Metro-East News

Waffle House suspect had his Illinois FOID card taken away, but not access to guns

At least four dead after shooting at Tennessee Waffle House

Nashville, Tennessee police said at least four are dead after suspect Travis Reinking, of Morton, Illinois, opened fire at a Waffle House restaurant. A customer at the restaurant was able to take the gun from the shooter who then fled the scene.
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Nashville, Tennessee police said at least four are dead after suspect Travis Reinking, of Morton, Illinois, opened fire at a Waffle House restaurant. A customer at the restaurant was able to take the gun from the shooter who then fled the scene.

Despite the Waffle House shooting suspect's history of delusions and criminal behavior, Illinois police did not seize his weapons and instead turned them over to his father, who admitted Monday he returned the guns to his son.

Travis Reinking, 29, was caught by police Monday after allegedly killing four people in the Sunday morning attack at the Nashville diner, according to Nashville Metro Police. He was apprehended at about 1:07 p.m.

Reinking, from Morton, a small town near Peoria in Tazewell County, had multiple encounters with Illinois law enforcement that indicated mental disturbance. The Tazewell County Sheriff's Department acknowledged after the shooting they were aware of Reinking and police reports indicated "evidence of mental health issues."

The Tazewell Sheriff's Department provided five documented reports of Reinking's erratic and criminal behavior, including once when Reinking told a deputy he was "being watched and people were baiting him into breaking the law."

Despite this, the Tazewell Sheriff's Department did not revoke Reinking's FOID card until the FBI instructed them to, meaning he had access to his multiple firearms, including an AR-15, a .22-caliber rifle and a Remington 710.

Reinking's encounters with Tazewell County ranged from May 2016 to August 2017. Over the course of 15 months, Reinking had the police called on him at least five times but retained a valid FOID card and access to weapons. Tazewell County revoked his FOID card after Reinking trespassed at the White House and the FBI told state police to do so.

A gunman opened fire at a Nashville area Waffle House early Sunday morning, April 22, killing four people and wounding four others. Police were combing the area looking for the suspect, identified as Travis Reinking, 29.

Illinois law stated weapons can be released to a family member, according to the Chicago Tribune.

According to Tazewell County police reports, the following incidents occurred:

  • May 2016 — Reinking's family called the police because they were concerned Reinking would hurt himself. Reinking had been having delusions for two years that pop star Taylor Swift was stalking him in his Illinois hometown and hacking his phone. Police arriving on scene note that prior record reports indicated Reinking was hostile toward police, did not recognize police authority, and owned several weapons. Reinking's family said he had made comments about killing himself and owned multiple firearms. Reinking was taken to a local hospital.
  • June 2017 — Police reported Reinking broke into a pool in Tazewell wearing a pink woman's housecoat and underwear. He yelled at lifeguards when they told him to get out and flashed his genitals.
  • June 2017 — Employees of the construction company Reinking's father owns said directly before the pool incident, Reinking approached them wearing a pink dress and holding a rifle. He yelled at the employees before throwing the rifle in his trunk and speeding away. "Apparently the rifle stayed in the trunk of the vehicle during the incident," the police report read.
  • July 2017 — Reinking trespassed at the White House; the FBI told state police to revoke his firearms card and seized four guns. According to The Associated Press, Reinking told agents he was at the White House because he wanted to meet President Donald Trump.
  • August 11, 2017 — Reinking told a Tazewell Sheriff's deputy that 20 to 30 people were hacking into his phone and computer, and he’d been hearing people outside his home barking like dogs. He also said people were trying to bait him into breaking the law.

  • August 24, 2017 — The sheriff's department revoked Reinking's FOID card. They released his four guns and ammo to Reinking's father and "advised him to keep the weapons secure and away from Travis."

Tazewell Sheriff's Department officials did not immediately return a call for comment.

No one at the pool pressed charges against Reinking and the officer noted "this is an informational report showing the state of mind of Travis Reinking."

That day, an officer called Reinking's father, Jeffrey Reinking, to tell him what had happened. According to the report, Jeff Reinking said he had taken the guns away from his son but gave them back because he wanted to move out of state.

The officer told Jeff Reinking "when he gets back home he might want to lock the guns back up until Travis gets mental help," according to the report.

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Alleged Waffle House shooter Travis Reinking was caught Monday afternoon after a search. Provided

Travis Reinking had a valid FOID card from May 2016 to August 11, 2017, until it was revoked August 24, 2017. When that happened, his father was given possession of the guns by police.

According to a police report at the time, Jeffrey Reinking told police he would keep the guns away from his son.

After the shooting, police recovered three of the four guns originally taken from Reinking and given to his father, according to Nashville Police.

Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said that Reinking's father "has now acknowledged giving them back" to his son, according to WANDTV.

Kaley Johnson: 618-239-2526, @KaleyJohnson6