NASHVILLE—Five days before he allegedly opened fire in a Waffle House, Travis Reinking led police on a chase in a stolen BMW in a tony suburb.
Weaving through rush-hour traffic, he ignored the lights and sirens behind him, before Brentwood police officers terminated their pursuit after a few minutes. Reinking was identified as the suspected thief on Monday as police hunted him down for killing four people at the restaurant in nearby Antioch.
Reinking was arrested Monday afternoon, nearly 34 hours after the shooting and less than a mile from the scene of the massacre. Nashville police officers captured him after responding to a call from a local resident who reported seeing a man walking into a wooded area.
Last Tuesday, according to Brentwood police, he arrived at BMW of Nashville in Brentwood at around 5:40 p.m., posing as a customer. After stealing a key fob from a salesperson, police say, he got in a 2018 BMW X6 and drove away from the dealership.
A general manager at the dealership declined to comment Monday afternoon.
Later that evening, according to police, officers from the Metro Nashville Police Department located the vehicle at the apartment complex where Reinking was living. The vehicle was unoccupied.
It’s that apartment complex that police believe Reinking returned to after the shooting Sunday morning, putting on some clothes before taking off again toward a wooded area. When police searched his apartment Sunday, they found the stolen BMW key fob connecting him to the theft last week.
Officers from the Brentwood Police Department, south of Nashville, did not know who was driving the vehicle last Tuesday. After a short chase, Brentwood police officials said they ended their pursuit “in accordance with Brentwood Police policy and since the stolen vehicle was equipped with a GPS tracking device.”
“We have a policy in regard to all vehicle pursuits that is in line with national standards,” Assistant Chief Tommy Walsh told The Daily Beast in an email. “The policy was followed by the officers involved in this incident. In this case we had an unknown suspect in a vehicle that was travelling down a heavily travelled roadway during rush hour. The vehicle was able to be tracked by GPS.
“In the opinion of the supervisor who ultimately called off the pursuit the risk to the public in continuing the pursuit outweighed the continuation, particularly considering we had the option of tracking via GPS. Obviously had we known that this suspect was going to do what he did on Sunday morning that decision may have been different, but at the time of the vehicle theft and pursuit we did not know the identity of the suspect or what he was capable of.
“It would be unfair to judge the Brentwood Police Department on what we know in hindsight,” Walsh added. “We did not know who this was last Tuesday and did not connect him to the vehicle theft until after he had committed the crime at Waffle House.”
It was another near miss for Reinking, who has had several other run-ins with law enforcement in recent years. He was arrested at the White House in July 2017 for being in a restricted area, an incident that led authorities in Illinois to revoke his firearms license. Prior to that, he allegedly threatened someone with an AR-15 and exposed himself to people at a public pool.
Hero’s Pastor Thanks God
Sunday’s shooting was stopped by James Shaw, who disarmed Reinking, wrestling the rifle from him as he stopped to reload. After he was released from the hospital for a grazing wound, Shaw went to Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church with his mother.
Rev. Aaron Marble, the church’s pastor, told The Daily Beast that Shaw had started coming to the church more frequently in recent months. Shaw was raised in the church where his parents have been congregants for years, Marble said.
The 29-year-old pastor said he spoke to Shaw on Sunday morning.
“He let me know what had happened, what he had experienced and he just felt it appropriate that he make his way to church to really thank God and to kind of just help in his processing of the whole situation,” Marble said.
Later, Nashville Mayor David Briley came to the church to meet with Shaw in Marble’s office and ultimately stayed for the service.
Marble’s sermon was timely. Titled “I Have a Testimony,” it focused on Psalm 118, particularly verse 14, which reads: “The Lord is my strength and my defense. He has become my salvation.”
“I did not change that because of the situation,” Marble said. “I had actually planned to preach it last week and then preached something else.”