Waffle House shooter Travis Reinking sentenced to life without parole

Reinking, 33, was found guilty Friday of all 16 counts, including eight first-degree murder charges.

The defendant, in a light-blue shirt, showed no emotion as the jury’s sentence was announced Saturday afternoon following victim impact statements.

The two fatally shot outside the restaurant in Antioch, southeast of downtown Nashville, were Waffle House employee Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, and customer Joe R. Perez, 20.

Inside, the gunman killed two more people: 23-year-old Akilah DaSilva, a student pursuing a musical engineering career, and 21-year-old DeEbony Groves, a college senior majoring in social work who had been out with her sorority sisters that night.

Patricia Perez said her son would have been 24 this year. He had just moved to Nashville to help his brother start a business.

“Our lives were completely destroyed,” she said, wiping tears. The victim’s brother closed his business and left Nashville

“This has broken me, not just my spirit, not just my family, but also my mind,” she said, her voice trembling. “This has broken me mentally.”

Joe Perez Sr. also also fought back tears. He told jurors the son who brought the victim to Nashville still calls him, crying and apologizing.

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Blanche Anderson, Sanderlin’s aunt, said the victim’s parents were too overwhelmed to speak publicly in court. Sanderlin was like a big brother to her son. He was a “gentle soul” who loved cooking and hoped to open a restaurant one day.

William Bryson Murray, Sanderlin’s cousin, lives down the street from the Waffle House. The night of the shooting, he headed to the restaurant, and rushed past the yellow police tape, he told jurors. He saw his cousin’s body.

“He didn’t make it,” one of Sanderlin’s coworkers told him. He called his aunt to break the news to her.

Shaundelle Brooks, DaSilva’s mother, said she wakes up every day and realizes her “baby is gone.”

“Every morning before I even get out of my bed I relive that night in my head,” she said.

She drove to the Waffle House after the shooting. She recognized her son’s shoes as he lay in an ambulance. She called out his name three times. He didn’t answer, she said.

Her son was an aspiring rapper and a “little genius” who built his own computer. She recited a line from one of his songs, titled “Prophet:” “Forget about making a hashtag, just throw all the guns in a trash bag.”

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“My son Akilah was a beautiful soul who perfected how to be a son,” she cried. “My sweet baby, my angel, my son was robbed of his life.”

Albert Groves said his daughter was born on Father’s Day in 1996.

“I had a double blessing that day,” he said.

He called his daughter “my little mini me.”

“Even her temperament was just like me,” he said, eliciting laughter in the courtroom.

Reinking arrived at the Waffle House on April 22, 2018, wearing nothing but a green jacket, according to Metro Nashville Police.

He got out of his pickup, wielding the rifle, and fatally shot two people outside the Waffle House, police said. Reinking then went into the restaurant and continued firing, killing two more people.

The shooting ended when customer James Shaw Jr., who had been sitting with a friend at the restaurant counter, wrestled the weapon away from the gunman, who fled on foot.

Reinking had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, CNN affiliate WSMV reported. His lawyers maintained that mental illness and delusions drove him to commit the shooting.

CNN’s Ray Sanchez and Giovanna Van Leeuwen contributed to this report.

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