Travis Reinking, the accused Waffle House gunman in Tennessee, hails from a family of crane operators in Illinois.
Jeff Reinking, Travis Reinking’s father, is now accused by authorities of giving guns back to his son after Travis Reinking was arrested near the White House in July 2017 and after a series of other troubling incidents. However, it’s not yet clear whether authorities are alleging any wrongdoing on the father’s part by allegedly doing so. Reinking’s mother’s Facebook page is filled with shares and posts about Christianity. She also shared a graphic on school shootings. Travis Reinking is from a family of four siblings.
Reinking is accused of bursting into the 24-hour Waffle House restaurant, nude except for a coat, in the early morning hours of April 22, 2018 and shooting to death four people. He fled from the scene after the shooting and was taken into custody Monday afternoon after a manhunt that lasted more than 24 hours.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Reinking’s Dad Allegedly Returned Guns to Travis Reinking After Reinking Claimed to be a ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Outside the White House
Authorities say there was a major red flag in the background of Travis Reinking. In July 2017, the now 29-year-old from Illinois, was accused of entering a restricted area outside the White House in a failed bid to meet President Donald Trump.
“We have learned that Reinking was arrested by the United States Secret Service for being in a restricted area near the White House in July 2017,” Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said in the news conference. “He was subsequently released.” You can watch that news conference here:
Reinking was later interviewed by local authorities in Tazewell County, Illinois and by the FBI. “His Illinois firearms authorization was revoked, in our understanding at the request of the FBI,” Aaron said, adding that four weapons were seized by local police in Illinois.
“Among the weapons seized was the AR-15 rifle used at the Waffle House today,” Aaron said in the news conference. “The police department has received information that the guns were returned by Tazewell County authorities to Reinking’s father who has now acknowledged giving them back to his son,” they alleged. “Presently two of the four guns that were given back to his son are unaccounted for.”
When he was interviewed about the White House incident by authorities, Reinking allegedly proclaimed that he was a “sovereign citizen.”
A police report on the incident, which you can read above via a USA Today reporter’s Twitter page, alleges that Reinking approached the northeast pedestrian entrance to the White House and “stated he must get into The White House and speak with POTUS.” He was told how to obtain a tour. He stated again that he “wanted to speak to the President and said he was a sovereign citizen and has a right to inspect the grounds.” He allegedly took his tie off and balled it into his fist and walked past the security barriers stating, “Do what you need to do. Arrest me if you have to.”
According to the FBI, “Sovereign citizens are anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or ‘sovereign’ from the United States…As a result, they believe they don’t have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement.”
Two weapons have now been recovered: A rifle was recovered at Reinking’s apartment, and the AR-15 was recovered at the Waffle House, said authorities.
The guns initially confiscated in Illinois were “a 9mm handgun, a Bushmaster AR-15, a .22-caliber rifle and a Remington 710,” according to PJStar.com. The local Tazewell County sheriff in Illinois stated that the weapons were given to the father because “it was a ‘Constitutional’ issue regarding property rights,” the newspaper reported, adding that the sheriff said “Reinking’s father was to possess the weapons but to make sure that they didn’t go back in the possession of his son.”
The sheriff also told the newspaper that there were “mental issues” involved in past encounters law enforcement had with Travis Reinking. For example, the sheriff described a 2016 incident in “the parking lot of a CVS in Morton where Reinking was allegedly delusional and believed that Taylor Swift was hacking his cell phone and stalking him. His family had told Tazewell County deputies that he had been having delusions for almost two years.” He was convinced to seek mental health evaluation. In a second past incident, “Travis Reinking thought as many as 20 to 30 people were tapping into his cell phone due to the fact that he could hear them through his speakers,” PJStar reported.
A press release from the Tazewell County Sheriff provides more details. “On August 24, 2017, the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office received documents which indicated that the Firearms Owners Identification Card of Travis Reinking has been revoked by the Illinois State Police,” the release reads.
“Deputies located him in Tremont and served him with notice and confiscated his FOID card. Four firearms were also removed from him. His father was present at the time and possessed a valid FOID card. As the father had the legal right to possess the weapons, he was allowed to take possession of the firearms. The father agreed to keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis. We have no information concerning how Travis Reinking obtained possession of the weapons subsequent to them being taken from him.”
The Tennessean reports that Travis Reinking was allegedly in the restricted area near the White House because he “wanted to set up a meeting with the president.”
According to Central Illinois Proud.com, “He had reportedly crossed a security barrier and refused to leave the area when asked, saying he wanted to set up a meeting with the President.”
It’s not clear whether authorities are alleging any law violation by Jeff Reinking for returning the guns. It appears that guns could be returned to someone with a valid state authorization, and that it wouldn’t have been illegal for Reinking to possess the guns in his new state of Tennessee (he reportedly lived near the Waffle House where the shooting occurred).
“Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said he believes under Illinois law, guns seized can be returned to someone who has a valid state authorization,” The Tennessean reported. “Anderson said he was not immediately aware of any Tennessee law Reinking would have violated by possessing guns in Nashville.”
