Waffle House shooting victim remembered as a leader on the court and in class
DeEbony Groves, 21, a Delta, was her high school basketball team’s defensive stopper
Faculty members at Nashville, Tennessee’s Gallatin High School remember DeEbony Groves as an ideal student-athlete: smart, hardworking, team-oriented and up for almost any challenge.
In the classroom, Groves took advanced placement and honors classes that earned her college credits even before she enrolled at Nashville’s Belmont University in 2014. On the basketball court, Groves was the Lady Wave’s stopper for Gallatin and always drew the opponent’s top player, whether she ran the point or played in the post.
“She was a leader who put others first,” read a statement from several Gallatin staffers and released by school principal Ron Becker.
Groves, 21, was among the four people killed by a gunman wielding an assault rifle early Sunday at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, a Nashville suburb. The others killed in the attack were identified as 29-year-old Taurean C. Sanderlin, a cook at the restaurant, as well as two other patrons, 20-year-old Joe R. Perez and 23-year-old Akilah DaSilva. Two other people were wounded in the gunfire.
Groves “was a brilliant young lady, very, very intelligent and a very hard worker,” former Gallatin coach Kim Kendrick told The Tennessean newspaper. “She was a very likable young lady. She was one of three seniors on her team, and she was a great role model for the other players because of her hard work and dedication to her studies and to her school.”
Groves did not hoop in college, but she otherwise continued her success. A social work major and member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, she was on track to graduate in May.
After an intensive manhunt, police arrested Travis Reinking, 29, who has a history of bizarre behavior, and charged him with criminal homicide on Monday. Reinking, who is originally from central Illinois, lived in an apartment not far from the Waffle House, a popular gathering place for early morning breakfast after a late night of fun.
Police have offered no information about a possible motive.
Groves’ murder stunned Belmont University, a Christian university where Monday chapel was transformed into a prayer session for Groves’ family and friends. A second service was to be held Monday evening at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Antioch, just outside Nashville, Belmont officials said.
“I am shocked and devastated by how such senseless violence has taken the life of this young woman, an individual full of immense potential,” Belmont president Bob Fisher said in a statement.
On social media, people who knew Groves expressed both anger and sadness as they posted tributes to her.
Seven members of the Deltas, three of them with their mouths taped shut, posted a photograph of themselves surrounding a red banner. It read: “Gun Control #DeEbony Groves Rest in Peace Soror.”
— kandace hinton, ph.d (@kandacehinton) April 23, 2018
Friends also posted numerous pictures of Groves. In her high school graduation portrait, she is smiling broadly into the camera in her black dress and white pearls. And in later shots taken during her college years, Groves was made up and glamorous.
A soror was killed in the Waffle House mass shooting, @dstinc1913
As the largest Black women’s organization in the country, maybe it’s time for us to make a more concerted effort around gun violence and gun violence prevention on a national/global scale #DeEbonyGroves pic.twitter.com/bnCEFsbIfD
— Nicole Tinson (@Nikki_T) April 23, 2018
Antoinette Lee, a member of the Nashville Metropolitan Council, went to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to visit one of Groves’ sorority sisters, Sharita Henderson, who was among those injured in the rampage. She was reported to be in critical but stable condition on Monday.
“I met some of the sorority sisters who knew both of them,” Lee said in an interview. “There were about six or seven there at the hospital. All I could do was thank them for being supportive.”
The rampage began when the assailant got out of a pickup truck, naked except for a green jacket, and opened fire in the restaurant’s parking lot, killing two people. He then entered the crowded restaurant and killed two more people before his rifle was wrestled away by James Shaw, a 29-year-old AT&T technician and former Tennessee State University student. Disarmed, the assailant fled the scene.
Nashville police said Reinking was arrested last summer on the grounds of the White House and charged with unlawful entry after breaching a security barrier. Afterward, officials seized his four guns, including the AR-15 assault weapon used in the Waffle House killings. The guns were later given to Reinking’s father, who has acknowledged giving them back to his son, police said. In an earlier encounter with police, Reinking complained of being stalked by the singer Taylor Swift. A local police department in Illinois said that he once showed up at a pool in a pink dress before going to swim in his underwear and daring lifeguards to fight him, according to published reports.
The Waffle House shooting prompted Chris Grady, who identifies himself on Twitter as a member of March for Our Lives, to vent about the need for better gun control. “4 people murdered in cold blood at Waffle House,” he wrote. “We live in a country where going to get waffles can end with you staring down the barrel of a gun. This is not normal. We cannot accept the status quo. This is why we keep fighting, because this keeps happening.”