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Waffle House Shooter Believed He Was in Relationship with Taylor Swift and That She Was Sexually Assaulting Him: Defense



No one—not even the defense—disputes that Travis Reinking shot and killed four innocent people using an AR-15 rifle at a Waffle House in Nashville. And yet he lived with serious delusions, starting with a one-sided fixation toward a famous pop star and culminating with that mass shooting, an attorney said in opening statements Monday in the murder trial. Reinking believed that singer Taylor Swift was sexually assaulting him and that government agents were breaking into his home, the lawyer said.

The defense is seeking a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Jan Norman emphasized Reinking’s choices to act the way he did, targeting fleeing customers. He chose to do what he did at every step of the way, she said, apparently trying to preemptively undermine the insanity defense. It was his decision to gun down those people.

Reinking fired 15 shots in the parking lot that day in April 22, 2018, killing both Joe Perez Jr., 20, and Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, she said. The first man had just moved to Tennessee four months before that and was only at the restaurant over tire problems, she said.

DeEbony Groves, 21, was inside with a friend at a booth signing “Jesus Loves Me” before Reinking entered the establishment and killed her. Akilah Dasilva, 23, died at the hospital. His family had sued the city, saying that first responders could have saved him had  a dispatcher not directed police toward another Waffle House. The site of the shooting was a new location.

Defense lawyer Luke Evans painted this shooting as the tragic culmination of Reinking’s struggles with mental illness: particularly schizophrenia, which he claims his client battled for years. He was driven by delusions, experienced paranoid thinking, and had auditory hallucinations, he said.

One of those delusions started with him going to a Taylor Swift concert, and he believed that the pop star was talking directly to him, Evans said. Reinking believed they were in a relationship, that he was her real boyfriend, and that she was communicating with him, the attorney said. That delusion “grew and grew” to where he believed she was after him, and that she was even sexually assaulting him.

He was so convinced that he reached out to law enforcement, saying that people were breaking into his home and stealing his thoughts, Reinking said. He went to Washington D.C. because he wanted to put a stop to this, the defense said. He was arrested for being in a restricted area near the White House, authorities have said.

This brings us the Waffle House mass shooting. Reinking believed that God commanded him to go to the restaurant, and he believed that the people there were government agents responsible for the torment he perceived over the years. He was naked except for a green, waist length jacket because he believed God told him to do it that way, Evans said.

“He wasn’t in any sort of rational state of mind,” the attorney said.

[Screenshot of Reinking via Law&Crime Network; image of Swift from ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images]

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