The White House arrest case was dismissed in November 2017 after Travis Reinking completed a pre-trial diversion program.
Travis Reinking, who is originally from Illinois, was disarmed at the Waffle House by a heroic customer, James Shaw Jr., but not before four people lay dead, authorities say. The weapon was legally purchased.
The deceased were identified as Joe R. Perez, 20, of Nashville; Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, Goodlettsville; Akilah Dasilva, 23, of Antioch; and DeEbony Groves, 21 of Gallatin.
2. Reinking’s Parents Run a Crane Company in Illinois & a Neighbor Described Them as ‘Good People’ But There Were Other Major Warning Signs
Jeff Reinking’s Facebook page is pretty sparse, but it contains mostly photos of crane equipment. He has 52 friends on Facebook, and no public posts.
The suspect’s mother, Judy Reinking, was more publicly active on social media. Her Facebook profile picture shows Judy and Jeff Reinking at Niagara Falls. “You two are so cute!!” a friend wrote on the comment thread. Neighbor Roland McDuff told Central Illinois Proud.com, “He sure had the upbringing and I feel sorry for them more than anything, they’re such good people,” of Travis Reinking’s family.
The mother wrote on Facebook that she works at J&J Cranes, worked at Methodist Hospital, studied at Illinois Central College, went to Morton High school in Morton, Illinois, and lives and is from Morton, Illinois. It’s believed both parents were affiliated with the crane company and that Travis Reinking worked on cranes and construction at one point also.
The website for J&J Cranes says it offers a “full line of crane services,” provides professional rental services, and has been serving central Illinois since 1997.
The about us section reads, “J&J Cranes, Inc. was established in 1997 in Tremont, Illinois. Since then, we have provided crane services for many types of jobs. From house trusses to rail cars, rooftops to grain elevators, industrial plant maintenance to wind generation parts… you name it, we most likely have done something like it before. There’s always the job that is new, and this gives us something to look forward to and opportunities for growth.”
The White House incident was not the only one to draw concern before the Waffle House mass shooting, however. One incident involved Taylor Reinking allegedly having delusions about the singer Taylor Swift, and another involved Travis jumping into a pool in a pink housecoat.
In one police report from Tazewell, County, labeled suicide by firearm, the police report says that authorities were advised that Travis Reinking was allegedly “delusional and believed the famous entertainer Taylor Swift, was harassing him via stalking and hacking his phone.” He believed “everyone including his own family and the police are involved.”
His mother, father, and grandmother “were worried about Travis” so they called emergency services, the report states. “They stated Travis has been having these delusions since August 2014,” according to the report. Travis was accused of being “hostile towards police and does not recognize police authority. Travis also possesses several firearms.”
Travis “stated he did not want to hurt Taylor Swift or anyone else, he only wanted the harassment to stop.”
He stated he believed he had autism, was tired, and drove away. Travis’ family “advised Travis made comments about killing himself earlier in the day. They also advised he owns and had access to many firearms at his residence,” the reports allege.
Travis returned, and police responded and allege he stated that “Taylor hacked his Netflix account and told him to meet her at the Dairy Queen.” He went into further detail of the delusion. He was taken for evaluation.
In another report in June 2017, labeled as criminal trespass in Tremont, Ill., Travis was accused of barging “into a public pool “wearing a pink woman’s house coat (Tremont Park District Pool).” He started swimming in his underwear, was told to get out of the pool, and started to yell at the lifeguards, the report alleges. “He then showed his genitals saying he was a man,” the report alleges.
The officer was contacted by an employee of J&J Crane Company. The employee stated he had a yelling match with Travis, and that Travis lived in an apartment at the crane company. “The employee told me that Travis was wearing a pink woman’s house coat and had a AR-15 rifle in his hand which he put into the trunk of his blue Mitsubishi and left the business,” the report alleges.
No one at the pool wanted to press charges, and no one at the pool saw the weapon.
Another report on that incident states that Travis insisted he had a valid FOID card. The officer then contacted his father, Jeff Reinking, who was out of state and advised him what was going on. “Jeff stated that awhile back he took 3 rifles and a hand gun away and locked them up when Travis was having problems,” the report, dated before the White House incident, says.
“Jeff wanted to move out of state so he gave them back to him and Travis was gone for nine months and has moved back,” the reports say. “Jeff stated he called his daughter…who was going to stop by the shop and talk to Travis. (Redacted) arrived and we advised her what had happened today and she stated she was fine by herself and she would talk to Travis and see if she could store the weapons for safe keeping.”
The officer “called back Jeff Reinking and advised him of what happened and when he gets back home he might want to lock the guns back up until Travis gets mental help which he stated he would,” reports allege.
In August 2017, there was yet another incident. Travis pulled alongside a sergeant’s squad. He stated he wanted to make a report that “people are tapping into his computer and phone,” reports allege. He said he didn’t know who it was but “he can hear himself through their speakers when he is in an online chatroom. Travis said he believes approximately 20 to 30 people are hacking into his phone and computer.” He also reported “hearing unknown people outside his residence barking like dogs,” the police report states.
