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Police released the 911 call that led to Travis Reinking’s arrest 34 hours after authorities say he killed four people in a shooting at an Antioch Waffle House.

James Shaw Jr. noticed the gold Silverado truck in the Waffle House parking lot.

He saw a silhouette of the man sitting inside.

But he didn’t pause.

In the still-dark hours of Sunday morning, Shaw simply wanted to get a bite to eat with his best friend.

He walked into the diner and sat on a stool at the counter, watching the cook wash dishes. 

When the first gunshots fired, Shaw thought plates had crashed on the tile floor. Then the glass behind him shattered, and he saw a man on the sidewalk.

Wearing only a green bomber jacket and carrying an AR-15 rifle, it was Travis Reinking who stood outside the door, police say.

Just before 3:30 a.m. that Sunday, two men — both 29 years old — crossed paths.

In the minutes of carnage that followed, one emerged a hero.

The other was charged with homicide.

Shaw: A Nashville native

Nashville is Shaw’s home.

He has attended Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church since he was an infant, the same iconic North Nashville church his mother attended as a girl.

The youngest of three Shaw children, and the only boy, he was fun-loving, quiet and respectful to adults. He became humbler as he got older.

“We raised him to be that way,” his mother, Karen Shaw, says. “We raised all our children to be that way.”

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He learned to play T-ball at the Parkwood Community baseball fields. As a Hunters Lane High School student, the lanky teen showed talent as a basketball player. He can still dunk to this day.

More: Nashville Waffle House hero’s gofundme for victims is booming, and so is one for his child

As a teenager, Shaw cruised Nashville’s streets in his white 1994 GMC Jimmy with his best friend Brennan “BJ” McMurry.

When it came time for college, he stayed in the city, choosing his parents’ alma mater, Tennessee State University. There, he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and found his people.

Reinking: Country raised

Reinking was raised in rural Tazewell County, Illinois, where churches attract devout concentrations of born-again Christians and hunting is a favorite pastime.

Reinking’s family is established and respected in his hometown of Morton, Illinois. His grandfather and parents operate crane companies.

The Reinkings haven’t spoken publicly, requesting privacy in the media firestorm that erupted since their son was named as a suspect in the nation’s latest deadly mass shooting. 

“They’re born-again Christian people,” says Tammy Lake, whose home sits on 42 acres of land on the same road as the Reinkings’. “Super nice people. They’re very soft-spoken, quiet people.”

Growing up, Reinking shifted back and forth between home schooling and short stints in public and private Christian school classrooms.

More: No bond for accused Waffle House shooter Travis Reinking; judge reverses decision of magistrate

He attended the town of Tremont’s small high school in 2006, for just one semester.

Teachers at the school can’t recall whether Reinking hung around with any other students during his short time there. He wasn’t enrolled long enough to become involved in school activities and his picture doesn’t appear in the yearbook.

The school district has no records of Reinking ever facing disciplinary action. 

Two 20-somethings and the family businesses

Reinking and Shaw have one thing in common.

Reinking worked as a crane operator, like his father and grandfather.

Shaw is an electrician, same as his dad.

More: Did Waffle House shooting suspect’s father violate gun laws by returning his weapons?

Four years ago, after Shaw’s daughter, Brooklyn, was born, he left TSU to pursue a certificate to become an electrical technician from Brightwood College in Nashville. He works for AT&T now and remains several credits short from earning an engineering degree.

Friendship is important to him. In recent days, Shaw’s fraternity brothers have flanked him, as if forming a protective barrier.

None are more constant than McMurry, his best friend. When the men were younger, Shaw’s father always knew if he brought home dinner he needed to bring home extra food because McMurry would be there, too.

“We have been Ying and Yang our whole lives,” McMurry says. “I am the outspoken one, he is the laid-back guy. I am the rambunctious one, he is more of the calm guy.”

The two are inseparable.

“I can’t get rid of him,” McMurry said.

The ‘loner’

Reinking grew up in his family’s business, though few details are known about his work history over the past decade.

Two years ago, at age 27, he moved from rural Illinois to Salida, Colorado — a scenic town of 5,000 people about 150 miles south of Denver. 

There, he took a job with Rocky Mountain Crane.

His boss called Reinking a “good worker,” an “excellent crane operator” who was nice, quiet, polite and very intelligent.

He didn’t appear to drink or use drugs. His main hobby was playing video games. He was tall and thin and did not appear to be physically strong. He told everyone he was gay. 

He was a “loner” who seemingly did not have any friends, beyond one mechanic at the crane company who invited Reinking over for the holidays. 

