By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) – A Tennessee judge on Tuesday revoked a $2 million bond set for the man accused of opening fire at a Nashville-area Waffle House restaurant, killing four people, while new details emerged of the suspect’s struggles with paranoia and delusions.
Davidson County Judge Michael Mondelli did not give a reason for overturning the bond order issued by a night magistrate following the arrest of Travis Reinking, but his decision followed a public outcry over the possibility that the suspect could potentially be freed from jail.
The Nashville District Attorney’s office was “inundated with calls” from angry members of the public saying the shooting rampage suspect should not be released under any circumstances, spokesman Steve Hayslip said.
“The fact that he might be able to bond out set that fear and panic back in their hearts again,” Hayslip said.
Reinking, a 29-year-old construction worker with a history of erratic behavior and brushes with the law, was captured in woods outside Nashville on Monday after more than a day on the run and charged with four counts of murder.
A hearing set in the case for Wednesday was postponed until May 7. Jon Wing, a Davidson County public defender representing Reinking, did not respond to a request for comment.
Police say a nearly naked Reinking opened fire with an AR-15 rifle at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday at the Waffle House restaurant.
The gunman, who began shooting outside before moving 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.
Police say they still did not know what motivated the attack and that Reinking was not speaking to investigators.
Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall told reporters on Tuesday that the suspect was under medical observation and a suicide watch.
“We have to protect other inmates from him,” Hall said. “And we have to protect him from other inmates.”
Previous brushes with law enforcement show that Reinking appeared to struggle with delusions of being stalked by people, including pop star Taylor Swift.
Former colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Crane Service where Reinking worked in Salida, Colorado, told a Salida Police Department investigator this week that he was intelligent and quiet, but they worried about his mental health.
They described him as a loner who often played video games, especially ones that involve shooting, and that he was obsessed with Swift, according to a report released by Salida police. Reinking lived in Salida for six months starting in late 2016.
Reinking told everyone he was gay, which two colleagues said appeared to contradict his claims that he would someday marry the 28-year-old female singer.
“Travis was a good kid, very polite and a hard worker but a little off. It’s just unfortunate that he snapped,” John Turley, a mechanic at the Crane service, told Reuters in a telephone interview. “As the laws are written, he never should have had a gun. I feel sorry for everybody who is suffering.”
Reinking moved to Nashville in 2017 from Illinois. The U.S. Secret Service said it arrested him in Washington in July of last year after he attempted to get into the White House.
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, Jeffrey Reinking, who told police he would lock them up and keep them away from his son at their home in Tazewell County, Illinois.
But the elder Reinking eventually returned the weapons to his son, Nashville police said on Sunday. The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office never took custody of the guns and was not investigating the matter, Chief Deputy Jeffrey Lower said in an email.
Marcus Watson, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Reinking’s father could face federal charges if he knowingly transferred weapons to a person who was prohibited from owning them. Jeffrey Reinking could not be reached for comment.
(Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Brendan O’Brien and Keith Coffman; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)