NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On the fifth anniversary of the deadly Waffle House shooting, loved ones and community members gathered outside the Antioch restaurant calling for gun reform, especially after the Covenant School mass shooting last month.
“At five years, you know, maybe you should be moving on, maybe you should feel differently,” said Shaundelle Brooks, the mother of Akilah Dasilva. “You still feel that hurt, that pain, that hole within your chest. And it’s hard to express.”
During the early morning hours on April 22, 2018, Akilah, DeEbony Groves, Taurean Sanderlin, and Joe Perez lost their lives after Travis Reinking pulled up to the Waffle House on Murfreesboro Pike, armed with an AR-15.
Half a decade later, Akilah’s family is fighting to keep his name alive.
“Akilah, DeEbony, Taurean, Joey all deserved to live their lives. Their lives were not supposed to be taken, and we will not let mass shootings and gun violence become a norm,” Akilah’s brother, Abede Dasilva, said.
It’s a pain now made fresh for Reggie Hill, the brother of Michael ‘Mike’ Hill, a custodian who lost his life during the Covenant shooting.
“He was very important to us, he was a very important part of our lives, and so now that part is gone, and it’s a major adjustment for us,” Reggie said.
Mike also left behind children, nieces, and nephews, as well as a good friend, Nicole Washington.
“It’s almost impossible for them to save people when they come in mangled by these high-powering weapons, so we need to do something about those kinds of weapons and they need to do something now,” Washington said.
They joined many at the remembrance event on Saturday, April 22 who voiced disappointment in state lawmakers’ last session, with the governor’s gun reform amendment appearing to be dead in the water for now.
“I really thought that they were going to take Governor Bill Lee’s proposal at heart. It was kind of a slap in the face when they didn’t even bring it to the floor for a vote,” Reggie said.
Mike’s family would like to see measures like stronger background checks and restrictions on certain weapons put into place. That sentiment was echoed repeatedly by others as they remembered the Waffle House victims who lost their lives five years ago.
“A lot of things that were said about if things had been done prior to, really kind of touched me because I feel like if we had stronger gun laws, that possibly my brother would still be here,” Reggie said.
Saturday marked the first anniversary for the 2018 shooting since Reinking was sentenced in July 2022 to life in prison plus 114 years after being convicted of 16 charges, including four counts of first-degree premeditated murder.