NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 23 (Reuters) - Police were hunting on Monday in heavy rain for the suspected gunman who fled a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville naked after shooting four people to death, a few months after police became so concerned by his erratic behavior they canceled his gun license.
Travis Reinking, a 29-year-old construction worker, has not been seen since a passerby saw him running shirtless in the woods behind his apartment, where he had gone to apparently pick up a pair of black pants, the Metro Nashville Police Department said.
Meanwhile, police in Reinking's hometown in Tazewell County, Illinois, released incident reports from the last couple of years that show Reinking having multiple encounters with law enforcement about his delusions that people, including singer Taylor Swift, are following him.
During the shootings, the suspect was wearing only a green jacket that he shed before leaving on foot, police said. That jacket contained two clips of ammunition for the assault-style rifle used in the shootings, police and school officials said.
The killings at the chain restaurant in Tennessee's capital were the latest in a string of high-profile mass shootings in which a gunman used an AR-15 rifle. A nationwide debate on gun control has intensified since February, when a former student killed 17 people with an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
After multiple bizarre encounters with law enforcement, including an episode in Washington in July 2017 where he was arrested for trying to get into the White House, law enforcement revoked his Illinois-issued license to carry concealed weapons, according to police records.
Reinking's father promised police he would lock up his son's guns, which police say included the AR-15 rifle used in the Waffle House shooting, but later relented and returned the weapons to his son, Nashville police said on Sunday.
In Nashville, two people were shot dead outside the restaurant at about 3:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) on Sunday, and two were killed inside. The suspect fled after a 29-year-old diner, James Shaw Jr., wrestled the rifle from him. Police say Shaw probably saved several lives.
Shaw said he had retreated into a narrow hallway next to bathrooms at the Waffle House when the gunman entered the restaurant.
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"I was just waiting for a chance, so when I saw the barrel down, I just saw my opportunity and I attacked," Shaw told NBC-TV on Monday morning. He said he took the assault rifle from the suspect and threw it over a counter.
Shaw, who was grazed by a bullet during the attack, was praised by authorities for his courage, but on Sunday he denied he was a hero. "I just wanted to live," he said.
By Monday, two of Reinking's four guns were unaccounted for. One was recovered during a search of Reinking's apartment, police said.
Police said those killed were Waffle House cook Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, and three patrons: Joe R. Perez, 20; DeEbony Groves, 21; and Akilah Dasilva, 23.
Two wounded patrons were being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, both listed in stable condition early on Monday. Others were cut by shattered glass.