James Shaw Jr., shows his hand that was injured when he disarmed a shooter inside a Waffle House on Sunday, April 22, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. The Tennessean/Larry McCormack via Associated Press. When a nude gunman opened fire at a Waffle House in ...and more »
The man who wrestled the gun away from a Waffle House shooting suspect in Tennessee said Sunday if he were going to die, the gunman would "have to work to kill me."
Police are calling James Shaw Jr. a hero for saving lives in the busy restaurant, but the 29-year-old Nashville resident said he only made a split-second decision to do all he could to challenge the shooter and save himself from being killed.
Shaw said at a news conference Sunday he had spent an evening out at a nightclub and entered the restaurant minutes ahead of the gunman's arrival. He said he and another friend were seated at a high counter when he heard gunshots. Shaw said he had just seen restaurant workers stacking up freshly washed plates and thought at first that plates had crashed down.
Then, he said, restaurant workers scattered and he turned and saw a body near the front door as the gunman burst in. It was then he realized he had heard gunshots.
The scene at the Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee where a gunman opened fire early Sunday morning, killing four and wounding two before a hero snatched his gun away.Metro Nashville Police Department
"I looked back and I saw a person lying on the ground right at the entrance of the door, then I jumped and slid ... I went behind a push door — a swivel door," Shaw said. "He shot through that door; I'm pretty sure he grazed my arm. At that time I made up my mind ... that he was going to have to work to kill me. When the gun jammed or whatever happened, I hit him with the swivel door."
Shaw said it was then that they began wrestling, ignoring his own pain as he grabbed the hot barrel of the gun: "He was kind of cussing while we were wrestling around. When I finally got the gun he was cussing like I was in the wrong ... it wasn't any kind of talking between us; I just knew I just had to get that away from him."
Of the gun, he added: "I grabbed it from him and threw it over the countertop and I just took him with me out the entrance." Shaw said after getting the man out of the Waffle House, he then ran one way and saw the suspect jogging or trotting another way.
Shaw's right hand was bandaged at the news conference from the struggle. He also said he had an apparent bullet graze on one elbow and fell and hit his knee as he escaped and skinned up some fingers.
He added he didn't see himself as a hero, adding he's certain he wouldn't be alive if he hadn't succeeded in his mission.
"I didn't really fight that man to save everyone else. That may not be a popular thing," Shaw said. "I took the gun so I could get myself out" of the situation.
Tears welled in his eyes at the news conference as law enforcement agents called him a hero. He said he was glad he ended up saving other lives.
Waffle House CEO Walter Ehmer also thanked Shaw at the news conference for his bravery.
"You don't get to meet too many heroes in life," Ehmer said before addressing Shaw, who dabbed at his eyes. "We are forever in your debt."
Suspected gunman Travis Reinking; the Waffle House in Nashville where a gunman killed four people April 22, 2018; the rifle used in the shooting.Metro Nashville Police DepartmentAfter fleeing, the suspect shed his jacket. Aaron said he lived at an apartment complex in the working- and middle-class area of southeast Nashville and, based on witness reports, went there and put on a pair of pants.
Aaron said witnesses saw a man in a nearby wooded area, and police were still tracking the man more than eight hours after the shooting.
Police said Reinking, the person of interest to whom the truck the gunman drove was registered, was from Morton, Illinois. Later on Sunday, Metro Nashville police tweeted that they were drafting murder warrants against him.
Aaron said Reinking was known to both Illinois and federal law enforcement.
The victims' names weren't immediately released.
"This is a very sad day for the Waffle House family," the company said in a statement on Twitter. "We ask for everyone to keep the victims and their families in their thoughts and prayers."
Nashville Mayor David Briley said the shooting represents "a tragic day" for the city.
"My heart goes out to the families & friends of every person who was killed or wounded in this morning's shooting. I know all of their lives will be forever changed by this devastating crime," Briley said in an emailed statement.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, whose district includes Nashville, said in an emailed statement that the shooting shows the need for tighter restrictions on "widespread civilian access to military-grade assault weapons."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he and his wife, Crissy, "are deeply saddened by the tragic incident in Antioch early this morning, and we mourn the lives taken in this senseless act of violence."
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