did not want to hurt Taylor Swift or anyone else, he only wanted the harassment to stop.”
Reinking told the officer the harassment began a few weeks earlier when Swift hacked his Netflix account and told him to meet her at a Dairy Queen, the report states. He told the officer that when he showed up she ran off and disappeared.
His parents told the officer he made comments about killing himself and that he had access to “many firearms” in his residence.
By then, another officer had arrived to help persuade Reinking to go to a hospital for evaluation. He resisted their efforts, saying he was “free to leave” and that the officers were “violating his constitutional rights.” Finally, after four more officers arrived, Reinking agreed to go, saying it was against his will.
On June 16, 2017, an employee of his father’s business, J&J Cranes, called the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office to report that Reinking came down from his apartment wearing a pink dress and holding a rifle, an incident report states.
The employee told police Reinking yelled “Is this what you f—–g want?” before he threw his rifle in his trunk and left, according to the report.
Around the same time, the Tremont Police Department responded to a call to a public pool, according to another incident report. The pool director told the responding officer that a man in his 20s barged into the pool wearing a pink women’s housecoat, the report states. The man dove into the pool and took off the coat and swam around in his underwear. When he got out of the pool, he shouted at lifeguards that he was a man and exposed his genitals to them, the report states.
The rifle stayed in the vehicle and no one at the pool asked to press charges, the officer said in the report. “This is an informational report showing the state of mind of Travis Reinking,” the report said.
Meanwhile, several members of the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office went to J&J Cranes to speak with Reinking.
“Travis has some mental problems and I asked him if he would like to speak to (the Emergency Response Service) but he stated he didn’t want to,” the officer wrote in the report. “Travis had already spoken to them before and been in the hospital.”
The officer said he also called Reinking’s father, who was out of state. Jeffrey Reinking told the office he had taken three guns from his son before and locked them up “when Travis was having problems,” the report states.
Later in the day, the officer said in his report, “I called back Jeff Reinking and advised him of what happened and when he gets back home he might want to lock the guns back up until Travis gets mental help, which he stated he would.”
When Reinking breached a White House security barrier in July, police say, he had a very specific request: He wanted to meet with President Donald Trump. He 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.
The report does not say if Reinking was referring to the anti-government extremist movement of the same name.
Reinking was arrested by the Secret Service for trespassing near the White House.
He was charged with unlawful entry, 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.
After the firearms seizure, Reinking was legally prohibited from possessing guns, Matthew Espenshade, an FBI agent located in Nashville, said Monday. Authorities in Tazewell County, Illinois, gave the weapons to Reinking’s father, who police believe later returned them to his son.
His father, Jeffrey Reinking, could potentially face charges for transferring weapons to a person knowingly prohibited from possessing them, ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Marcus Watson said.
Reinking’s grandmother, Marilyn Hopper, told CNN affiliate WSMV-TV that her grandson “was a sick boy” and she was devastated by news of the attack.
“My heart goes out to those people who have loved ones they’ve lost. I’ve lost two children myself and I know what that feels like. My heart really does go out to them. But you know, we have a side too,” Hopper told the channel by phone.
“I’m just so sorry for those people and their loss and my heart goes out to them,” she said.