The Morton-area father of a man charged with a mass fatal shooting at a Tennessee Waffle House last year illegally returned to his son the weapon used in the killings, a charge filed Thursday alleges.

Jeffrey Reinking, 55, was charged in Tazewell County Circuit Court with unlawful delivery of a firearm, punishable by probation to three years in prison. He remains free on $5,000 bond.

Reinking is accused of returning to his son Travis, 30, four firearms including a Bushmaster AR-15 in November 2017. The younger Reinking allegedly used that weapon to kill four people and wound four more in a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., five months later.

Jeffrey Reinking knew his son had previously been an in-house patient at a Peoria hospital’s mental health unit when he returned the weapons, the charge alleges.

Reinking’s attorney said after the charge was filed that the statute defining the crime of giving a firearm to a person whose mental state makes him potentially dangerous does not apply in Reinking’s case.

The weapons “were neither his to sell or give. He never owned the weapons, they were his son’s” who, at the time, had a legal right to have them, said Peoria attorney Joel Brown. “The term ‘give’ is not defined in the statute.”

Reinking also is a defendant in a civil suit filed last year in Tazewell County by a man related to one of the fatal shooting victims. He knew or should have known his son’s mental condition could deteriorate to a threatening state, the suit argues.

According to the criminal charge, a county Sheriff’s Department officer “advised” Reinking that the weapons confiscated from Travis in August 2017 and “transferred” to him “were to be kept secured and away from Travis.”

That month Travis’ state FOID card was revoked because he had moved to Colorado and was no longer an Illinois resident. After Travis moved to Tennessee, he contacted his father to ask for his weapons back, Brown said.

Reinking “did some research” and concluded his son was entitled to their return, Brown said. 

“He feels terrible about what happened” in the restaurant shooting, Brown said.

Travis Reinking was initially ruled mentally unfit to face charges in the case but was found competent last October. He was recently indicted on four counts each of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

He underwent in-house mental therapy in May 2016 at his family’s request after revealing his belief that entertainer Taylor Swift was stalking him and hacking into his cellphone. He had also threatened suicide, according to a prosecutor’s court affidavit.

Jeffrey Reinking is next due in court in his criminal case on April 25.