TN: Waffle House Employee Killed in Shooting

Liz Carey

Nashville, TN (WorkersCompensation.com) – The weekend Waffle House shooting took the lives of four people, including one employee.

Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, of Goodlettsville, TN, was an employee of Waffle House when he was killed by Travis Reinking around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 22. Sanderlin was standing outside of the building when Reinking allegedly began firing at the Waffle House building.

Along with Sanderlin, three Waffle House customers — Joe Perez, 20, of Nashville; Deebony Groves, 21 of Gallatin, TN; Akilah Dasilva, 23 of Antioch, TN — were killed and two other customers — Shanita Waggoner, 21, of Nashville; and Sharita Henderson, 24, of Antioch — were injured.

Police said Reinking arrived at Waffle House in his pickup truck at 3:19 a.m., and sat inside the vehicle for several minutes before leaving the car armed with an AR-15 rifle. He immediately opened fire and killed Sanderlin and Perez, before shooting out the glass of the building, and firing on customers inside.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, homicides account for 10 percent of all fatal occupational injuries in the U.S.

In 2016 there were 500 workplace homicides, an increase of 83 cases from 2015. The 2016 total was the highest since 2010. Seventy-nine percent of those homicides were from shootings.

In just the past year, several incidents of workplace shootings have left scores dead. Among them:

  • April 3, 2018: A woman opened fire at YouTube’s headquarters in San Francisco, CA wounding four before killing herself.
  • Feb. 14, 2018: A young man entered Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL and opened fire, killing 17, including a football coach and athletic director.
  • Feb. 1, 2018: A former trucking company employee, Vernest Griffin, faced first-degree murder charges after two fatal shooting at separate Detroit (MI)-area businesses.
  • Dec. 31, 2017: John Mendoza entered the law firm he had been a partner in (Long Beach, CA) and shot two attorneys, killing one, Major Langer, and injuring the other Ronald Beck. Mendoza took his own life after the shooting.
  • Oct. 19, 2017: Radee Labeeb Prince, shot six people in Edgewood, MD and Wilmington, DE, killing three of them. Five of the victims were co-workers with Prince at Advanced Granite Solutions.
  • June 14, 2017: UPS employee Jimmy Lam, who had recently filed a grievance, killed three co-workers before killing himself when he opened fire inside on of the company’s San Francisco, CA packing facilities.
  • June 8, 2017: Randy Stair, 24, of Dallas, PA opened fire on employees stocking shelves at the Weis supermarket killing three of his co-workers before turning the gun on himself.
  • June 5, 2017: John Robert Neumann, Jr. returned to the Fiamma factory in Orlando, FL he had been fired from and shot five co-workers before shooting himself.
  • May 12, 2017: Thomas Hartless, 43, gunned down his ex-girlfriend at her place of work, a nursing home in Kirkersville, OH, as well as a nurse’s aide and the Kirkersville Chief of Police, before turning the gun on himself.

Jim Higgins, owner of The Higgins Firm, a workers’ compensation attorney in TN, told WorkersCompensation.com that Sanderlin’s death at the Waffle House would be covered by workers’ compensation.

“While we haven’t had a mass shooting case before in this state, Tennessee’s workers’ compensation will cover injuries received during robberies and things like that, and I would think this would fall under that category,” Higgins said. “It’s sad to say, but I think things like this are just a risk people take at work these days.”

Higgins said the other employees at the restaurant will be covered for PTSD, if it is diagnosed by a doctor as related to the event.

“It has to be in cases of extreme duress,” he said. “It has to go beyond general stress at work. I think certainly this would be the case here, if they develop the symptoms of PTSD.”

However, he said, if Sanderlin did not have any children or dependents, the death benefit to his survivors would only be $20,000.

Waffle House spokesperson Pat Warner did not immediately return calls for comment by press time.

Police said the shooting at Waffle House could have been much worse if it hadn’t been for a patron tackling Reinking and disarming him.

“Waffle House patron James Shaw, Jr., 29, initially ran to the restroom area to escape the gunfire,” the Nashville Metro Police Department (NMPD) said in a statement. “He then looked and saw an opportunity to confront Reinking. Shaw took that opportunity, wrestled the rifle from Reinking’s grasp, and tossed it over the counter. Shaw’s actions undoubtedly saved many lives. Reinking, who was nude during the episode with the exception of a jacket, fled the restaurant. He shed the jacket nearby. It contained two magazines for the AR-15. Reinking then walked south on Murfreesboro Pike.”

Police said Reinking has a history of bizarre behavior, including believing that Taylor Swift was stalking him; trying to cross a security barrier at the White House, claiming he was a “sovereign citizen” and needed to speak to President Donald Trump; and screaming at two employees of his father’s construction business, while wearing a pink dress, before running to a local pool, jumping in and exposing himself to two lifeguards.

Reinking had moved to the Nashville area last fall, from his hometown of Springfield, IL. Authorities said he had been working in the construction industry until he was fired from one job about three weeks ago.

“It is presently presumed that Reinking went to (his) apartment after the shooting, put on a pair of pants, and again fled,” the police said. “A witness reported seeing a shirtless man matching his description in a wood line behind the apartment…”

Holly Yan and Susannah Culliane of CNN reported as of Monday afternoon that Reinking was in custody.

“…A tip from the community led to Travis Reinking’s arrest shortly after 1 p.m. Monday in a wooded area near his Nashville apartment complex, Metro Nashville Police said. He will be booked on four counts of criminal homicide after he leaves a hospital, spokesman Don Aaron said,” according to the article.