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Manhunt for Waffle House Gunman After Hero Stops Shooter from Killing More

Police tape blocks off a Waffle House restaurant April 22, 2018, in Nashville after a mass shooting. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Law enforcement were on the hunt for a mass murderer tonight while authorities were praising the hero who tackled the naked Waffle House gunman and wrested away the killer’s Bushmaster rifle.

Metro Nashville Police said more than 80 officers from their department had joined state and federal colleagues in the manhunt for Travis Reinking

Police said he may be armed as “one of his guns, a pistol, remains unaccounted for.”

Reinking, 29, is accused of pulling up to a Waffle House in his pickup truck at 3:19 a.m., sitting inside for three to four minutes before climbing out and fatally shooting Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, of Goodlettsville, an employee of the restaurant, and patron Joe R. Perez, 20, of Nashville; both were standing outside. Wearing only a jacket, he also shot up the front window of the location.

Inside, the gunman fatally shot Deebony Groves, 21, of Gallatin, Akilah Dasilva, 23, of Antioch. Two others were wounded: Shanita Waggoner, 21, of Nashville, and Sharita Henderson, 24, of Antioch.

Waffle House customer James Shaw, Jr., 29, was in the restroom and seized an opportunity to rush Reinking, fighting the killer for his gun and tossing it over the counter. Reinking fled and shed his jacket nearby; in it, police found two more magazines for his rifle.

Police believe Reinking walked to his nearby apartment, put on pants, and fled the area.

“Reinking is believed to have moved to Nashville in the fall of 2017. He worked in the crane/construction trade. The police department has been informed that he was fired from one employer three weeks ago and started with another last Monday, but did not return to work on Tuesday,” Metro PD said.

“Reinking was arrested by the United States Secret Service for being in a restricted area near the White House in July of 2017. He was subsequently released. Reinking was later interviewed by Tazewell County, Illinois, authorities and the FBI. His Illinois firearms authorization was revoked and four weapons were seized by Tazewell County authorities, among them was the AR-15 used today,” police added in a statement. “The police department has received information that the guns were returned to Reinking’s father, who has acknowledged giving them back to his son. Presently two of the four guns are unaccounted for (one of them was recovered during the apartment search).”

Reinking reportedly told Illinois police in May 2016 that singer Taylor Swift was harassing him. In August 2017, police confiscated his weapons. His father told authorities that the returned guns would be locked away from his son, but instead he returned the weapons to Reinking.

In the White House incident, Reinking reportedly asked a uniformed Secret Service officer at the perimeter if he could speak with President Trump. He refused to leave a secure perimeter area while talking with the officer and was arrested for unlawful entry.

Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer praised Shaw for stopping the shooter at an afternoon news conference. “You are my hero. You saved people’s lives,” Emher said. “I talked to some of those people, and they will think of you for the rest of their days.”

“We are forever in your debt for the courage you displayed today taking care of your fellow man,” he added. “I thank you.”

Shaw, a Nashville native, attended Tennessee State University and works for AT&T. He has a 4-year-old daughter.

He was grazed by a bullet and suffered third-degree burns from grabbing the barrel of the rifle.

“I distinctively remember thinking that he is going to have to work for this kill. I had a chance to stop him, and thankfully I stopped him,” Shaw said.

“I grabbed the gun and kept it down,” he added. “He had one hand on it. I pulled it away and threw it over the bar.”

Shaw said he didn’t follow Reinking as it was unknown if the shooter had another gun in his jacket.

After Shaw was treated and released, he attended church with Nashville Mayor David Briley.

“All of our attention is focused on the victims, on the families and our associates that were working that night,” Emher said. “We are here to support them in any way we can.”