Historically Baptist Belmont University devoted its Monday morning chapel service to prayers for a student whose life was cut short by a mass shooting.
Groves, a dean’s list student majoring in social work, was mortally wounded when police say Travis Reinking, a 29-year-old Illinois man with a history of mental illness, opened fire with a military-style rifle just after 3 a.m. Three others died at the scene.
“Like you, 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 Robert Fisher said in a statement. “Please join me in extending our thoughts and prayers to her family and friends as they come to terms with unimaginable grief.”
Groves was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the first historically black organization to join the Greek family at Belmont University. A sorority sister from another school was among four people wounded in the attack.
Beverly E. Smith, national president of the sorority, called for “gun reform policies that protect innocent children from violence.”
“It is time to demand action on gun control, and we call on Congress and organizations like the National Rifle Association to consider their role in supporting common sense gun policies that will protect the lives of our citizens,” she said. “We have the power to make a difference to yield the results we are seeking in this country to put an end to mass shootings.”
Nashville Mayor David Briley said victims of the shooting deserve thoughts and prayers, but “they also deserve leaders who will step up and take action and do something to get these weapons off our street.”
“Last night, innocent Nashvillians were terrorized by a man with an AR-15,” the mayor said. “Let’s be honest. Some people see these weapons as having a purpose of terrorizing other people. It’s happening too much. Enough is enough.”
Belmont held a time of prayer for Groves’ family during Monday’s 10 a.m. chapel service. University officials encouraged students who need support to visit the Office of Counseling Services. The campus newspaper, the Belmont Vision, solicited tributes from students, faculty and friends for later publication.
Police said lives were saved when James Shaw Jr., an unarmed 29-year-old African American, wrestled the weapon away from the assailant, who is white. Shaw, the father of a 4-year-old, created a GoFundMe page to help families of the victims. The appeal raised more than $28,000 in the first 18 hours, nearly double a $15,000 goal.
Shaw was grazed by a bullet and burned his hand when he grabbed the hot gun barrel. After being treated at a hospital and released, he went with his father to Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville. He told reporters he is “not a greatly religious person” but thought going to worship would help him get past the experience.
Reinking fled the scene on foot. A manhunt extended to a wooded area near the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, scene of a mass shooting in September that killed one and injured seven. “We pray for the victims, their loved ones and our community after today’s tragic events,” the congregation posted Sunday on Facebook.
Police apprehended Reinking Monday afternoon, 33 hours after the attack, in a wooded area near both his apartment and the Waffle House. Authorities have not established a motive, but Reinking was arrested in 2017 outside the White House after declaring himself “a sovereign citizen” with a right to inspect the grounds.
Police in Illinois say Reinking thought he was being stalked by entertainer Taylor Swift and had previously threatened people with an AR-15 and to kill himself. He worked for a construction company in Nashville but was fired within weeks for being “paranoid” about co-workers.
Groves, product of a local high school where she played on the basketball team, was a month away from graduation. All four of the dead were under 30.
Belmont was affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention from 1951 until 2007, when the two entities settled a lawsuit over governance. Today the university “honors its Baptist heritage but steps forward as an independent, ecumenical Christian university with no denominational ties.”