4 Dead After Gunman Opens Fire at Nashville-Area Waffle House and Flees

A patron at the restaurant grabbed the gun from the shooter, and police said the man "no doubt ... saved many lives"

A manhunt is underway for the gunman that opened fire with an AR-15 at a Nashville-area Waffle House early Sunday, killing four people, before his gun was wrestled away by a restaurant patron.

Police are searching for 29-year-old Travis Reinking from Illinois, who had previously been arrested and had his firearms seized by law enforcement after breaching the White House grounds. Reinking was added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's "Top 10 Most Wanted" list, and anyone with information about his whereabouts is encouraged to call 911. Reinking is 6 feet 4 inches, weighs 180 pounds and is considered armed and dangerous.

Six people were shot at the Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, Metro Nashville Police said. Four died; the two others are being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Police identified the people slain as 29-year-old Taurean Sanderlin of Goodlettsville, a Waffle House employee; 20-year-old Joe Perez of Nashville; 21-year-old Deebony Groves of Gallatin and 23-year-old Akilah Dasilva of Antioch, who was critically wounded and later died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The two wounded by gunfire are being treated at Vanderbilt, and police identified them as 21-year-old Shanita Waggoner of Nashville and 24-year-old Sharita Henderson of Antioch. Police did not specify their condition.

A motive has not yet been determined, and the investigation is ongoing with assistance from the FBI. But police did say that four of Reinking's weapons were seized after he was arrested in 2017 for crossing an exterior security barrier at the White House. At the request of the FBI, Reinking's license to possess firearms was revoked and the weapons, including the AR-15 used in the shooting, were taken away.

The weapons were turned over to Reinking's father, who acknowledged that he had given them back to his son. 

Police said Reinking arrived at the Waffle House Sunday at 3:19 a.m. and sat in his pick-up truck for about four minutes before getting out. Nude except for a green jacket, he got out of his truck and started shooting, hitting and killing two people, police said. He then allegedly walked into the Waffle House and continued firing.

James Shaw, Jr, a 29-year-old patron at the restaurant, spoke at a news conference Sunday and said he was able to wrestle the firearm from the gunman.

Shaw said he was with a friend at the Waffle House when the shots rang out. As gunfire erupted, he slid on the floor to an entryway door. Bullets pierced the door and one grazed Shaw's arm before he sprang into action.

"I made up my mind that if it was gonna come down to it he was gonna have to work to kill me," he told reporters.

When the gunfire paused, Shaw said he pushed the door into the gunman and the two wrestled over the rifle. Shaw tossed the gun over the dining room countertop and shoved the gunman outside with him. Shaw ran around the restaurant while he said the gunman trotted away.

"Something was with me to run through that door and get the gun from him," Shaw said during his emotional remarks.

"No doubt he saved many lives by wresting the gun away and tossing it over the counter and prompting the man to leave," police spokesman Don Aaron said.

"I knew I had it in me," said Shaw, who has a 4-year-old daughter. However, he said he does not want to be thought of as "the Terminator or Superman" for his quick action.

"I want people to know I did that completely out of a selfish act: I was doing it to save myself. I did save people, but ... if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it. It actually worked out to my favor."

Still, Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer honored Shaw as a hero for "taking care of your fellow man."

"You don't get to meet too many heroes in life, but you are a hero. You're my hero," Ehmer said at the press conference. "You saved people's lives. ... They will think of you for the rest of their days. We are forever in your debt."

Police said Reinking left the restaurant and shed his jacket — which had additional ammunition in it — and walked nude to a nearby apartment he lived in to put on a pair of pants. He then retreated to a wooded area behind his complex, and a helicopter and several police dogs were tracking him.

TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center spokeswoman Katie Radel in Nashville said two people were treated for minor injuries and released after the incident. Police said that because the glass of the restaurant's front window was shot out, some people had cuts on their faces.

Nashville Mayor David Briley spoke at the conference as well, calling for increased gun control: "If we can all just come together for this and for the greater good we can take these weapons of war off the streets of our country."

He added: "Last night, innocent Nashvillians were terrorized by a man with an AR-15. It's happening too much. Enough is enough."

Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said authorities suspect Reinking had "some mental issues" and that this is an area of gun law that needs particular focus.

"We have a crisis," he said. "You have people's rights to own weapons, but we got to look closely at people with mental issues ... and make sure weapons do not legally fall into their hands. That's what we’ve got to work on."

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Ill., responded to the shooting on Twitter Sunday and also called for a change in gun laws.

"Many will say now is not the time to discuss change. But now IS the time," Cooper wrote. "We can and must do everything possible to prevent these tragedies and keep Americans safe. That starts with restricting widespread civilian access to military-grade assault weapons."

Cooper mourned the "innocent victims" and thanking first responders as well.

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