Waffle House victim sues gunman’s dad

| May 16, 2018 | 29 Comments

Associated Press reports that the family of Joe Perez, a victim of the shooting at a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against Jeffrey Reinking, the father of the gunman;

Police say Travis Reinking had displayed signs of mental illness before his Illinois gun card was revoked last summer. His guns were transferred to his father, but police say the father returned them to his son at some point.

Investigators say one of the guns, an AR-15, was used in the April 22 attack at a Waffle House.

Through his lawyer, Jeffrey Reinking declined to comment Tuesday.

In this case, I believe that the father does indeed share responsibility since he wanted to be his son’s buddy more than he wanted to be a responsible citizen.

Category: Legal

Comments (29)

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  1. Mason says:

    Finally some tort action I can get behind. That guy should be facing accessory to murder charges among others.

  2. Hayabusa says:

    Yeah, this would be like if your kid showed up stumbling drunk, reeking of alcohol, and you just tossed him the car keys and told him to go have fun. You’d be complicit in whatever comes next.

  3. Bobo says:

    I’m not sure why dad isn’t already in jail waiting for his criminal court date.

  4. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    3rd Ditto Ex.

  5. Graybeard says:

    Hope “Dad” looses every possession he has and is left destitute, living under a bridge.

  6. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    I agree that that the father should never have returned the weapons, if, in fact, he did. However, the lawsuit will fail and fail it should. The shooter was 29 years old and was reportedly living with his brother, not in Illinois. The shooter had been arrested in July outside the White House, charged with trespassing, and the Secret Service notified the police in Illinois of the arrest and coordinated with the police to get the guns. That took a month. The police gave the guns to shooter’s father. Why? I have no idea. Were they the father’s? It seems not. The father had no legal obligation (i.e., duty) to keep the guns from the shooter. Without a duty, the case fails. May as well sue the brother of the shooter, too. He must have known of the guns. The actual culprit here, believe it or not, are the Illinois police. Remember, no good turn goes unpunished.

    • Andy Kravetz says:

      Sir,

      The issues is going to lie in this. When Dad was given possession of the weapons, he was advised to keep them out of his son’s hands. Legally did he have to? I’m honestly not sure but it is very important to note this:

      Travis Reinking did not lose his FOID card due to mental health issues or due to criminal law violations. He lost it as he was not living in the state at the time which is a requirement. That said, do I think the US Secret Service said come up with any reason to revoke? Yep. but officially, that was the reason.

      Andy

      • 2/17 Air Cav says:

        What you wrote regarding loss of the card is contrary to an account I read of the matter. I disagree that the case pivots where you indicate. First, if the weapons belonged to the shooter, why were they given to the father? Second, the legal theory of negligent entrustment requires that the dangerous thing be owned by the person entrusting it to another, at least under Illinois law, and it strongly appears that the father was not the owner. Third, the lawsuit alleges that the father had a legal duty to the community. What community? The shooter wasn’t in Illinois and, more importantly, asserting that a legal duty existed does not create a legal duty. We’ll see how this goes. My guess is that it might survive a preliminary motion to dismiss, thanks to a whacky local judge, but, in the end, the suit will fail.

        • 2/17 Air Cav says:

          Andy. One more thing. If you’re interested, you might look at Illinois law regarding what the police are to do with confiscated weapons under the circumstance presented in this matter.

        • Andy Kravetz says:

          Well, it is going to depend upon when or where his father gave the guns back to his son. If, for instance, he gave them back while his son was in Illinois, then it’s a violation of state law. If not, then it’s more nebulous.

          The guns were taken from his son with the intent that he not possess them. And the father was told in police reports that I have seen not to allow his son to have access to weapons. But those were not under court order nor were they directives. Rather, it was advice.

          Again, it’s going to hinge on location. As for the allegations in the suit, it’s a civil matter. You can sue anyone you want for anything, as people on this web site well know. It doesn’t mean it’ll survive though. I honestly don’t know what is going to happen.

    • rgr769 says:

      I think the plaintiff father may get past the duty issue, as the defendant father received the weapons conditioned upon him not giving his son access to them. I would argue that father of the killer assumed that duty, knowing that his son was mentally unstable. Thus, this is a case of negligent entrustment of a dangerous weapon.
      I was once sued for giving my 18 year old daughter the car she then owned. Of course, I was dismissed by the judge on the first day of trial, right after the Plaintiffs’ attorney’s opening statement. (My daughter received a defense verdict in this auto-pedestrian accident case.)

  7. Andy Kravetz says:

    Here’s the Journal Star’s story along with the actual lawsuit which was filed in Pekin, Illinois, about 20 minutes SE of Peoria.

    http://www.pjstar.com/news/20180515/alleged-waffle-house-shooters-father-jeff-reinking-sued-in-tazewell-county

    Andy Kravetz, reporter
    Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star.

