Four Dead in Shooting at Waffle House Near Nashville
A gunman who killed four and wounded four others at a Waffle House outside Nashville Sunday morning was arrested last summer after he crossed a security barrier at the White House, police said.
The suspected gunman, Travis Reinking, is a 29-year old from Morton, Illinois, police said in a news conference Sunday afternoon. He opened fire at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tenn., around 3:25 a.m. local time on Sunday, killing three customers and one employee. He was armed with an AR-15 assault style rifle.
Investigation on going at the Waffle House. Scene being processed by MNPD experts. This is the rifle used by the gunman. pic.twitter.com/lihhRImHQN— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) April 22, 2018
As of Sunday afternoon, police still had not found Mr. Reinking, who they believe had moved to the Nashville area last fall. SWAT teams with police dogs had searched his apartment close to the Waffle House in Antioch and the dogs briefly picked up his scent, said Don Aaron, a spokesman with the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department.
Mr. Reinking, who police describe as a white male with short hair, wore only a green jacket during the shooting and later shed the jacket, which carried additional AR-15 magazines. He returned to his nearby apartment and put on a black pair of pants, but is believed to be barefoot and shirtless. Police have drafted murder charges against him.
MNPD officers, to include SWAT, have continued the search for Travis Reinking in the Antioch area overnight. There have been no credible sightings. The search will continue. All schools in the area have been cleared by officers. He was last seen Sun morn behind his apt complex. pic.twitter.com/ChY1ihCdKG— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) April 23, 2018
In a dramatic tussle, another Waffle House customer, 29-year-old James Shaw Jr., wrestled over the firearm with Mr. Reinking. Mr. Shaw took the opportunity to grab the gun from him and throw it over the counter when the gunman was reloading.
“He clearly came armed,” and was “intending to create devastation across the South Nashville area,” said Mr. Aaron, the police spokesman.
Mr. Shaw, a Nashville native who works for AT&T, said in a press conference that he wasn’t thinking of saving others, even though he has been hailed as a hero.
“I was completely doing it to save my self,” Mr. Shaw said. “I don’t want people to think I was the Terminator or Superman or anything like that. I figured if I was going to die, I was going to make him work for it.”
Police said that a man believed to be Mr. Reinking was last seen in a wooded area near an apartment complex not far from the Waffle House. Police said that man was wearing black pants and no shirt, and say that he could continue to be armed with two additional firearms, a handgun and a hunting-style long gun.
Federal and local law enforcement agents said that Mr. Reinking was arrested near the White House grounds on July 7, 2017, after entering a restricted area in hopes of getting an appointment with the president. After he refused to leave, he was arrested, a Secret Service official said.
He was deemed by law enforcement in Illinois last year as unfit to carry firearms, which were then surrendered to his father. At some point, police said, his father returned his firearms to him.
Mr. Reinking’s parents couldn't be reached for comment.
Of the four fatalities, three died at the scene and one at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. All the fatalities were in their 20s, including three patrons and one employee of the Waffle House. Two wounded victims are still undergoing treatment at the hospital, police said.
Witnesses and police say that Mr. Reinking arrived at the Waffle House restaurant in a pickup truck, and started firing at three people who were standing outside the restaurant. He then went inside the restaurant and more shots were fired.
Nashville Mayor David Briley said it was a “tragic day” for the city, but noted that the city had faced a similar armed shooting not long ago. “If we can all just come together, for this and the greater good, we can take these weapons of war off the streets of our country,” he said.
Walt Ehmer, CEO if Waffle House, which operates more than 2,000 locations in 25 states across the country, said it was a “very sad day for the Waffle House family.”
“All of our attention right now is focused on the victims and their families,” he said. “We are here to support them in any way we possibly can.”
Jeremy Searcy, who lives less than half a mile from the Waffle House, said he has been hearing police helicopters whirring above his usually quiet neighborhood all morning. Police and police dogs were searching the wooded area close to his cul-de-sac, he said, and officers were stationed up on a hill watching the area with binoculars.
“We have home security and sometimes we go to sleep without even turning it on, but we will think different now,” said Mr. Searcy, 30, who has lived in the neighborhood since November. He said the Waffle House had been open for less than a year.