Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Travis Reinking, convicted in the 2018 Waffle House shooting, received a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole Saturday.
This comes after jurors rejected an attempted insanity defense Friday after nearly five hours of deliberation, finding Reinking guilty on all 16 charges against him.
Those charges include four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of felony murder in the deaths of Waffle House cook Taurean Sanderlin, 29; musician Akilah Dasilva, 23; Belmont senior DeEbony Groves, 21; and new Nashville resident Joe Perez, 20.
Reinking, 33, opened fire with an AR-15 rifle in the Antioch restaurant the early morning of April 22, 2018, killing four people and injuring others before the gun was wrestled away from him by patron James Shaw Jr., likely preventing further deaths. Reinking then fled the scene and was found by police after a 34-hour manhunt.
Since his arrest, Reinking has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Prosecutors called survivors, witnesses and responding officers Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to tell their stories. Several recounted harrowing details from the shooting and its aftermath, which looked like a “war zone,” MNPD Officer Daniel Polk testified.
Reinking pulled up to the Waffle House just before 3:20 a.m., naked except for a green jacket. He carried a loaded semi-automatic rifle and two loaded magazines, firing 15 rounds outside the restaurant before entering to fire 15 more.
Wednesday also saw the beginning of the defense’s case, including testimony from a forensic psychologist who evaluated Reinking in the months after his arrest.
Testimony and court records say he was dealing with intense delusions, hallucinations and paranoia in the years leading up to the shooting, including beliefs that he was being pursued by government agents and that he was in a romantic relationship with pop star Taylor Swift.
The question at the center of the case was whether Reinking knew his actions were wrong at the time of the shooting. Jurors took the decision into their hands Friday and found Reinking guilty.
If granted parole, Reinking would have served at least 51 years in prison, but jurors decided against that possibility at Saturday’s sentencing after two final, emotional hours of testimony from victims’ family members.
Groves’ brother DiAngelo and mother Shirl Baker took the stand.
“My days now are spent with scheduled weekly visits to the cemetery,” Baker said. “A broken heart and a hole in my soul."
Sentencing in Reinking’s remaining charges will be handled later by the court.
PHOTO: Travis Reinking reacts as the verdict is read during day five of Reinking’s murder trial at the Justice A.A. Birch Building in Nashville, Feb. 4. Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean
This article was written by Anna Jackson.