A few months ago, during a conversation on Facebook about one of the many mass shootings committed by a white man (I forget which one), the homie Sai Grundy wrote that (paraphrasing) one of the byproducts of the criminalization of blackness is that white people are often able to elude suspicion by virtue of their whiteness. While we capture all of the attention, they sneak on by.
The most prominent recent example of this I can think of is Stephen Paddock, the (white) man who killed 58 people in Las Vegas. Imagine how invisible to everyone you must be—and how aware of your invisibility you must be—to somehow be able to collect 23 rifles in a hotel room in one of the busiest and most densely populated places in the world. He amassed a freakin’ arsenal and was able to do so without anyone stopping to ask him a question or inspect his room.
Anyway, the more we learn about Travis Reinking—the man who allegedly mowed down four people at a Tennessee Waffle House—the harder it is to imagine any of this happening if he had happened to be black.
Reinking, who was taken into custody Monday afternoon, told a Secret Service officer at the northeast entrance [of the White House] that he was a “sovereign citizen” who had a “right to inspect the grounds,” according to a Metropolitan Police Department incident report dated July 7, 2017.
Imagine a black person rolling up to the motherfucking Secret Service and demanding to inspect the motherfucking White House.
Most recently, police said, he visited a car dealership in the Nashville [Tenn.] suburb of Brentwood last week and somehow obtained a key fob for a BMW without providing identification. Reinking stole the car and police gave up their pursuit because it was rush hour, said Don Aaron, spokesman for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.
Imagine a black person being trusted enough to get a key fob for a luxury car without providing any ID. Also imagine the police just saying, “Eh. There’s some traffic, so fuck it” if this were a black car thief.
“Travis is hostile toward police and does not recognize police authority. Travis also possesses several firearms,” an officer said in a May 2016 incident report.
Imagine this being said by a black person and that black person remaining free and unshot.
Reinking told the sergeant that people were “tapping into his computer and phone” and barking like dogs outside his home, according to an Aug. 11 incident report. He said he felt like he was being watched and that people were baiting him into breaking the law, the report states. He told the officer that it all started after he began writing to Taylor Swift, according to the report
Officers released the firearms and ammo to Reinking’s father, Jeffrey, the report states. Investigators now believe he returned the guns to his son. Of those four weapons, one was the AR-15-style weapon recovered from the shooting scene at Waffle House; two more long guns were taken from Reinking’s apartment, police said.
Around the same time, the Tremont [Ill.] Police Department responded to a call to a public pool, according to another incident report. The pool director told the responding officer that a man in his 20s barged into the pool wearing a pink women’s housecoat, the report states. The man dove into the pool and took off the coat and swam around in his underwear. When he got out of the pool, he shouted at lifeguards that he was a man and exposed his genitals to them, the report states.
The rifle stayed in the vehicle and no one at the pool asked to press charges, the officer said in the report. “This is an informational report showing the state of mind of Travis Reinking,” the report said.
“Travis believed everyone including his own family and the police are involved,” the officer said in the report. “Travis stated he did not want to hurt Taylor Swift or anyone else, he only wanted the harassment to stop.”
Reinking told the officer the harassment began a few weeks earlier when Swift hacked his Netflix account and told him to meet her at a Dairy Queen, the report states. He told the officer that when he showed up, she ran off and disappeared.
His parents told the officer he made comments about killing himself and that he had access to “many firearms” in his residence.