NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Waffle House shooter Travis Reinking walked into the courtroom Wednesday greeting his parents with a smile. It was the first day we’ve seen any real reaction from Reinking since the Mass shooting trial started Monday.
He locked eyes with his mother Judy and father Jeffrey when he walked in the courtroom, his face lit up with a smile. They waved at one another and then interacted. His father pulled down his mask seeming to show off his beard, Reinking laughed.
We also saw a reaction from him as letters he had written were read in court Wednesday. The letters were in a safe, taken as evidence from Reinking’s apartment — one to Taylor Swift and the other to Oprah. The lead investigator in the case read the letters aloud to the court giving us insight into his mindset.
“Oprah, I’m writing you because I’m in love with Taylor Swift and I don’t know if I’m delusional or not,” detective Desmond Sumerel read from the witness stand. ”I tried to meet her one night and told my parents about it. They called police on me and had me forced by the police to get me mentally evaluated. I was kept against my will for six or seven days. The doctor, without a root cause analysis, told me that I was schizophrenic because I was having paranoid delusions of grandeur.”
Reinking snickered, hiding his mouth as a portion of the letter was read.
Reinking told a psychologist it was “a sign from God” that led him to the Antioch Waffle House in the early morning hours of April 22, 2018.
Dr. Mary Elizabeth Wood, an expert in forensic psychology, evaluated Reinking a week after the mass shooting. Wood said she used a series of YouTube videos that Reinking posted, audio recordings, his journal and met with Reinking over a period of days in her evaluation, diagnosing him with schizophrenia. Wood told the court that Reinking prayed for a sign to stop him from shooting.
“He has described that in that moment he received, he described it at times as a voice at other times as a command from God that was very specific and very directive. This directive command from God was to take his jacket, the jacket he was wearing, take the gun, go to Waffle House and shoot three people. Mr. Reinking said that after walking into the Waffle House the gun jammed. Part of him at the moment believed that may have been God intervening. That was what he had prayed to happen. He wondered if he had sort of finished the job at that point, and that’s when the gun jammed,” said Wood.
She also testified that Reinking prayed for a sign once he pulled into the Waffle House, saying there were two. One was a car with its hazard lights, which we learned earlier this week was Joe Perez’s car as he had a flat tire. The second sign was the number “3,” a number that had significant meaning to Reinking. Joe Perez, 20, was killed just feet from the front door.
Wood read entries from Reinking’s journal that corroborated what he told her.
“I remember praying to God asking him what I should do. Sometimes I don’t get an answer but this time I did. In Morgan Freeman’s voice, God told me ‘take your gun, go to the Waffle House. If you go now you will only have to shoot three of them. Take nothing but your gun and green jacket and a couple of spare magazines. Then take your truck to drive there, shoot them and then walk back to your apartment,’” she read.
We also saw never before seen images of how Reinking lived inside his Antioch apartment. The photos showed no furniture; no couch, no bed, but a pillow and comforter on the floor where he appeared to sleep. There was a gun magazine on his bathroom sink, a blood-covered rug, and rifles and ammunition in his closet.
Defense attorneys for Reinking only called one witness Wednesday. His uncle is expected to take the stand Thursday.
The state is trying to show that Reinking doesn’t suffer from mental illness and set out with a plan for the day of the shootings. His defense attorneys claim he’s not guilty by reason of insanity.
Reinking was indicted on 16 counts, including four counts of premeditated first-degree murder. His trial was delayed several months while he was treated for schizophrenia and was cleared to once again stand trial.