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NASHVILLE (CBSMiami/AP) — A seemingly random shooing has authorities searching for answers, and a suspect.
Four people were killed in a shooting at a Waffle House restaurant in Tennessee early Sunday, according to police, who credited a bystander with saving many lives by wresting a weapon away from the gunman.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said via their Twitter account that authorities are searching for 29-year-old Travis Reinking of Morton, Illinois.
They said they named him as a person of interest because the pickup truck that the gunman used to drive to the restaurant was registered to him.
Police spokesman Don Aaron said three people died at the scene and one person died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Aaron said the gunman arrived at the restaurant and sat in the parking lot for four minutes and shot two people with an assault rifle, then went inside and continued firing.
“He shot a customer who was about to go in the door, and then he shot my friend who was trying to get away on the sidewalk, and then he fired a few shots through the window and then he went inside and opened fire inside,” said Chuck Cordero, who had just exited his vehicle and was about to make his way inside when he says he saw the shooting unfold.
A 29-year-old male patron inside the restaurant wrested the rifle away from the suspect and tossed it over a counter, Aaron said.
“His gun either got jammed or he was trying to reload, not exactly sure, but I saw my opportunity in my window,” said James Shaw, who’s being hailed a hero. “We started wrestling for it, scuffling and fighting for it. He let it go with one hand and then when he had it in his other hand, I just took it and I tossed it over the counter and I pretty much removed him from the restaurant with myself and he kind of walked off by himself.””
“No doubt he saved many lives by wresting the gun away and tossing it over the counter and prompting the man to leave,” Aaron said.
At least four people were injured.
A Waffle House spokesman didn’t immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
Aaron said the victims’ names weren’t immediately released.
The suspect, wearing only a green jacket, shed the jacket after fleeing the restaurant. Aaron said he lived at an apartment complex in the area and, based on witness reports, went to the complex and put on a pair of pants.
Aaron said witnesses saw a man in a nearby wooded area, and police dogs were tracking the man, some six hours after the 3:25 a.m. shooting.
Authorities say Reinking was arrested by the U-S Secret Service for being in a restricted area near the White House in July 2017.
He was later released and his Illinois firearms authorization was revoked. Tazewell County authorities seized four of his weapons.
“Among the weapons seized by those authorities was the AR-15 used at the Waffle House today. The police department has received information that the guns were returned by Tazewell County authorities to Reinking’s father who has acknowledged to giving them back to his son,” said Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Don Aaron.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)