Gunman sentenced to life without parole for murdering four at Waffle House

Travis Reinking claimed he was following God’s orders when he shot and killed four people at Tennessee restaurant in 2018

Rachel Sharp
Saturday 05 February 2022 21:44 GMT
Victims' families react to guilty verdict for Waffle House killer

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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A gunman who shot and killed four people at a Waffle House restaurant has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Travis Reinking, 33, was convicted on Friday of 16 counts including four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of attempted first-degree murder after a jury rejected his insanity defence.

On Saturday, the jury deliberated whether to sentence him to life with or without the possibility of parole after hearing emotional victim impact statements from the family members of the four people he killed.

Jurors unanimously found that Reinking should serve a life sentence with no chance of parole on each of the four murder charges.

Reinking drove to a Waffle House in Antioch, close to Nashville, Tennessee, at around 3:20am on 22 April 2018 and opened fire on customers and employees.

Four victims - Taurean Sanderlin, 29, Joey Perez, 20, Akilah Dasilva, 23, and DeEbony Groves, 21 - died in the rampage while four others - Sharita Henderson, Shantia Waggoner, Kayla Shaw and James Shaw Jr. - were wounded but survived.

During the attack, Mr Shaw managed to wrestle the gun away from Reinking, who was naked except for a green jacket.

The gunman fled the scene on foot and was arrested 35 hours following a huge manhunt.

Reinking admitted to carrying out the mass shooting but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

He claimed he carried out the attack because he was following God’s instructions.

The court heard that Reinking suffers from schizophrenia and had many delusions including believing that Taylor Swift was stalking him and that law enforcement were involved in a conspiracy against him.

The mass shooting came one year after he was detained by Secret Service agents on the White House grounds, where he demanded a meeting with then-President Donald Trump.

His alarming behaviour led to the revoking of his firearms owner ID in the state of Illinois, where he lived at the time, and he handed his guns over to his father - who then gave them back to his son prior to the shooting.

Prosecutors denied that he was not sane at the time of the shooting, saying he was seeking revenge that day because police took a BMW he had stolen the day earlier back from him.

“This time I would have to punish them by taking something they couldn’t take back, some of their own lives,” the prosecutor said he had written in a journal at the time.

Reinking had also repeatedly written about mass shootings and wanting to be a martyr, the court heard.

The jury wasn’t convinced by his claims of insanity and returned a verdict of guilty on all counts.

Family members of the victims welcomed the verdict, with the mother Mr Dasilva describing it as “the closest [thing] to true justice”, reported the Associated Press.

“True justice is having my son here,” said Shaundelle Brooks.

“This is the closest [thing] to true justice.”

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