By Jonathan Allen
(Reuters) – Two years before police say Travis Reinking fatally shot four people in a Waffle House in Nashville, he struggled with delusions that the singer Taylor Swift was hacking his phone and threatened to kill himself, according to police records.
The 2016 episode in a drugstore parking lot in Morton, a village in central Illinois, was the first of several known police encounters captured in incident reports, which were obtained by local news media outlets and seen by Reuters after Sunday’s shooting in the Tennessee capital.
The reports suggest a young man with apparent mental illness, distrust of authority and access to guns. Police became so concerned that they rescinded Reinking’s license to carry concealed firearms last August.
Police said on Monday afternoon that they had taken Reinking, a 29-year-old construction worker, into custody.
Authorities said he arrived barely dressed at the Waffle House restaurant the day before with an assault-style rifle, killing two people outside and two inside. Heavy rain hampered the use of helicopters and sniffer dogs in the manhunt.
A customer at the restaurant managed to wrestle Reinking’s rifle away before Reinking fled, shedding his jacket, the only thing he was wearing, police said.
In 2016, Reinking’s parents and grandmother told police they had been worried about their son for nearly two years when they called emergency responders to the drugstore parking lot in Morton, saying Reinking was threatening to kill himself.
Reinking’s father, Jeffrey Reinking, and other members of his family could not be reached by Reuters for comment.
Reinking said Taylor Swift was stalking him and messing with his phone and his Netflix account, and that his family and police were helping her, according to a report on the incident filed by the Tazewell County, Illinois, sheriff’s office. The report said Reinking was “delusional” and told police he believed he had autism.
“Travis stated he did not want to hurt Taylor Swift or anyone else, he only wanted the harassment to stop,” the police report said. Reinking eventually agreed to go to a hospital but said it was against his will, the report said.
GUN LICENSE REVOKED
About a year later, county sheriff’s deputies were called to a swimming pool after Reinking turned up in a pink woman’s house coat, which he stripped off before swimming in his underwear. He began yelling at lifeguards and showing them his genitals, insisting he was a man, the police report said. Pool officials said they did not want to press charges.
After police learned that Reinking had been seen by neighbors screaming and waving a rifle in the air earlier that morning, they advised Reinking’s father to lock up Reinking’s three rifles and his handgun “until Travis gets mental help,” the police report said.
Reinking traveled to Washington the following month, and was arrested on the White House grounds by Secret Service officers on July 7, 2017, and charged with unlawful entry after crossing a security barrier, the agency said in a statement
By the end of the summer, after at least one more episode in which Reinking tried to convince police that people were stalking him, the county sheriff’s office sent deputies to revoke his concealed-carry license and to advise Reinking’s father to lock up the son’s guns.
Before the year was out, Reinking moved to Nashville, the unofficial capital of country music, which boasts Taylor Swift among its more famous residents.
Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said Reinking was fired from his job as in the crane or construction business about three weeks ago, and that he was hired by another employer doing the same type of work but failed to show up for work last Tuesday, a day after he was hired.
The Nashville Metro Police Department said on Sunday that Reinking’s father had acknowledged that he had given Reinking back his guns.
In January 2017, the Mountain Mail, a small daily newspaper in Salida, Colorado, quoted Reinking in a man-on-the-street column responding to the question “What makes you happy?”
Reinking, identified as being from Salida, which is about 140 miles (225 km) southwest of Denver, said, “True Love. Just because it’s the best thing that can happen in life,” the newspaper’s publisher, Merle Baranczyk, said by phone.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis)