Waffle House killer gets life in prison, no parole
NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A man convicted of fatally shooting four people at a Waffle House in Tennessee in 2018 was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Saturday.
The jury imposed the sentence on 33-year-old Travis Reinking after listening for about two hours to testimony from family members of the four people killed. The jury had the option to give Reinking a chance of parole after 51 years in prison.
“I’ve always been someone who they say is unbreakable because no matter what our family has been through, I will always be the one who raises our family,” Patricia Perez said through tears at the loss of her son Joey. “That broke me.”
Reinking opened fire at the restaurant on April 22, 2018, killing Perez, 20; Taurus Sanderlin, 29; Akila Dasilva, 23; and DeEbony Groves, 21. He fled after diner James Shaw Jr. wrestled Reinking’s assault rifle from him, sparking a manhunt.
The jury on Friday dismissed Reinking’s defense of insanity and found him guilty on 16 counts, including four counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors said in 2020 they would be asking for life without parole instead of the death penalty.
Other charges included four counts of attempted first-degree murder and four counts of unlawful use of a firearm while committing or attempting to commit a dangerous crime. In addition to the four people he killed, he seriously injured Sharita Henderson and Shantia Waggoner. Kayla Shaw and James Shaw Jr., who are not related, suffered minor injuries.
Reinking’s defense team, which called no witnesses at Saturday’s hearing, pleaded the possibility of parole and said he was mentally unbound. Prosecutors argued that the evidence shows Reinking planned the attack and intended to kill everyone in the restaurant.
Prosecutors also returned the jury’s attention to the testimonies of family members. Shaundelle Brooks said her son Dasilva was a gifted artist, a brilliant student and a talented musician who built his own computer to work on his music, which he used to urge people to turn away from gun violence.
“He loved his family, but most of all, Akilah wanted to live,” Brooks said. “He wanted to make positive changes in this world. He showed compassion, not anger. He spread love, not hate.”
Evidence at the trial showed that Reinking suffered from schizophrenia and suffered from delusions for years because he believed unknown people were tormenting him. He contacted police officers several times to report that he had been threatened, followed and harassed. In July 2017, he was arrested by the Secret Service after venturing unarmed into a restricted area on the White House compound and demanding a meeting with then-President Donald Trump.
But prosecutors presented evidence that after his arrest, Reinking was calm, cooperative and able to understand and respond to orders. Reinking was naked when he left the scene, but when he was arrested almost two days later he was clothed and carrying a backpack containing bottled water, sunscreen, a pistol, ammunition, a Bible and several bars of silver. And prosecutors said he asked to speak to a lawyer after his arrest.
Gallery: Waffle House killer gets life in prison