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Illinois Man Wanted in Connection With Waffle House Shooting Taken in Custody: Police

The Metro Nashville PD tweeted just after 1 p.m. Monday that murder suspect Travis Reinking was "arrested moments ago" near Old Hickory Boulevard and Hobson Park

The Illinois man suspected in a deadly Tennessee Waffle House shooting was taken into custody Monday afternoon after disappearing and hiding from police for more than a day, according to Nashville authorities. 

The Metro Nashville PD tweeted just after 1 p.m. Monday that murder suspect Travis Reinking was "arrested moments ago" near Old Hickory Boulevard and Hobson Park. The department later tweeted photos of Reinking appearing in tattered clothes with what appeared to be scratches on his arm in a squad car. 

Officials said Reinking requested a lawyer and refused to make a statement after his arrest. 

He was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. He will later be transferred to a Nashville prison and booked on four counts of criminal homicide, Lt. Carlos Lara said at a news conference after the arrest. 

Lara said Reinking had a semi-automatic weapon and .45-caliber ammuninition inside a black backpack he was wearing when he was captured. 

Construction workers told officers a person matching the suspect’s description walked through the area and into woods. When a detective from the department’s specialized investigations unit narcotics division spotted Reinking and confronted him, the suspect lay down on the ground, and officers cuffed him, Lara said.

“It’s a community effort, this would not have been accomplished without the cooperation of the community, and it was a citizen’s tip that led to this apprehension,” Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said.

Reinking, 29, was accused of killing four people at a Waffle House just over 24 hours earlier. Police said Reinking stormed the Tennessee restaurant shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday and opening fire. Four people were killed and four others were injured before a quick-thinking customer wrestled the assault weapon away, preventing more bloodshed. Reinking then disappeared, police said.

In a press conference Monday, authorities said he was also the subject of a car theft and police chase just days before the deadly attack.

Search efforts for Reinking centered around Interstate 24 and Old Hickory Boulevard, where Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said a man found a laptop case Sunday and took it home. The man later opened the case and found a “handwritten identification card” with Reinking’s name on it and reported it to police. Police said it was not clear whether Reinking was in the area before or after the shooting.

Reinking was wearing only a green jacket when he opened fire with an AR-15 in the Waffle House parking lot and then stormed the restaurant, police say.

Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said at a news conference that Reinking was last seen Sunday around a wooded area near an apartment complex where he lived, wearing only pants and no shirt or shoes. 

"If Reinking is still in the woods, he’s been there now for over 24 hours and at some point he’s going to have to come out for food and water," Aaron said just before Reinking's arrest. 

Police believed Reinking may have been armed with one of the four guns seized from him last year after he tried to enter the White House to see President Donald Trump.

More than 80 Nashville police officers searched for Reinking, joined by agents with the FBI, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and troopers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. 

According to Aaron, Reinking allegedly stole a car from a BMW dealership last week before leading police on a rush hour police chase. 

Police said Reinking drove his pickup truck to a storage facility before walking to a BMW dealership in Brentwood Tuesday. There he asked a sales associate for a vehicle, but when the associate asked for his ID, Reinking refused to give one. 

"They had no idea who the man was," Aaron said. 

Ultimately, Reinking used a key fob to steal a vehicle from the lot, leading police on a pursuit during rush hour, police said. In fear for the safety of others on the road, local authorities canceled the pursuit and later found the car outside Reinking's apartment complex. 

“We don’t know what his plan was,” Aaron said, adding, "Certainly he had a pickup truck, certainly he had possession of this BMW car... what his intentions were in taking this BMW car remain to be seen." 

The fob for the stolen BMW was later found in a search of Reinking's apartment, according to authorities. 

Anderson said it's not clear why Reinking opened fire on restaurant patrons, though he may have "mental issues."

As the search continued, authorities in Illinois shared past reports suggesting multiple red flags about a disturbed young man with paranoid delusions.

"He shows signs of significant instability," Aaron said. 

In May 2016, Reinking told deputies from Tazewell County, Illinois, that music superstar Taylor Swift was stalking him and hacking his phone, and that his family was also involved, according to a report released Sunday.

Another sheriff's report said Reinking barged into a community pool in Tremont, Illinois, last June, and jumped into the water wearing a pink woman's coat over his underwear. Investigators believed he had an AR-15 rifle in his car trunk, but it was never displayed. No charges were filed.

Last July, Reinking was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service after he crossed into a restricted area near the White House and refused to leave, saying he wanted to meet President Donald Trump. Reinking was not armed at the time, but at the FBI's request, state police in Illinois revoked his state firearms card and seized four guns from him, authorities said.

The AR-15 used in the shootings was among the firearms seized.

Then, in August, Reinking told police he wanted to file a report about 20 to 30 people tapping into his computer and phone and people "barking like dogs" outside his residence, according to a report.

Reinking agreed to go to a local hospital for an evaluation after repeatedly resisting the request, the report said.

"There's certainly evidence that there's some sort of mental health issues involved," Tazwell County Sheriff Robert Huston said. But he said deputies returned the guns to Reinking's father on the promise that he would "keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis."

Aaron said that Reinking's father "has now acknowledged giving them back" to his son.

Phone calls to a number listed for the father, Jeffrey Reinking, went unanswered.

It is not clear why Reinking moved recently from Morton, Illinois, to Nashville and if it had anything to do with being near Swift. 

Police say Reinking drove into the Waffle House parking lot in his gold Chevy Silverado pickup early Sunday and sat there for about four minutes before opening fire outside the restaurant.

The victims fatally shot in the parking have been identified as Taurean Sanderlin, 29, of Goodlettsville, and Joe Perez, 20, of Nashville.

Sanderlin was an employee at the restaurant.

Perez's mother posted a picture of her son on Facebook and asked for prayers, saying it was the hardest day of her life. "Me, my husband and sons are broken right now with this loss," Trisha Perez said in the post. "Our lives are shattered."

Reinking then went inside the restaurant and opened fire, police said.

One of the fatally wounded inside was DeEbony Groves, a 21-year student at Nashville's Belmont University. She was remembered as an exceptional student who made the Dean's list, and a tenacious basketball player.

"She was a brilliant young lady, very, very intelligent and a very hard worker," Gallatin High School basketball coach Kim Kendrick told The Tennessean.

Akilah Dasilva was also killed inside the restaurant. The 23-year-old from Antioch was a rap artist and music video producer who had such skills behind the camera that he was a favorite among many of Music City's independent musicians and recording labels, The Tennessean reported.

"Music is my life and I will never stop until I achieve my dreams," Dasilva said on his Twitter account.

Dasilva's mother told CBS News that her son was a student at Middle Tennessee State University and aspired to be a music engineer.

He was at the restaurant with his girlfriend, 21-year-old Tia Waggoner, the paper reported. Waggoner was wounded and is being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dasilva's family said she underwent surgery and doctors were trying to save her leg.

Police say Sharita Henderson, 24, of Antioch, was wounded and is being treated at VUMC.

Also wounded was James Shaw Jr., a 29-year-old restaurant patron who burned his hand grabbing the hot muzzle of the assault weapon as he wrestled the gun away. The Nashville native who works as a wireless technician for AT&T, Shaw said he was no hero — despite being hailed as one by Nashville Mayor David Briley.

Shaw said he pounced on the suspect out of self-preservation, after making up his mind that "he was going to have to work to kill me."

"It was life or death," he added.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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