John Turley, the mechanic, told Salida police that Reinking “played with (his) kids and he seemed to be all right around them.”

But people at the company grew concerned about Reinking’s mental health and said he appeared paranoid and delusional at times.

Reinking told them he was going to marry pop star Taylor Swift. At the same time, he complained that the Nashville artist was hacking into his bank accounts, stalking and harassing him.

He walked off the job in Salida last March.

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Travis Reinking, the suspect in a Waffle House shooting that killed four people in Antioch, told police in Colorado that the singer was stalking him
The Tennessean

As he left, he told the crew “it was his last chance to marry Taylor Swift,” and soon after, he left the state.

Ken Sustrich, the co-owner of Rocky Mountain Crane, was so concerned he called Reinking’s father, Jeff Reinking, about the young man’s mental health.

Sustrich told Salida police that Jeff Reinking “was aware of the mental issues with Travis and that he had been recently trying to rekindle his relationship” with his son. 

Reinking: bizarre behavior, brushes with the law

Several months later, Reinking was sighted in Washington, D.C., demanding entrance to the nation’s most protected residence.

He took off his tie, balled it in his fist, walked past the security barriers blocking access to the White House and demanded to see the president.

“Do what you need to do,” Reinking told the Secret Service officer standing guard, a report of the incident said.”Arrest me if you have to.”

More: Waffle House shooting: Suspect previously arrested outside White House

The incident in July prompted a visit from Illinois state police to his parents’ business a month later.

Authorities revoked Reinking’s Illinois firearm owner’s identification card, confiscated his four guns and gave them to Reinking’s father for safekeeping.

Reinking had been having delusions since 2014, his parents told local police.

He scaled the side of a building to a rooftop on a spring night in his hometown two years ago, saying Taylor Swift had hacked into his Netflix account and told him to meet her at the local Dairy Queen.

A year later, he threatened an employee at his father’s crane company with an AR-15, then drove to a public pool. There he dove into the water wearing only a woman’s pink housecoat, exposing himself to lifeguards.

A couple of months after that, he pulled his blue Mitsubishi alongside a Tazewell County Sheriff’s patrol car and told the sergeant that people were “tapping into his computer and phone,” and barking like dogs outside his home.

Throughout it all, documented in reports by law enforcement, officers attempted to get Reinking help.

The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office took Reinking into protective custody in a CVS parking lot in May 2016 after Reinking’s family told police he made suicidal comments and had access to “many firearms at his residence.”

Reinking was transported to a local hospital for evaluation, but it’s unknown how long he spent there or what the result of any evaluation was. 

After he jumped into the pool last June, an AR-15 locked in his trunk, the sheriff called Reinking’s father, who was out of state.

The elder Reinking told the deputy that he had taken Reinking’s guns away awhile back “when Travis was having problems.” The father returned the guns to his son when he wanted to move out of state. 

More: History of red flags didn’t keep guns out of hands of Waffle House shooting suspect

The report the deputy filed said he told the dad “he might want to lock the guns back up until Travis gets mental help which he stated he would.” 

It’s unknown whether the father followed up on that advice.

Reinking is believed to have moved to Nashville last fall.

Mentorship and mental health

In Nashville, Shaw established himself as a role model to younger students in his fraternity at TSU — even after he left.

“He gives students perspective on life and how to think their way through college,” said Isaac Addae, a TSU assistant professor and Alpha Phi Alpha adviser. “He tells them you can do it even if things get in the way.”

Shaw understands that firsthand.

His life plans changed after his daughter was born, but he is intent on pursuing his degree, Addae said.

“He’s talked about finishing,” Addae says, “for his daughter’s sake.”  

Little is yet known about Reinking’s time in Nashville — or why he chose to move to Tennessee. 

He got a job in January at Clark Crane, a Nashville-based company.

Within months of his hiring, co-workers became concerned with his behavior.

Reinking told fellow employees that people were “after him.”

“When it got to the point that he said people in our company were after him, I asked that he be (fired),” said Clark Elliott, the company’s president.

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Alcoa Police Dept. bodycam video shows an Alcoa woman’s report on her run-in with Travis Reinking in February 2018.
Alcoa Police Dept., Knoxville

On Feb. 22, Reinking showed up at a motel in Alcoa just outside Knoxville.

Police reported he had barged into a female guest’s room and balled his fist as if he were going to punch the woman, who was left shaking in fear. Reinking was questioned by police but not charged in the incident.

By April 16, Reinking was back in Nashville for his first day on the job at another crane company.

The next day Reinking stole a BMW, police say.

