Accused Waffle House shooter's dad named in wrongful death lawsuit

Police tape blocks off a Waffle House restaurant Sunday, April 22, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. At least four people died after a gunman opened fire at the restaurant. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey | Metropolitan Nashville Police Department)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) - Accused Waffle House shooter Travis Reinking's father has been named in a lawsuit filed by the family of one of the four people killed.

Documents obtained by FOX 17 News show Christian Perez, brother of Joe Perez, filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Jeffrey Reinking in a Tazwell County, Illinois, court.

Joe Perez, 20, of Antioch, was gunned down at a Waffle House in Antioch on April 22.

The wrongful death lawsuit says Travis Reinking got the gun he used in the shooting, a Bushmaster AR-15, from his father, Jeffrey, who "voluntarily" gave the weapon to Travis, even though he was not supposed to, per the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office.

The lawsuit brings up several instances to support the case that Jeffrey knew of Travis' mental health issues and was not supposed to have guns:

  • In May 2016, the lawsuit says Travis’ parents called 911 to ask for help addressing the “delusional state of mind” of their son as he was threatening to commit suicide and there were guns in the house. Travis became hostile with police when they went to take him to a hospital for a mental evaluation.
  • In 2017, the lawsuit claims Jeffrey knew his son believed superstar Taylor Swift was harassing him by stalking and hacking his phone. Also that year, the lawsuit says Travis told police his parents and grandmother were harassing him.
  • June 2017: Travis Reinking swam in his underwear in a public pool and showed his genitals to lifeguards to demonstrate that he was a male. Because of this incident, Travis' sister was told to keep guns away from Travis.
  • July 2017: Travis claimed to be a "sovereign citizen," went to Washington, D.C. and breached the White House security barrier, demanding to speak to the President.
  • Travis' former employer in Colorado brought up concerns about his mental health to Jeffrey in 2017, saying Travis was suffering from "mental disturbances."
  • At Jeffrey's business, J & J Cranes, Travis dressed up in a pink woman’s housecoat and allegedly threatened an employee while holding the AR-15.
  • On Aug. 24, 2017 - As a result of the White House incident, Tazewell County officers informed Travis that his right to own a firearm had been revoked and Travis agreed to surrender his guns and ammunition. Jeffrey asked TCSO if he could keep Travis' guns, they said yes as long as he agrees that Travis would not have access to firearms. Jeffrey agreed. These firearms included: Bushmaster AR-15, Kimber handgun 9mm, CZ-USA .22 caliber rifle, Remington 710 rifle.

The gun used to kill Joe Perez was the same gun Travis was not supposed to have access to, even though the lawsuit says Jeffrey knew his son had mental health problems, citing the incidents above. The lawsuit says Jeffrey knew at times Travis' mental health status could appear to be relatively stable (for Travis), and then at times he "would decline into a state of unpredictability," leading to "bizarre behavior."

The lawsuit states Jeffrey knew his son’s mental health status would decline and put him at a risk for suicide or injuring other people. The lawsuit adds decline of mental health could also lead to threatening people and injuring them with a gun, including the Bushmaster AR-15.

Sometime after Aug. 24, 2017 - Jeffrey voluntarily gave the AR-15 to his son, the lawsuit claims, stating Travis had the AR-15 the entire time he lived in Tennessee.

The lawsuit goes on to say:

“Defendant’s breach of this duty allowed his son to be in possession of a weapon – the Bushmaster AR-15 – that he used to shoot and kill Joe Perez Jr.
"Defendants’ negligent conduct was a proximate cause of the death of Joe Perez Jr.”

The lawsuit is seeking more than $50,000 costs of court and a demands a trial by jury.

Statement from Perez family regarding lawsuit:

"The family of Joey Perez wants to understand the events giving rise to this senseless tragedy. Part of that inquiry requires learning how - and why - Travis Reinking came to possess the AR-15 assault rifle used to take four innocent lives and injure others. This lawsuit will provide answers to those questions. "

Killed in the shooting were Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29; Joe R. Perez, 20; De'Ebony Groves, 21, of Gallatin; and Akilah Dasilva, 23, of Antioch.

Mass Waffle House shooting

On April 22, 2018, a gunman entered a Waffle House along Murfreesboro Road in Antioch, Tennessee, and shot four people to death.

The accused gunman, Travis Reinking, also shot and injured four others, including James Shaw Jr., who was able to wrestle the AR-15 from Reinking.

The shooter fled, prompting a 36-hour manhunt which neighbors described as "sheer terror" and caused lockdowns at schools.

At about 1 p.m. the next day, a Fentress County couple spotted Reinking going into the woods behind an apartment complex near the 5000 block of Mountain Springs Drive. Police arrived on scene and took Reinking into custody.

Reinking was charged with four counts of murder and booked into Metro Jail with a $2 million bond -- which was later revoked. More charges were added against Reinking, including four counts of attempted murder and unlawful gun possession in the commission of a violent felony.

Reinking's May 7 court date was pushed back, pending a mental health evaluation. A gag order has been issued in the case.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off