PEORIA — A day after a hastily called news conference, the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office on Monday reaffirmed that it never took custody of any of the weapons used by Travis Reinking when he allegedly killed four people at a Waffle House in Nashville early Sunday morning.
A news release Monday afternoon said that "at no time were the weapons in the custody" of the Sheriff's Office. The weapons — an AR-15 style rifle, two hunting rifles and a handgun — were given to his father, Jeff Reinking, last summer after the younger Reinking's firearms identification card was revoked following an incident at the White House last year. The Illinois State Police, which keeps track of FOID cards, had asked the Sheriff's Office to send officers to Travis Reinking's home, then in Tremont, to take his FOID card and to get a list of the weapons involved, according to the release.
Travis Reinking was arrested Monday afternoon in Nashville. In his backpack, he had a handgun. At his family's home, located between Morton and Tremont, several cars were parked in the driveway near the house. A long gravel drive led up to the house where people were inside. A woman answered the front door and then politely closed it immediately after she realized she was talking to a reporter.
Vans and cars were seen coming and going from the house. One vehicle brought two grocery bags, a gallon of milk and a case of bottled water. Reporters from national newspapers and from the television networks lined the two-laned highway next to the house. At one point, a sheriff's deputy stopped and told people to move off the Reinkings' side of the road.
And at their church in Groveland, a minister said he had no comment.
As of Monday afternoon, the family had not yet given a statement regarding the shootings.
Jeff Reinking was legally allowed to take the weapons because he had a valid FOID card at the time. In addition, it is permissible under Illinois law to "gift" a firearm to a family member. It might not be legal to own that weapon, but there is nothing against the law from a person giving a family member a firearm, said Tazewell County State's Attorney Stu Umholtz, who stressed he didn't know if the weapons taken last summer, specifically the AR-15 style rifle, were used in the shooting early Sunday.
But Nashville police have said that Jeff Reinking "has now acknowledged giving them back” to his son, according to the Associated Press.
But if it was the same weapon, it still might not be a violation of Illinois law for Travis' father to have given the weapon to his son, the prosecutor said. Illinois allows "bonafide" gifted firearms to family members, even those who don't have a valid FOID card. In that case, it's illegal to possess, but there is nothing in the law to stop the transfer of ownership, the prosecutor said.
"It would not appear to be a violation of Illinois law if Travis was a resident of Tennessee and his father delivered the firearms in Tennessee," Umholtz said, again stressing that he didn't have all the facts and was making his observations based upon initial reports.
"There are too many unanswered questions to say that (Jeff Reinking) has violated that act. Until I have a complete investigation, I wouldn’t be able to tell you definitively that there is no violation."
He did say, however, that it is "difficult to imagine a reason for the father to return these weapons to his son. Based upon what we know."
"There is a Monday morning quarterbacking here. But it doesn’t surprise me that folks would be scratching their heads and ask 'Why would a father under these circumstances return these guns to his son?'"
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.