The vehicle was eventually recovered at his Discovery at Mountain View apartment complex, just 2 miles from the Waffle House.

Reinking didn’t return to work.

Police say that when he pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot last Sunday, he was driving a different vehicle — a Silverado pickup truck registered in his name.

Minutes of terror 

As gunfire shattered glass and penetrated the restaurant walls, Shaw trained his chestnut-colored eyes on the man outside the Waffle House and moved quickly toward the bathroom. 

A bullet grazed Shaw’s elbow, singeing off the skin and leaving a bright red trail up his forearm.

Shaw paused.

So did the shooter. 

“His gun either got jammed or he was trying to reload,” Shaw recalled. “Not exactly sure, but I saw my opportunity, my window. So I took it.”

As the shooter entered the Waffle House, Shaw ran toward the door as fast as he could. He wrestled for the rifle. Its scorching barrel burned Shaw’s right hand.

While the two men struggled for control, Shaw ripped the weapon from the gunman’s hand and tossed it over the diner counter. 

More: A 29-year-old man saved numerous lives during Tennessee Waffle House shooting, police say

Then Shaw forced the man police later identified as Reinking outside.

The shooter shed the only clothing he was wearing — a green jacket with extra magazines in the pockets — and trotted away on foot. No hurry in his step, Shaw remembers.

Four mortally wounded victims were left behind, three men and one woman. One worked at an appliance store, another was an up-and-coming hip-hop artist. There was a college student about to graduate and a longtime Waffle House employee.

All were in their 20s. Like Shaw. Like Reinking.

More: Waffle House shooting victim DeEbony Groves sang ‘Jesus Loves Me’ before she was killed

Also left behind was an AR-15 rifle — police identified it as the same one Reinking’s father promised to keep safe.

While one turns to faith, the other vanishes

In the aftermath of the shooting, Shaw cried. .

The young dad was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for his injuries.

When he got home, he FaceTimed with his daughter, who was out of town with family in Chicago. Then he showered, put on a khaki suit, a maroon turtleneck and red-hued loafers and went to church.

With Shaw’s hand wrapped, but still bleeding, and eyes red from sleep deprivation and tears, his inner circle crowded around him at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church. 

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James Shaw Jr. discusses stopping Travis Reinking during the Sunday morning shooting at an Antioch Waffle House that left 4 people dead.

Meanwhile, 15 miles away from the North Nashville church, search dogs and officers swarmed neighborhoods while helicopters swept overhead. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation placed Reinking on its Top 10 Most Wanted list.

For 34 hours, Reinking eluded his pursuers.

Then police got a break — a woman at a construction site two miles from the Waffle House spotted a man darting behind Cane Ridge Elementary School who looked like Reinking. 

A police search team was quickly dispatched to the area.

Reinking was found hiding behind a tree, wearing a torn maroon T-shirt and black pants. Despite the steady rain showers that had fallen since the shooting, his clothes were completely dry.

As he was taken into custody, Metro police cuffed him and cut a black backpack from his shoulders. Inside, they found a loaded semi-automatic gun, .45-caliber ammunition, a flashlight and a holster.

Reinking said nothing as he was arrested.

An arrest and a reunion

Shaw learned of Reinking’s capture from McMurry, his best friend.

“It was a big sigh of relief,” Shaw said. “If you have ever done squats and taken the weight off your back and put it back on the stand? That’s how it was.

“It was ‘Thank you, God.’ ”

While Reinking had disappeared from view for 34 hours, Shaw was seemingly everywhere, appearing on CNN, local television stations and in The New York Times. He was honored with a Senate resolution at the state Capitol.

He had visited two women injured by gunfire in the hospital and started a GoFundMe account for victims.

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At the vigil for those who died, he held his daughter in his arms for the first time since the shooting. He tried to count her eyelashes, he said, because he realized he had come close to never seeing her again.

Throughout it all, he has demurred at being called a hero. He acted out of self-defense, he insists. To save his own life.

But Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson disagreed with the humble self-assessment.

“A real definition of a hero is someone that knows the danger that they’re facing and yet takes that action,” Anderson said. “And certainly James did.”

Reinking has hardly spoken since his arrest except to ask for an attorney, according to Nashville police.

The two 29-year-olds whose paths collided have again diverged. 

But they will forever be intertwined.

One lauded by the Tennessee legislature; one in jail, alone, without bond.

Reporter Natalie Allison contributed to this report.

Follow Jessica Bliss, Jason Gonzales and Anita Wadhwani on Twitter @JLBliss, @ByJasonGonzales and @anitawadhwani.

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