Nashville Waffle House shooting: Four dead after nude gunman with rifle opens fire on restaurant

Detectives identify suspect as 29-year-old who also left another four people seriously injured

Jane Dalton
Sunday 22 April 2018 13:18 BST
Footage from the scene of a deadly shooting at a waffle house in Nasville

Four people were killed and another four wounded when a man armed with a rifle opened fire at a restaurant and fled in the nude.

The gunman shot people in the car park of a Waffle House near Nashville, Tennessee, in the early hours, before entering the restaurant wearing only a jacket.

He continued firing until a “hero” customer grabbed the rifle and threw it over a counter in the restaurant, police said.

Authorities are using a helicopter in the hunt for the suspect, who they say is considered “still armed and extremely dangerous”.

Mr Aaron, the police spokesman, said three people died at the restaurant and one person died at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, where two others were being treated for gunshot wounds.

Medical Centre spokeswoman Jennifer Wetzel said one was in a critical condition and the other was in a critical but stable condition.

TriStar Southern Hills Medical Centre spokeswoman Katie Radel in Nashville said two people were treated for minor injuries and released.

Detectives identified the suspect as Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, after finding the vehicle he allegedly used to drive to the restaurant was registered in that name.

A Waffle House customer saw the killer struggling to reload his AR-15-style assault rifle and managed to wrestle away the weapon from him, according to Nashville police, who issued a photo of it.

They said the gunman shed his coat after firing, and fled naked on foot.

They later added that a man believed to be Mr Reinking had been spotted nearby “wearing black pants and no shirt”, and were trying to track him down using a helicopter.

The shooting happened at 3.25am at the Waffle House in the suburb of Antioch, about 16 miles south-east of Nashville.

Authorities say the suspect was arrested last year by the US Secret Service for being in a restricted area near the White House.

Mr Aaron said Mr Reinking’s firearms authorisation was then revoked at the request of the FBI.

Four weapons were seized, including an AK-15 of the type allegedly used in the shooting at the Waffle House restaurant.

Aaron says the four guns were returned to the suspect’s father, who acknowledged giving them back to his son.

A Secret Service agent said Mr Reinking had hoped to talk to President Donald Trump.

Special Agent Todd Hudson in Nashville said the suspect “wanted to set up a meeting with the president”.

According to The Tennessean, police believe the death toll could have been much higher if a “hero” had not intervened to grab the rifle.

Chuck Cordero, a witness, said: ”He really saved some people. I’m positive he did. Had that guy had a chance to reload his weapon, there was plenty more people in that restaurant.”

Police identified the man who grabbed the weapon as 29-year-old James Shaw Jr.

Mr Shaw told The Tennessean in an interview he was “just trying to get myself out”.

“I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it,” he said.

The newspaper reported that Mr Shaw was grazed by a bullet, treated and released.

“When I was in the ambulance to hospital I kept thinking that I’m going to wake up and it’s not going to be real,” Mr Shaw said.

“It is something out a movie. I’m OK though, but I hate that it happened.”

James Shaw Jr shows his hand that was injured when he disarmed a shooter inside a Waffle House
James Shaw Jr shows his hand that was injured when he disarmed a shooter inside a Waffle House (Wade Payne/The Tennessean via AP)

Authorities are appealing to anyone with information on Reinking to contact them.

In all, 35 officers from three precincts responded to the shooting, arriving to find two of the dead outside and one inside, police said.

The shooting will inevitably revive America’s charged debate about gun laws.

Nashville’s acting mayor David Briley said: “It’s a tragic day for our city anytime people lose their lives at the hands of a gunman.

“My heart goes out to the families and friends of every person who was killed or wounded in this morning’s shooting. I know all of their lives will be for ever changed by this devastating crime.

“There’s clearly more to be said about these circumstances, but for now I ask Nashville to pray for and rally around these victims, and join me in thanking the Metro Nashville Police Department as it works to find and apprehend the shooter.”

Pat Warner, head of public relations for Waffle House, called it a “very troubling” situation.

“We are sending our corporate team from Atlanta and heading to Nashville now,” Mr Warner told ABC. “Our thoughts are with those affected.”

Press Association contributed to this report

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