    • rgr769 says:

      Thanks for the link. The plaintiff’s attorney drafted his complaint as I would. If he gets past the duty issue, the case will likely proceed to trial. In the first instance, the issue of the defendant father’s duty not to give possession of the subject rifle to his son is a question of law for a judge. It will likely be resolved initially in a motion for summary judgment. The complaint alleges “negligent entrustment” of the firearm as its cause of action. Revocation of the FOID card is a factor but it will not be determinative of the issue. The judge will likely focus on whether the defendant father expressly assumed the legal duty not to allow his adult son possession of the firearm.

      • rgr769 says:

        I should also add there is a “proximate cause” issue which initially will have to be decided by the judge as a question of law. That issue is basically whether the giving of possession sufficiently legally blameworthy as to justify legal liability for that conduct as having caused the shooting. Generally, one is not legally, civilly liable for the criminal acts committed by others, but not in all cases. This is not the place to give you all a dissertation on the law of proximate/legal cause in the tort law of negligence. Suffice to say this lawsuit is headed down a long and winding road.
        And people saying guns (or some kinds of guns) and the NRA are the real culprits will never get it. From a legal standpoint, it is a completely bogus contention.

        • rgr769 says:

          “…is sufficiently….” Damn my editor!

          • 2/17 Air Cav says:

            It’s an interesting situation, rgr769, and you know where I stand on it. That legal duty aspect is killer. Normally, as you know, the law fixes a duty and breach of that duty (+2) may create liability. Was a legal duty formed and imposed by the police in giving the father the adult son’s weapons? Was the father aware of that duty? Did the son agree to allow the police to dispose of the weapons as they did? If not, by what authority did the son’s property become the father’s or entrusted to the father? As you also know, complaints are nothing in themselves but a punt, putting the ball in play. Sometimes, the ball goes out of bounds.

  8. Andy Kravetz says:

    Pepole have asked why hasn’t Dad been charged yet. He could be federally but the location of the transfer matters.

    http://www.pjstar.com/news/20180424/tazewell-prosecutor-location-matters-in-determining-whether-travis-reinking-got-guns-back-legally

    • Skyjumper says:

      Thanks for the info, Andy.

      What bothers me the most, is that no matter what state the father was in when he gave the firearms back to his son, why did he?

      Because he gave them back to his son knowing about his son’s mental issues, I think he bears a certain amount of responsibility for his actions.

      By the way. Happy belated birthday.

      • 2/17 Air Cav says:

        Skyjumper. Your damn right he does. He knew his son was off his rocker and had harsh views of police and ov’t generally. And he gave him the guns? Morally, that’s a wrong, but as you know, legal and moral responsibility are not one and the same.

        • Andy Kravetz says:

          Why this happened? I don’t know. Honestly. Whatever, the reason, it is a shame that it did happen, given what happened. But, let’s play alternative reality.

          If the guns were given back and nothing happened, even with his mental status or if his son used them for a suicide, would people be as irate?

          Some might argue that it’s gun rights and that a person has a right to own a weapon in a state if they haven’t done anything wrong. Others, sir, might argue this is why we need stricter gun laws.

          I’m not weighing in on either. I don’t know enough of the facts nor do I care to share my intimate thoughts on a case I am covering. I’m only trying to inform and to spark a conversation as I honestly think the more we talk, maybe a consensus could be found that all parties can live with regarding the overall issue.

          Thanks for reading.

          Andy

        • rgr769 says:

          Andy, you should understand that whether criminal liability transfers to civil liability is not determinative of what happens to this civil suit. The authorities may have decided or will decide not to prosecute the father. That decision not to prosecuted won’t impair this civil suit which is the subject of your reporting.

    • 5JC says:

      If the transfer took place in TN the one that could land him in criminal hot water is the pistol. But only if the father took it across state lines and transferred it without a background check. That would likely be a federal law violation. If it took place in IL then the state could go after him.

      In any case a civil suit relies on a “preponderance of evidence” so dad is looking at a tough go in a civil trial of they can establish him as causal.

  9. old98z says:

    Is there a procedure in place in Illinois to require a test prior to return of the weapons? Can the agency that removed the weapons go to a judge and request a judgement be rendered about, say, a mental fitness examination, before return of the weapons?

    The father made a mistake in returning the weapons.
    Did the state make a mistake also?
    I guess that is what 2/17 AC is getting at in the post @ 11:16.

    • Andy Kraetz says:

      I think, sir, that they are trying to do that. There was mention of a “waffle house” bill yesterday or the day before. But I’ve been so busy doing local stuff like shootings, fires, a bridge jumper and a report on opioids and missing persons that I honestly haven’t looked at it yet.

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