Tennessee Waffle House shooter Travis Reinking, 33, received a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on Saturday
IOn April 22, 2018, a naked Reinking, then 29, shot and killed 4 people, injuring four others, around 3.30am on a Sunday Morning, at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tenn.
Akilah DaSilva, 23, DeEbony Groves, 21, Joe Perez, 20, and Taurean Sanderlin, 29, were all shot dead by Reinking
He fled the restaurant after James Shaw Jr. wrestled the assault rifle weapon from him
Two days later he, was taken into custody
Reinking on Friday was found guilty on all 16 charges, including four counts each of pre-mediated and first-degree murder
The jury reconvened on Saturday to hear victim impact statements prior to making their decision
Prosecutors presented evidence that Reinking was calm and cooperative after his arrest, able to understand and respond to commands
Shortly before the attack, he believed that someone had drugged him, broken into his apartment and raped him
In 2017, in Illinois, where he lived at the time, authorities revoked his state firearms owner identification and he handed his weapons over to his father
The law required Reinking to hand the weapons over to someone with a valid ID, but the father would later return the weapons to his son
The gunman who shot and killed four people while wearing only a jacket at a Nashville Waffle House on April 22, 2018 was sentenced to life in prison on Saturday, without the possibility of parole.
Travis Reinking, 33, who was found guilty Friday of all 16 counts, including first-degree murder, was sentenced after the jury heard two hours of emotional testimony from the victims’ family members before deciding his fate.
Jurors had the option of giving Reinking the chance for parole after serving 51 years in prison.
In court on Saturday, the bereaved families sobbed and trembled as they relieved the pain of prematurely losing loved ones and how that loss continues to haunt them more than three years later.
‘Our lives were completely destroyed,’ said Patricia Perez, whose 20-year-old son Joe Perez Jr. was the youngest person killed in the massacre.
‘This man took away my future grandchildren, he took away an uncle to my granddaughters and to any other future grandchildren I may have.’
Naked save for a green jacket, Reinking opened fire inside the restaurant just after 3:20 a.m. on April 22, 2018, killing Taurean Sanderlin, 29, Joey Perez, 20, Akilah Dasilva, 23, and 21-year-old DeEbony Groves.
He fled after restaurant patron James Shaw Jr. wrestled his assault-style rifle away from him, triggering a manhunt.
‘I’ve always been somebody that they say is unbreakable, because no matter what our family has been through, I will always be the one to bring our family up,’ Patricia Perez said through tears about losing her son Joey. ‘This has broken me.’
Jurors on Friday rejected Reinking’s insanity defense as they found him guilty on 16 charges, including four counts of first-degree murder.
The trial opened Monday after jury selection the previous week. Prosecutors in 2020 indicated they would not seek the death penalty and would seek life without parole.
Reinking’s defense team, which didn’t put on any sentencing witnesses Saturday, argued for the possibility of parole, saying he was mentally untethered. Prosecutors argued the evidence shows Reinking planned out the attack and wanted to kill everyone at the restaurant.
Prosecutors also directed jurors’ attention back to heart-wrenching testimony from family members. The jury was shown photos of the Reinking’s victims at the scene in 2018, during the prosecution’s closing arguments.
Shaundelle Brooks described her son Akilah Dasilva as a gifted artist, a brilliant student and a talented musician who built his own computer to work on his music, which he used to urge people to turn away from gun violence.
‘He loved his family, but most of all Akilah wanted to live,’ Brooks said, crying.
‘He wanted to create positive change in this world. He showed compassion, not anger. He spread love, not hate.’
Evidence at trial showed Reinking had schizophrenia and had suffered delusions for years, believing unknown people were tormenting him. He contacted law enforcement several times to report that he was being threatened, stalked and harassed.
In July 2017, he was detained by the Secret Service after he ventured unarmed into a restricted area on the White House grounds and demanded to meet with then-President Donald Trump.
State police in Illinois, where he lived at the time, revoked Reinking´s state firearms owner identification. But that only meant he had to turn over his guns to someone else with valid identification. Reinking surrendered the guns to his father, who later returned them to his son.
Since law enforcement declined to take his delusions seriously, Reinking began to feel that they and other random people were part of a conspiracy against him, psychologists testified.
Shortly before the attack, he believed someone had drugged him, broken into his apartment and raped him. Reinking told psychologists that while praying about what to do, he received a command from God to go to the Waffle House and shoot three people.
To prove Reinking was not guilty by reason of insanity, defense attorneys had to show not only that he suffered from severe mental illness that left him unable to understand the wrongfulness of his actions. Prosecutors presented evidence that Reinking was calm and cooperative after his arrest, able to understand and respond to commands.
Although Reinking was naked when he walked from the crime scene, when he was captured nearly two days later, he was dressed and carrying a backpack loaded with water bottles, sunscreen, a pistol, ammunition, Bible and several silver bars. And they mentioned he had asked to talk to an attorney after his arrest.
Prosecutors suggested Reinking was acting out of revenge. He noted that days before the shooting, Reinking stole a BMW from a dealership. Reinking wrote in a journal about plans to drive to Colorado, describing a life in which he would hang out with friends, smoke marijuana, hike in the mountains and ‘repossess’ cars and houses so that he would not have to work, a prosecutor said.
After police took the BMW back the next day, he wrote, ‘This time I would have to punish them by taking something they couldn’t take back, some of their own lives,’ the prosecutor said.
Prosecutors also emphasized Reinking’s own account of the shooting: He said that after killing Perez, ‘I felt like I was going to throw up because this was something God told me to do but it felt evil.’
The jury also convicted Reinking on four counts of attempted first-degree murder and four counts of unlawful employment of a firearm during commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony. In addition to the four people he killed, he seriously wounded Sharita Henderson and Shantia Waggoner. Kayla Shaw and James Shaw Jr., who are not related, suffered lesser injuries.