‘My son never had a chance’: Austin-area man slain at Waffle House

Hays

One of the four people killed inside a Nashville-area Waffle House Sunday morning when a suspect started shooting was from the Austin-area. 

Twenty-year-old Joe Perez died when suspected gunman Travis Reinking, 29, came storming into the Waffle House with an assault rifle. 

On Sunday afternoon, Perez’s mother posted a photo of her son on Facebook with the caption: “Please say a prayer for my family for today is the hardest day of my life. Me, my husband and sons are broke right now with this loss. Our lives are forever shattered.”

In an interview with KXAN, his mother, Trisha Perez, said, “They told me they watched the video and that my son never had a chance,” describing how her son was seen on surveillance video passing the shooter, opening the door for him and then being shot.

“Now my son will never live another day. He will never be 21. He will never have kids,” his mother said.

She spoke with KXAN via FaceTime from her son’s Nashville bedroom. 

“Here I am having to wear his clothes,” Perez said in tears, wearing her son’s hat. “Because I have nothing left. I’m sitting in his room with his things. Cause this is all I have. This is all I have.” 

Joe Perez was killed when a gunman started shooting inside a Nashville, Tenn. Waffle House. (via Facebook)

Perez was a former Hays Consolidated Independent School District student. The district says he attended school in the district until his sophomore year.

His older brother, Christian, said he thought by moving his brother to Nashville, he would be safe. “I could protect him, I could guide him. Instead I brought to the place he’d die.”

Trisha Perez’s cousin, Jessica Villarreal, said Joe and his grandmother Adele Cardenas were very close. In fact, she moved with him to Nashville four months ago. Villarreal said Cardenas planned to help Christian take care of his newborn.

“She told me that one of his jokes when they got there, he was saying how beautiful it was,” Villarreal said, recalling a story Cardenas told her. “And he was like, well, Tennessee here’s your 10! Talking about himself, haha, so she said it was pretty funny that she’s going to hold onto that. That memory and that joke of his, forever.” 

Four people died and another four were injured. A customer managed to wrestle the gun away from Reinking but he managed to get away before authorities arrived. 

Getting emotional, Villarreal said, “It’s just hard to think about the last thoughts he had in his head and, you know, what was going on. He was by himself.” 

She asked for prayers for the family. 

“We’re all just gonna pull together for each other and just try to get them through this as much as we can.”  

KXAN’s sister station WKRN reports the other people killed were: DeEbony Groves, 21; Akilah Dasilva, 23; and Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29. 

Reinking was arrested Monday morning after a manhunt. Police say the suspect had a loaded semi-automatic gun, .45-caliber ammunition, a flashlight and a holster in a backpack when he was arrested.

“I want that kid to live with the knowledge of knowing that he took four lives. Four lives. That he knew nothing about. Nothing about them. And just took their lives for no reason at all. Something needs to be done about who can have a gun. And I’m not saying I’m against gun rights because I’m not. Because I’ve seen where a gun has saved somebody,” Perez said. “But in this situation, this kid should have never been able to own a gun.” 

The Perez family has started a GoFundMe page here.

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