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Jeffrey Reinking gets 18 months in prison for returning gun his son later used in 2018 mass shooting

Jeffrey Reinking of Morton was sentenced Friday to 18 months in state prison for illegally returning an AR-15 rifle to his son Travis, who was mentally ill.

The gun was later used by Travis in a deadly 2018 mass shooting at a Nashville, Tennessee Waffle House that left four people dead and four others wounded. He was sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole.

The elder Reinking, 59, held his son's firearms after his FOID card was revoked in the summer of 2017. But when his son decided to move to Tennessee later that year, his father gave the guns back.

Tazewell County assistant state's attorney Mike Holly said Jeffrey Reinking knew his son was mentally ill.

"He knew his son should not be provided with a firearm," Holly said.

He cited previous incidents, including a May 2016 incident where police and emergency services were called to a CVS parking lot in Morton where a delusional Travis believed celebrity musician Taylor Swift was harassing him; and a June 2017 incident where Travis, clad in a pink dress, jumped into the Tremont public pool, yelled obscenities at patrons, and exposed himself.

Holly said it was "inexcusable" that Jeffrey Reinking returned the Bushmaster AR-15 to his son in November 2017 despite these incidents.

"He didn't want to battle his son and take responsibility for his mentally ill son anymore," Holly said.

But Reinking's defense attorney, Michael Doubet, argued that Reinking lacked knowledge of his son's mental illness. He noted the Illinois State Police revoked Reinking's Firearm Owner's Identification Card in August 2017 because he was no longer living in the state, not because of mental illness.

He noted occasions where he said law enforcement officers with the Morton Police Department, Tremont Police Department, and Tazewell County Sheriff's Office should have reported Travis' issues to the state police to begin the FOID revocation process.

He said health officials also had a mandate to start that process when Travis was committed to UnityPoint Health-Methodist for seven days following the 2016 incident at the Morton CVS parking lot.

"There's blame to go around," said Doubet, adding his client checked with the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office before returning his son's guns in November 2017.

He said Jeffrey Reinking didn't want to be accused of stealing his son's firearms. He also said Jeffrey's case should be considered separately from the Nashville mass shooting.

"Travis is his son, but Travis is not a child. When this took place, Travis Reinking made his own decision," Doubet said. "Jeffrey Reinking was simply holding the firearms until Travis Reinking wanted them back."

But Judge Chris Doscotch said the Waffle House mass shooting was the worst-case scenario Illinois lawmakers had in mind when they crafted the laws on firearm revocation.

"In 'blame to go around,' it also includes Mr. Reinking in this universe. Nobody knows Travis Reinking better than Jeffrey Reinking," said Doscotch, who previously found Reinking guilty at a May 2022 bench trial in Tazewell County.

The judge said he didn't believe Jeffrey Reinking's story that he didn't know about this son's behavioral health problems, and said he was also troubled by the elder Reinking's repeated lack of accepting responsibility for his role in the chain of events that ultimately led to the mass shooting.

The maximum penalty for Reinking's conviction was three years in state prison and 30 months probation.

Doscotch ordered a lighter sentence of 18 months in prison with day-for-day credit because the Reinking family is fostering a 14-year-old, but he denied the defense's request of probation.

He said it was important to impose a sentence as a deterrent for others who might follow in Jeffrey Reinking's footsteps.

"Giving an AR-15 rifle to a person like Travis Reinking can have deadly consequences, just as we have seen," Doscotch said.

Doubet said his client will appeal the decision. Doscotch allowed Reinking a 90-day reprieve from reporting to prison to prepare his appeal.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.