NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Nashville police on Monday arrested the suspect in the weekend killing of four people at a Waffle House restaurant, ending a manhunt that began when the gunman ran naked from the scene into nearby woods, authorities said.
Photos posted online by police showed Travis Reinking, a 29-year-old construction worker suspected of opening fire at the restaurant early Sunday morning, in the back of a police car. Looking disheveled, he was wearing a torn red shirt and dirty blue jeans, and had scratches on his shoulder.
“At 1:07 this afternoon, Travis Reinking was taken into custody in a wooded area near here,” Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron told reporters in a news conference near the Waffle House. “He will be booked on four counts of criminal homicide.”
Reinking, who had a handgun and ammunition in his backpack when he was arrested, immediately requested a lawyer and refused to answer questions, police said. He will be taken to a hospital for a checkup before being booked.
Earlier on Monday, police in the Tennessee capital said a passerby found an empty laptop case outside the restaurant, and it was uncertain whether it got there before or after the shooting, leading authorities to widen their search for Reinking.
Police said they did not know what the gunman’s motive was in opening fire at the 24-hour chain restaurant.
“We don’t know why he went into the Waffle House,” spokesman Don Aaron told reporters said.
Asked whether the shootings were racially motivated because all four people killed were black, Aaron said he did not know.
Reinking had also stolen a BMW car from a dealership last week in a neighboring county, which was later recovered from outside his apartment building, Aaron said. Before the shooting, police had no suspect in the theft, but later found the key fob in Reinking’s apartment. The spokesman said it was unclear whether the car theft was connected to the Waffle House attack.
In Reinking’s hometown in Tazewell County, Illinois, police released incident reports about Reinking from the last couple of years. They showed he had multiple encounters with law enforcement about his delusions that people, including singer Taylor Swift, were following him.
During the shootings, the suspect was wearing only a green jacket that he shed before leaving on foot, police said. That jacket contained two clips of ammunition for the assault-style rifle used in the shootings, police and school officials said.
The killings in Tennessee’s capital were the latest in a string of high-profile U.S. mass shootings in which a gunman used an AR-15 rifle. A nationwide debate on gun control has intensified since February, when a former student killed 17 people with an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
After multiple bizarre encounters with law enforcement, including an episode in Washington in July 2017 where Reinking was arrested for trying to get into the White House, law enforcement revoked his Illinois-issued license to carry concealed weapons, according to police records.
Reinking’s father promised police he would lock up his son’s guns, which police say included the AR-15 rifle used in the Waffle House shooting. But the father relented and returned the weapons to his son, Nashville police said on Sunday.
Two people were shot dead outside the restaurant at about 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, and two were killed inside. The suspect fled after a 29-year-old diner, James Shaw Jr., wrestled the rifle from him.
Shaw, who was grazed by a bullet during the attack, was praised by authorities for his courage, but on Sunday he denied he was a hero. “I just wanted to live,” he said.
By Monday, one of Reinking’s four guns was still unaccounted for, police said, after two were recovered from his apartment.
Police said those killed were Waffle House cook Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, and three patrons: Joe R. Perez, 20; DeEbony Groves, 21; and Akilah Dasilva, 23.
Two wounded patrons were being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and both were in stable condition early on Monday.