PEKIN — Beyond the potential legal consequences facing a former Morton man charged in the weekend shooting at a Tennessee restaurant is the question of whether his father may be liable for returning to his son the AR-15 allegedly used to kill four people.
A manhunt ended Monday with the arrest of Travis Reinking, 29, who is accused in the shooting that left two others injured Sunday at a Waffle House near Nashville.
Tazewell County Sheriff Bob Huston said his deputies took four weapons and ammunition from Travis Reinking in 2017 after the Illinois State Police revoked Reinking’s Firearms Owners’ Identification (FOID) card. The revocation followed Travis Reinking’s July 2017 arrest in a restricted area near the White House.
The guns were turned over to Reinking’s father, Jeffrey Reinking, who agreed to keep them from his son, who has a history of mental health issues, said the sheriff.
Attempts to speak Monday to the elder Reinking by a reporter for the Peoria Journal Star were unsuccessful.
Transfers of weapons from one family member to another as a “bona fide gift” are exempt from a requirement under Illinois law that the owner first verify with state police that the recipient of the gun has a valid FOID card.
“At this point, our office does not possess enough information to determine if Jeffrey Reinking committed a criminal offense. When our office receives information from the criminal investigation, particularly from the FBI, we will be in a position to determine if any violation occurred,” Umholtz said.
The law prohibits the illegal sale or transfer of guns, said McLean County State’s Attorney Jason Chambers, speaking generally about the provisions of Illinois’ gun laws.
Several questions must be considered when reviewing potential charges in cases involving weapons transfer, said Chambers, including how the gun was handed over and what knowledge the owner may have had about the recipient before the transfer took place.
"A prosecutor would have to look at the totality of the circumstances" before filing felony charges, said Chambers.
In 2012, Chambers filed felony charges against the father of a 14-year-old boy for allowing his son to illegally possess a handgun. He also was accused of allowing his son access to a rifle without having a FOID card. The father pleaded guilty and served two years on probation on the felony charge.
The boy, a freshman at Normal Community High School at the time, fired four shots from the handgun into the ceiling of a classroom before a teacher managed to subdue him. The boy was found guilty but mentally ill and sent to a juvenile facility where he received mental health treatment before he was released.
Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said gun owners who take possession of guns in situations similar to what is alleged in the Tazewell County case have a responsibility to safeguard the weapons.
"Once you accept the responsibility, it's on your shoulders," said Bleichner.
The possible consequences for Jeffrey Reinking for returning the gun to his son may not be limited to criminal charges; a civil case could be filed by victims and their families.
Cases where a person's actions may be linked to criminal conduct by others "are akin to loaning someone your car when you know they don't have a driver's license," said Bloomington civil lawyer Terry Dodds.
Most negligence cases where a person is accused of providing someone with a dangerous instrument, in many cases a vehicle, seek punitive damages against the individual who hands over the keys to the reckless driver.
According to Gun Violence Archive, the U.S. has experienced 67 mass shootings so far in 2018, defined by organization as incidents in which four or more people are killed and injured.