He also believed he was being watched by a man “in a black shirt” at the Morton, Illinois Wal-mart, reports allege.
3. Reinking’s Mother Shared Posts on School Shootings, Home Schooling & Christianity
On social media, Judy Reinking periodically weighed in on topics in the news, including school shootings, Common Core, and home schooling. She wrote a lot about family too, and she threaded Christian references throughout her page.
In 2016, she shared a graphic that read, “When you carry a bible, the devil gets a headache. When you open it, he collapses. When he sees you reading it, he faints. When he sees you living it, he flees…”
In 2015, she shared a graphic on school shootings. It reads: “I don’t remember a single school shooting when I was a kid. What I do remember is our teacher having us begin the day reciting the pledge of allegiance, reading from the Bible and praying. We also had the Ten Commandments on the wall. Maybe getting rid of those things wasn’t such a good idea after all!”
Her top post on Facebook was a March 4 share of an article titled “What Parents Need to Know About Juuling.” The article reveals, “It’s a popular e-cigarette system that looks a lot like a USB flash drive—you may have seen one in your teenager’s room, figuring it contains an essay on The Great Gatsby.”
She also shared a note on a homeschool convention shared by the Association of Peoria Area Christian Educators, although it’s not clear whether Travis Reinking was homeschooled. She shared a video from Christian Life Academy called Seeds Family Worship. Judy also shared a Fox News article titled “’Calibration error changes GOP votes to Dem in Illionois County.”
The suspect’s mother shared photos of a project called Ark Encounter, which pitches itself as “a one-of-a-kind-historically themed attraction located in northern Kentucky.” She shared an article on the “American Orphan Crisis” and labeled it “RELEVANT.” She shared a video from a site called “Biblical End Times.” She also shared an article about Common Core standards debate.
In 2010, she wrote, “So thankful for the best gift I’ve ever been given- JESUS!”
4. The Suspect’s Mother Expressed Love for Him on Facebook & He’s From a Family of Four Siblings
In 2011, Judy Reinking wrote on Facebook, “Travis, You are one of the reasons I am so blessed and thankful!!!! : )” In another post, she stated, “Love you! And Happy Birthday Travis!!! I love you!!! : ).”
Judging from Judy’s Facebook posts, the Reinking family also consists of two adult daughters. In 2010, she wrote about adopting another child, who appears to be pictured in some of the photos on her page.
One of Travis Reinking’s sisters was featured in a video on local volunteers. “Check out our daughter’s video explaining the need for more CASA volunteers,” Judy wrote. The status under the video states, “The Voice of Clark County’s Children is a Court Appointed Special Advocate program. Our mission is to promote and advocate for the best interests of a child involved in a neglect and abuse case in the court system of Clark County, Indiana. We rely on volunteers to help us make our mission a reality. Be a voice.”
One of his sister’s is involved in interior design work. Illinois State University shared a photo of a room designed by a Reinking sister. One of Travis Reinking’s sisters has little publicly visible on her Facebook page, other than a farm field. His other sister lives in Louisville Kentucky.
In 2014, Judy Reinking wrote on Facebook, “Feeling blessed……To watch my parents live out their faith, during these past few daysof Dad’s open heart surgery, has been incredible. They have been such a testimony to their family and all those around them. As my dad would say, (in some of his first words after surgery) ‘Thank you Jesus.’ : )”
She also shared a photo on what “SPD parents want you to know,” although it’s not clear which of her children – if any – she was referring to by sharing the page.
It was from a “sensory processing disorder and autism parent support” website that lists “what SPD parents want you to know, including, “our kids are not ‘bad kids’” and “SPD is not just parents making excuses for behavior problems in school.”
For his part, Travis Reinking shared a conspiracy theory video on his Facebook profile in 2017 along with the caption, “The Illuminati is real.” No motive for the shooting has been revealed, however.
5. Reinking Is Accused of Bursting Into the Waffle House & Gunning People Down
Reinking burst into the Waffle House around 3:25 a.m. on April 22, 2018 and started spraying patrons and employees with the AR-15 rifle, police allege. The 24-hour restaurant is located in Antioch, Tennessee, which is near Nashville.
A total of six people were shot, according to Metro Nashville Police, who are leading the investigation with help from state and federal agencies. Three victims were pronounced dead at the scene. One victim then died at the hospital and two are currently hospitalized, according to authorities.
Reinking was disarmed by a heroic patron, fled the scene, and remains at large, authorities said. Reinking was nude during the shooting and wearing only a jacket, authorities said, adding that he first fired from outside before going into the restaurant to continue shooting. It’s believed he lived near the Waffle House.
“Travis Jeffrey Reinking, the suspect in this morning’s deadly shooting at a Nashville-area Waffle House, has been added to our ‘Top 10 Most Wanted’ list. He stands 6’4”, weighs 180 pounds, and should be considered armed and dangerous,” the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation wrote on Twitter.