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Here’s What We Know About The Tennessee Waffle House Shooting Victims

In the early hours of Sunday morning in Nashville, Tennessee, 29-year-old construction worker Travis Reinking opened fire with an AR-15, killing four adults in a busy Waffle House.   

Shooting began as early as 3:20 a.m. on Sunday morning, and the first bullet hit Taurean C. Sanderlin, a 29-year-old Waffle House employee. Customers in the restaurant heard him say he was going to take a short break from his shift; when he walked outside, he was met by Reinking’s gun.

Sanderlin was a Waffle House employee for five years, and had worked at the specific Nashville location for five months. His cousin, Maria Holt, told The Washington Post, “He is the one who opens every door for ladies. He’s quiet, but he opens up when he gets to know you.”

The other victims were customers at the restaurant. Joe R. Perez, a 20-year-old who had moved to Nashville to live with his older brother, was described by The Washington Post as “a social butterfly who enjoyed spending time with his friends and family, including his brother’s daughter, who was born in October.” Perez had spoken to his mother, Patricia, on the phone earlier that night. She was planning to fly to Nashville to see him on Wednesday.

“And now I will never see him again,” his mother Patricia said to The New York Times. “He was my baby.”

DeEbony Groves was a senior at Belmont University, and she was eating at Waffle House with some of her sorority sisters from Delta Sigma Theta. Her grandmother, Carolyn Groves, describes her as a caring woman who loved to help people. Despite her academic commitments and working two jobs, Groves always had time to visit her grandmother at “every chance she could get.” Groves was on track to graduate in two weeks with a degree in social work.

The final victim was Akilah Dasilva, another young adult at the restaurant accompanied by his brother, Abede, and partner, Tia Waggoner. Dasilva was a musician and videographer under the name Natrix Dream. “Music is my life and I will never stop until I achieve my dreams,” reads his Twitter bio.

His partner, Waggoner, wrote on Facebook that she and Dasilva had been together for five years. “The pain is unbearable,” she said.

While four have passed away since the incident, those in the Waffle House that morning consider themselves lucky there was not more tragedy. James Shaw Jr., another customer at the scene, was able to wrestle the gun away from Reinking. His actions saved countless lives, yet he refuses to be recognized as a hero.

“I’d rather you regard me as James, you know, just a regular person,” he said to The New York Times. “I was just trying to live. I wasn’t trying to get no money from him, I wasn’t trying to do anything from his standpoint. I just wanted to live, and he was, like, astonished, that I wanted to live.”

As we honor Shaw’s bravery, we remember the four young adults who didn’t make it, and seek to honor their legacies.

Zoe is a rising junior at Wesleyan University, where she is majoring in English with a creative writing concentration. On campus, Zoe loves to sing with her a cappella group, edit the sports section of her campus newspaper, and play tennis. In addition to writing for Her Campus, Zoe contributes to her original blog: https://www.writersblock.space/. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @_zoekaplan.
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