PEKIN — The father of Travis Reinking, the former Morton man who allegedly opened fire at a Nashville-area Waffle House, has been sued in Tazewell County Circuit Court.
Jeff Reinking, who lives in rural Tazewell County, was sued by Christian Perez, who is related to one of the four people who was killed in the shooting last month. The case is pending and will next have a hearing in October.
Joe R. Perez, 20, of Antioch, Tenn., was killed when Travis Reinking, 29, allegedly went into the restaurant April 22 and shot several people with an AR-15 style rifle.
The 12-page suit, filed Monday afternoon in Tazewell County holds Jeffrey L. Reinking responsible for the shooting, alleging the elder Reinking "knew or reasonably should have known his son's mental status was such that it could deteriorate at any time in the future." Yet, the suit alleges, Jeffrey Reinking still returned four firearms to his son, including the AR-15, after the younger Reinking's Illinois state firearms identification card was revoked.
Later Tuesday, Jeffrey Reinking's attorney, Joel Brown of Peoria, released the following statement: "The Reinking family has learned that a lawsuit for money damages has been filed by the family of Joe Perez Jr., who tragically lost his life in the Waffle House shooting in Tennessee. Numerous members of the press have requested comment on the newly filed suit. We respectfully decline to comment at this time."
The suit seeks more than $50,000 in damages, which is a statutory amount to distinguish the type of lawsuit. In reality, Perez is likely to seek well more than that.
Travis Reinking was caught by Tennessee officials shortly after the shooting and has been charged with murder. He remains in custody and will likely undergo a mental health check as part of the legal progress.
The shooting raised issues about those with perceived mental health issues and gun rights. Travis Reinking's FOID card was revoked last summer by the Illinois State Police because he wasn't a resident of the state as required. At the time, he was living in Tennessee and, before that, in Colorado for a spell. However, he had run-ins with police in the Morton area, where he alleged he was being cyberstalked by pop star Taylor Swift and had been caught by the U.S. Secret Service for an incident in which he improperly got onto the White House grounds.
The counts in the civil suit specifically allege "negligent entrustment" — essentially that Jeffrey Reinking had been asked to keep the weapons away from his son and failed to do that. The suit claims the father did the opposite of keeping the weapons away, and, in fact, returned the weapons to his son.
Jeffrey Reinking, when he took possession of his son's weapons last summer, "assumed a duty to the community of those who came or were in the vicinity of Travis Reinking, including Joe R. Perez Jr., and the other guests or workers at the Waffle House, to take reasonable steps to secure those weapons so that Travis Reinking didn't have access to them," the suit claims.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.