Travis Reinking, the suspect in this morning’s mass shooting at a Waffle House near Nashville, TN, was known to the authorities after a trespassing incident at the White House last year, in which he said he was a sovereign citizen. Afterward, police seized four of Reinking’s guns, including the AR-15 used in the shooting. Reinking’s father later gave the guns back to his son.
Police say that Reinking, a 29-year old man from Illinois, entered the parking lot of a Waffle House in Antioch—a neighborhood approximately 12 miles southeast of downtown Nashville which witnessed another mass shooting just seven months ago—around approximately 3:19 am. Around four minutes later, he got out of his pickup truck reportedly wearing nothing but a green jacket, and fatally shot two people. Upon entering the restaurant, he shot four others, two of whom have died. Vanderbilt University medical center spokeswoman Jennifer Wetzel said on Sunday that another shooting victim was in critical condition while another was in critical but stable condition.
The shooting only stopped because of James Shaw, a 29-year old customer who wrestled the gun away from the shooter. Shaw hid behind a door, which the gunman shot into and grazed his elbow. “It was at that time that I kind of made up my mind,” Shaw said, “that if it was going to come down to it, he was going to have to work to kill me.”
“He 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,” Metro Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said at a press conference.
The shooter then fled the scene and ditched his jacket, which was later found along with two additional magazines of ammunition.
Reinking was arrested near the White House in July 2017 after he reportedly told a DC police officer that he was a “sovereign citizen” and demanded a meeting with the president, according to CNN. “Do what you need to,” Reinking said, according to a police report. “Arrest me if you have to.” After refusing to leave the grounds, Reinking was arrested.
Reinking entered a deferred prosecution agreement and did community service for the incident, which he completed in November, according to CNN. Afterwards, the FBI and Tazewell County, IL, police interviewed him, according to Aaron. Aaron said that “at the request of the FBI,” Reinking’s firearm authorization was revoked and local police seized four of his guns, which they later returned to Reinking’s father. Reinking’s father has “acknowledged” that he gave the guns back to his son, according to Aaron.
Two of the four guns were initially unaccounted for, including a handgun and what Nashville police chief Steve Anderson described as a “hunting-type rifle,” according to the New York Times. Police later recovered the long gun, but the handgun is still unaccounted for. Reinking is still at large.
“Keep your doors locked, keep your eyes open,” Aaron said. “If you see this individual—if you see a nude guy walking around this morning—call the police department immediately.”
Correction: A previous version of this story mistakingly said that “four people were shot and killed inside of the Waffle House, two of whom later died.”