Attorney: Waffle House shooter believed God commanded him

Travis Loller
Associated Press

Nashville, Tenn. — Attorneys for a man who killed four people in a shooting at a Nashville Waffle House said Monday that Travis Reinking believed the restaurant patrons and employees were government agents whom he had been commanded by God to kill.

Reinking, 32, was naked save for a green jacket when he opened fire inside the restaurant on April 22, 2018. He fled, triggering a two-day manhunt, after a restaurant patron wrestled his assault-style rifle away from him.

In this April 22, 2018, file photo, law enforcement officials work the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House in the Antioch neighborhood of Nashville, Tenn.

In opening arguments, defense attorney Luke Evans said Reinking was suffering from sever schizophrenia that had grown worse over a period of years.

“Mr. Reinking was driven by delusions, paranoid thinking and auditory illusions,” he said. That included the belief that he was Taylor Swift's boyfriend and the star was stalking him, had broken into his house and sexually assaulted him.

He had moved from his home in Illinois to try to leave the persecution behind, Evans said. By the time he moved to Nashville a couple of months before the shooting, he was “completely untethered from reality.”

Reinking is charged with first degree murder in the shooting deaths of Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29; Joe R. Perez, 20; Akilah Dasilva, 23; and DeEbony Groves, 21. He also faces several counts of attempted first degree murder.

Travis Reinking.

On Monday, Reinking pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. That means he must prove not only that he was suffering from a severe mental illness but also that the mental illness made him unable to appreciate the wrongness of his actions.

In opening arguments, Assistant District Attorney General Jan Norman tried to demonstrate that Reinking made conscious choices. Norman pointed out that Reinking purchased extra magazines in the days before the shooting and chose to take his most powerful weapon. He also went to the Waffle House about 3:20 a.m. on a Saturday, when it was especially busy.

Norman said that when Reinking was captured in a wooded area, he was able to understand and comply with police commands.

“The proof in this case is that Travis Reinking made a choice,” Norman said. “He made several choices that led to the shooting.”