Waffle House Shooting Trial – Penalty Stage

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Short TV) – Rejecting his insanity plea, a jury found Travis Reinking guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, among several other attempted murder and weapons charges. Wearing only a jacket, Reinking opened fire on a Waffle House just outside Nashville in 2018.

The sequestered jury will return on Saturday, February 5 to resume the penalty phase of the trial. The penalty phase will proceed as its usual trial, with opening statements, evidence, testimony, closing arguments and deliberations.

Ultimately, the the jury must decide between life with or without the possibility of parole.

Reinking was found guilty of all of the following charges:

Count 1 – First Degree Murder of Joe Perez Jr.

  • Second degree murder
  • Voluntary homicide

Count 2 – First Degree Murder of Bull Sanderlin

  • Second degree murder
  • Voluntary homicide

Count 3 – First Degree Murder of Akilah Dasilva

  • Second degree murder
  • Voluntary homicide

Count 4 – First Degree Murder of De’Ebony Groves

  • Second degree murder
  • Voluntary homicide

Count 5 – Attempted First Degree Murder of Shantia Wagoner (Grievous Bodily Injury)

  • Attempted first degree murder
  • Attempted second degree murder
  • Attempted voluntary homicide

Count 6 – Possession of a Weapon to Commit a Dangerous Crime (Count 5)

Count 7 – Attempted First Degree Murder of Sharita Henderson (Grievous Bodily Injury)

  • Attempted first degree murder
  • Attempted second degree murder
  • Attempted voluntary homicide

Count 8 – Possession of a Weapon to Commit a Dangerous Crime (Count 7)

Count 9 – Attempted First Degree Murder of Kayla Shaw

  • Attempted second degree murder
  • Attempted voluntary homicide

Count 10 – Possession of a Weapon to Commit a Dangerous Crime (Count 9)

Count 11 – Attempted First Degree Murder of James Shaw Jr.

  • Attempted second degree murder
  • Attempted voluntary homicide

Count 12 – Possession of a Weapon to Commit a Dangerous Crime (Count 11)

Count 13 – Criminal Murder (Joe Perez attempting to commit murder 1d) – 39.13.202(a)(2)

Count 14 – Criminal Murder (Bull Sanderlin attempting to commit murder 1d)

Count 15 – Criminal Murder (Akilah Dasilva trying to commit murder 1d

Count 16 – Criminal Murder (De’Ebony Groves trying to commit murder 1d)


DAY 5 – 05/02/22

  • Attorney General Roger Moore delivers the state’s closing arguments
  • Paul Bruno delivers closing arguments for the defense
  • State’s rebuttal by Assistant District Attorney General Ronald Dowdy
    • In a particularly poignant moment after the state’s rebuttal, Prosecutor Dowdy loads a magazine with bullets for each victim, naming them.
  • Jury instructions are given and the jury began deliberating at 1 p.m. ET
  • The jury has a question: what is the definition of wrongfulness? Do we hold a person with mental illness under the same legal definition?
    • Answer: Since wrongfulness is not defined by law, you have to give it common sense to determine whether Mr. Reinking could understand that what he was doing was wrong under the insanity defence.
  • After only about two hours, the jury made its decision.
  • Reinking was found GUILTY ON ALL THE FIGURES

DAY 4 – 03/02/22

  • The defense rested after calling their second forensic psychologist, Dr Rena Isen, who carried out one of two court-ordered assessments in Reinking in 2018.
    • Isen testified that Reinking suffered from schizophrenia which manifested in delusions of persecution that led him to believe he was acting in self-defense and at the command of God when he carried out the mass shooting.
  • The defense called Dr. Elizabeth Wood back to present a YouTube video Reinking posted titled “Someone broke into my apartment,” offering a window into her delusions.
  • The state called seven rebuttal witnesses Thursday afternoon — or more like six, since the judge ruled out Det. Sumeral to testify about his interview with the accused after his appearance on the stand.
  • Three rebuttal witnesses described Reinking stealing the BMW from the dealership in an effort to show that the defendant was planning an escape.
  • The testimony ended on a chilling note with the introduction of designs the defendant carved into polystyrene meal trays from the shooting that included racial slurs to refer to the victims.
  • LOOK: 2/3/22 Waffle House Shooting Trial: Day 4

