The victims of the Waffle House shooting in Tennessee were all young creatives with unmeasurable potential. Shortly after their names were released to the public Sunday (April 22), tributes began pouring in for Taurean C. Sanderlin, Joe Perez, Akilah Dasilva and DeEbony Groves.
The victims, all of color, were shot and killed by Travis Reinking. The 29-year-old pulled into the parking lot of the Waffle House in Antioch. Amid the shooting, customer James Shaw Jr. was able to tackle Reinking to the ground, disarming him so that Reinking could no longer shoot. But at that time, Reinking escaped. The suspect has since become the target of a manhunt and added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's top 10 most-wanted list. Police say that the suspect may have issues related to mental health.
Long before he was the “Waffle House Killer,” Reinking had been building quite a rap sheet. Last July, the 29-year-old spoke with an officer of the Secret Service at the White House and said, with urgency, that he needed to meet with and speak with the president. He told the officer that it was his right as a “sovereign citizen,” then proceeded to enter the building. “Arrest me if you have to,” he declared.
Last August, the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office removed four firearms from Reinking’s apartment after he requested to file a report. He told officers that Taylor Swift had been stalking him and that his devices were being tapped, CNN reports. Worried about his mental state, they removed his guns and released them into the custody of his father, who police are now saying may have returned his guns to him. They reportedly only permitted him to take the guns on the condition that he would “keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis.”
Reinking moved to Nashville last fall, according to the Tribune He allegedly had no clear motive on Sunday morning, he just opened fire. Luckily Shaw, Jr got to Reinking before he could kill anyone else but Tennessee, family, and friends of the victims mourn for them. Those who knew the victims recall their pursuits and character.
Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29
Sanderlin of Goodlettsville worked as a cook at the restaurant and was killed outside of it. CEO, Walt Ehmer told reporters Sanderlin was a cook for the company for five years. He was new to the Murfreesboro Pike location, which had only been open for five months.
Joe Perez, 20
Perez was killed outside, after Sanderlin. The Nashville resident’s family is in Texas. Following the shooting, Perez’s mother posted to Facebook, saying “Me, my husband and sons are broken right now with this loss. Our lives are shattered.” The Austin native was working as a subcontractor for Daryl Flood Relocation & Logistics.
DeEbony Groves, 21
Groves is remembered as a “brilliant young woman.” The young woman from Gallatin was recognized as a star athlete when she attended Gallatin High School. At her most recent school, Belmont University, Groves was on the dean’s list.
Her high school basketball coach Kim Kendrick said of Groves that she was a “very, very likable young lady. She was one of three seniors on her team, and she was a great role model for the other players because of her hard work and dedicated to her studies and school,” according to CBS News.
Belmont University also released a statement to WTVF-TV. "The entire campus community is shocked and devastated by how such senseless violence has taken the life of this young woman, an individual full of immense potential. We extend our thoughts and prayers to her family and friends as they come to terms with unimaginable grief. Belmont will be offering counseling and other support services to members of our campus in the coming hours and days.”
Groves was in her senior year, majoring in social work.
Akilah DaSilva, 23
DaSilva was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where he died. His friends remember him as multitalented, good behind the lens and an aspiring musician. DaSilva was in pursuit of a career in musical engineering at Middle Tennessee State University, Shaundelle Brooks told CBS News about her son. “He had a smile that could light up a room and a laugh that would warm your heart.” He was the videographer to know in Tennessee. He was a rap artist and a music producer, widely known as one of the most prominent emerging artists. DaSilva was with his girlfriend at the Waffle House. Shanita Waggoner was also critically wounded.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to fund Dasilva’s funeral.
At least three others were injured in the shooting including Sharita Henderson.