Motive behind Waffle House shooting suspect Travis Reinking eludes Nashville police

NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 24 (Reuters) - Nashville police were working on Tuesday to determine what motivated a gunman with an AR-15 rifle to kill four people at an all-night Waffle House restaurant, having arrested a suspect with a history of erratic behavior.

Travis Reinking, 29, was taken into custody on Monday after a protracted manhunt, following tips from the public that led authorities to search secluded woods in which he was hiding near his home.

Police say a nearly naked Reinking opened fire at the restaurant at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, then fled the scene. The gunman, who began shooting outside the restaurant and then moved inside, aborted his attack and fled when a customer, 29-year-old James Shaw Jr., wrestled the rifle from him in what authorities called an act of heroism.

"We don't know why he went into the Waffle House," Metropolitan Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron told reporters on Monday. He said an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was used in the attack.

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Waffle House shooting suspect Travis Reinking
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Waffle House shooting suspect Travis Reinking
Waffle House shooting suspect Travis Reinking was taken into custody by Metro Nashville Police on Monday, April 23, 2018.

(Photo: Metro Nashville PD)
Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, is shown in this undated photo obtained April 22, 2018. Reinking is wanted as a person of interest by police after a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 22, 2018. Metro Nashville Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
UNSPECIFIED DATE AND LOCATION: (EDITORS NOTE: Best quality available) In this handout provided by the Metro Nashville Police Department, the AR-15 assault rifle used in a shooting at a Nashville-area Waffle House that left four dead and four wounded is pictured. The suspected gunman, Travis Reinking, 29, of Illinois, is still at large. (Photo by Metro Nashville Police Department via Getty Images)
Metro Davidson County police search the apartment complex where Waffle House shooting suspect, Travis Reinking, reportedly lives near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Travis Reinking appears in a booking photo provided by the Metro Nashville Police Department in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 23, 2018. Metro Nashville Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY
The truck of Travis Reinking, the suspected shooter, is loaded on a trailer ready to be towed from the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County police search the apartment complex where Waffle House shooting suspect, Travis Reinking, reportedly lives near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Waffle House shooting suspect Travis Reinking was taken into custody by Metro Nashville Police on Monday, April 23, 2018.

(Photo: Metro Nashville PD)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 22: Law enforcement investigate at the Discovery at Mountain View Apartments complex where a man believed to be suspected gunman Travis Reinking was spotted on April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. A gunman entered a nearby Waffle House and opened fire and killed 4 killed and injured two during the shooting. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 22: A sign for the Discovery at Mountain View Apartments complex where a man believed to be suspected gunman Travis Reinking was spotted on April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. A gunman entered a nearby Waffle House and opened fire and killed 4 killed and injured two during the shooting. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
Travis Reinking appears in a booking photo provided by the Metro Nashville Police Department in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 23, 2018. Metro Nashville Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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Reinking, who had a pistol and ammunition in a backpack when he was arrested, was not talking to police. He was being held at a Nashville jail on bond initially set at $500,000 for each of four murder charges, online jail records showed.

Reinking, who moved to the Tennessee capital last year from his Illinois hometown, is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Wednesday morning.

The killings were the latest in a string of mass shootings around the country in which a gunman used an AR-15 style rifle. One of the deadliest was the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14 by a gunman brandishing an AR-15. A former student at the school is charged with the murders.

In Nashville, authorities said they are still unclear about what motivated the Waffle House attack, which sent a shudder through the city, one of the biggest in the U.S. South.

Tips from people in the neighborhood helped lead police to search through the woods about two miles (3 km) from the restaurant, where Reinking eventually surrendered without resisting.

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Waffle House shooting victims
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Waffle House shooting victims

DeEbony Groves, 21

Photo Credit: Facebook 

Joe R. Perez, 20

Photo Credit: Facebook

Akilah DaSilva, 23

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Dasilva Family 

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More than 150 city, state and local law enforcement agents searched for the gunman, who has had a history of bizarre behavior, delusions and multiple encounters with authorities. In July 2017, Reinking was arrested for attempting to get into the White House, according to police records.

After that episode, authorities in Illinois revoked his gun license and confiscated four firearms, including what police said was the rifle used in the Waffle House shooting. The guns were given to his father, who told police he would lock up and keep them away from his son. But the father, from Tazewell County, Illinois, 130 miles southwest of Chicago, eventually returned the weapons to his son, Nashville police said on Sunday.

Marcus Watson, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Reinking's father, Jeffrey, could face federal charges if he knowingly transferred weapons to a person who was prohibited from owning them. The father was not immediately available for comment.

(Writing by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Frank McGurty and Steve Orlofsky)

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Images from the scene of the Waffle House shooting
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Images from the scene of the Waffle House shooting
Suspected shooter Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois
A police vehicle sits parked at the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 22, 2018. Metro Nashville Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Metro Davidson County Police inspect the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The truck of Travis Reinking, the suspected shooter, is loaded on a trailer ready to be towed from the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County Police inspect the truck of Travis Reinking, the suspected shooter, at the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County police search the apartment complex where Waffle House shooting suspect, Travis Reinking, reportedly lives near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County police and ATF agents search the apartment complex where Waffle House shooting suspect, Travis Reinking, reportedly lives near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County police search the apartment complex where Waffle House shooting suspect, Travis Reinking, reportedly lives near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County police search the apartment complex where Waffle House shooting suspect, Travis Reinking, reportedly lives near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County police search the apartment complex where Waffle House shooting suspect, Travis Reinking, reportedly lives near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County police search the apartment complex where Waffle House shooting suspect, Travis Reinking, reportedly lives near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County police search the apartment complex where Waffle House shooting suspect, Travis Reinking, reportedly lives near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County Police escort a man to his car at the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County Police inspect the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County Police inspect the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Metro Davidson County Police inspect the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 22: Law enforcement investigate the scene outside a Waffle House where four people were killed and two were wounded after a gunman opened fire with an assault weapon on April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, IL, is person of interest in the shooting and is suspected to have left the scene naked. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 22: Law enforcement investigate the scene outside a Waffle House where four people were killed and two were wounded after a gunman opened fire with an assault weapon on April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, IL, is person of interest in the shooting and is suspected to have left the scene naked. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 22: Law enforcement stand outside a Waffle House where four people were killed and two were wounded after a gunman opened fire with an assault weapon on April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, IL, is person of interest in the shooting and is suspected to have left the scene naked. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 22: Law enforcement stand outside a Waffle House where four people were killed and two were wounded after a gunman opened fire with an assault weapon on April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, IL, is person of interest in the shooting and is suspected to have left the scene naked. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
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