For those who witnessed the unimaginable carnage at the Waffle House in Antioch firsthand, but were not physically injured, the shooting still violently attacked their hearts and minds.
Flashbacks of Travis Reinking tragically shooting and killing four customers and wounding several others are constantly weigh on witness Charles Cordero.
Cordero was in the parking lot and watched his friend get gunned down and killed.
Cordero said he can’t imagine what the families of the victims are going through, or those victims who were injured.
He said he’s going through a lot himself right now, trying to cope with what he saw that night.
It will be a month Sunday since Reinking opened fire on customers at the Waffle House in Antioch.
“There hasn’t been a day yet, where I haven’t been able to think about it,” Cordero said.
It’s something Cordero can’t seem to shake.
“I think anybody that was there, that had to see what I saw, is probably a little traumatized by it,” Cordero said.
Cordero said he is holding up as best as he can.
“I’m doing better,” he said. “It’s been kind of hard, I’m not going to lie, it weighs on my mind. It’s been kind of haunting.”
He was one of three people in the parking lot that night. Two were shot, and his friend, Taurean Sanderlin, was fatally wounded along with three others.
“I saw a man pull up to the Waffle House and kill innocent people,” Cordero said. “I saw what happened. I saw a man shoot another human being. I saw my friend get shot. I saw people injured. I saw a lunatic with a gun.”
Cordero works the overnight shift for a roadside assistance company.
He fears every time he gets a call now.
“I have a fear of being ambushed when I’m out there driving my vehicle, pulling up to service calls,” he said. “It’s nothing I’ve felt before and it’s troubling. It’s upsetting.”
His only sense of peace is going back to the Waffle House as much as he can.
“I go there more often than I did before the shooting,” Cordero said. “I don’t know, I feel comfortable there. I don’t know. I think at the beginning it was something that I had to do for myself. I think now I’m more comfortable. Believe it or not, it’s somewhere where I don’t have to think about it as crazy as it sounds.”
News 2 also spoke with a mental health professional who said people can learn to cope after witnessing a tragedy.
Mental health professional said people who witness tragedies like a mass shooting can suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and they should seek help.
“That is one of the hallmark symptoms is re-experiencing a traumatic event having intrusive thoughts about it,” said Pysche Mental Health Therapist Jennifer Biddle. “I think if that creating, you know, a lot of distress in person’s day-to-day life, that yes, they would probably need to seek counseling for that because we aren’t really equipped naturally with the tools to deal with that.”
Cordero said several people have encouraged him to seek counseling, but he said he’s simply not ready for that right now.
Cordero is also reacting to news that the family of the victim, Joe Perez has filed a lawsuit against Reinking’s father, claiming he is partially responsible for the murders for giving his son his guns back.
The weapons were taken away by federal authorities with assistance from Illinois authorities after a security breach at the White House where Reinking attempted to scale a fence.
“I think it’s 100 percent justified,” Cordero said. “I think he should be charged as an accessory. Those guns were taken away from him that young man. Those parents even had him checked out for unitability, they thought he was a little out there, they had him looked at, yet they still thought to give him back some weapons after they had some questions about his sanity themselves.”
Cordero also told News 2, his nightly visits at the Waffle House won’t be the same until all the workers who were there that night return to work.