DAY 3 – 02/02/22

  • Davidson County prosecutors rested their casein chief after calling 27 witnesses. Their last witness was Nashville Metro PD lead homicide Det. Desmond Sumereal.
    • Thanks to Sumereal, jurors got their first glimpse of Travis Reinking’s apartment, where investigators found two bolt-action rifles, ammo boxes and a safe containing letters to Taylor Swift and Oprah Winfrey among bills , car titles and passports.
  • Against the objections of the State, Det. Desmond Sumereal read aloud the letters detailing Reinking’s delusions about a relationship with Taylor Swift. In the letter to Oprah, he begs her to help him figure out if this relationship with Taylor Swift was real.
  • Reinking’s defense called its first witness, Dr. Elizabeth Wood, the Vanderbilt University forensic psychologist who performed a court-ordered mental health assessment (Vanderbilt contracts services with Davidson County). She testified to her findings: Travis Reinking suffered from schizophrenia and resented the wrongfulness of his actions the night of the Waffle House shooting.
  • On the cross, prosecutor Ronald Dowdy asked Wood if Reinking’s behavior and the things he wrote in a diary after the shooting suggested he knew what he had done was wrong.
  • Judge Mark Fishburn denied the defense’s motion for a judgment of acquittal.
  • In a press conference, the parties debated the definition of “wrongfulness” and the lesser ones to include.
  • WATCH: 02/02/22 Waffle House Filming Trial: Day 3
  • WATCH: 02/02/22 Waffle House shooter writes to Oprah Winfrey and Taylor Swift

DAY 2 – 01/02/22

  • Kayla Shaw, the last survivor of the shooting to testify, recounted surveillance video of her falling to the ground and playing dead, standing up and slipping in a pool of blood and praying over the dismembered leg of another survivor. the shooting as she described her experience of the shooting.
    • Kayla Shaw also testifies that she saw Reinking “run away” from the scene; on the cross, she admits she first told law enforcement he was “walking.”
  • The firearms examiner testified that the Bushwacker semi-automatic reinking used in the shot did not require manual reloading unlike the Remington pistol he had left at home.
  • A dozen police witnesses spoke and described the manhunt for Reinking and his calm, “model suspect” demeanor as he was arrested.
    • Police witnesses said his behavior was uncharacteristic of their training and experience dealing with people with mental illnesses.
  • The medical examiner used diagrams to illustrate the devastating bullet wounds from the defendant’s Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle; the cause and circumstances of their death.
  • A video of James Shaw’s police interview showed him saying Reinking didn’t say anything “racial” to him, despite his testimony claiming Reinking called him a racial slur.
  • LOOK: 02/01/22 Waffle House Shooting Trial: Day 2

DAY 1 – 31/01/22

  • The jury hears the opening statements:
    • Deputy District Attorney Jan Norman said Reinking made a series of conscious decisions designed to inflict maximum damage. He bought ammunition days before the shooting and brought his most powerful firearm to the restaurant when he was sure he was busy, Norman said. He waited outside for it to refill, unloaded 30 rounds in his pursuit of Perez and Sandelin, then moved inside and fired another 30 rounds as he chased innocents looking from a shelter.
    • Defense attorney Luke Evans said Reinking suffered from severe schizophrenia which made him “detached from reality” and operated under the delusion that people were after him. He believed he was in contact with God and the aliens, and that God had ordered him to kill the people in the restaurant because they were government agents who were “responsible for the torment he perceived over the years. year”. He also believed that Taylor Swift was a government agent acting like his girlfriend who broke into his house and sexually assaulted him.
  • The state called 13 witnesses, including surviving victims Shantia Waggoner, Sharita Henderson, and James Shaw Jr. Shaw described his heroic efforts to wrest the gun from Reinking’s hands and force him out. He said he heard Reinking call it a racial slur, something he apparently never told police, defense attorney Paul Bruno said.
    • Another witness, Chelsea Owens, described seeing the shooter shoot Jose Perez and Taurean Sanderlin outside the restaurant before rampaging inside, where Owens’ friend Kayla Shaw was picking up food . Kayla Shaw was injured but managed to escape. As they drove away, they spotted Reinking running through a wooded area and called the police, Owns said.
    • Relatives of deceased victims Joe Perez, Taurean Sanderlin, Akilah Dasilva and De’Ebony Groves also took to the stage to identify photos of them and give context to the terrifying final moments of their lives. Abede Dasilva said he and his girlfriend fled in the opposite direction of his brother and his girlfriend as gunfire rang out, seeking refuge in the bathroom. He cried as he described lying on the ground next to his brother as his brother cried out in pain, “I can’t breathe.”

Court TV Field Producer Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.

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