The Waffle House customer who tackled a raging gunman who killed four people is being hailed as a hero for wrestling the gun away and bringing the killing spree to an end Sunday morning.
James Shaw Jr. was eating at the Nashville location when 29-year-old Travis Reinking starting shooting customers with an AR-15 outside of the restaurant at about 3:30am.
NY Daily News reports that Shaw hid near a bathroom and watched Reinking’s moves, and when Reinking looked down at his gun to reload, he sprang into action. Shaw wrestled the AR-15 away from the mad man.
“It was about that time that I made up my mind ― because there was no way to lock that door ― that if it was going to come down to it, he was going to have to work to kill me,” Shaw said at a press conference. “I rushed him and it actually worked out to my favor.”
After wrestling the gun from Reinking, Shaw threw it over the counter. The gun’s hot metal also seared his skin and burned him. Shaw pushed Reinking outside of the restaurant and then got out of harm’s way.
Shaw doesn’t believe he was being a hero but has been praised by everyone for saving lives.
“I was doing it just to save myself,” he said. “My doing that, I did save other people, but I don’t want people to think I was the Terminator or Superman or anybody like that.”
The injuries Shaw Jr. were treated by paramedics. According to the Tennessean, one asked a question that brought Shaw Jr. to tears while checking his blood pressure.
“He asked if I had kids,” Shaw Jr. said. “I thought I could have possibly never seen my daughter again. That hurt.” He is a Nashville native and whose 4-year-old daughter was born while he was a Tennessee State University student. He then studied at Brightwood College to get a degree as an electrician technician. He works at AT&T.
“I just saw my opportunity and attacked.” Hero customer recounts moments before wrestling gun away from shooter inside a Waffle House near Nashville pic.twitter.com/xKplLZxzrb
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 23, 2018
A massive manhunt is underway for Reinking.
The suspect was reportedly well known to authorities and has a history with mental illness. In 2017, the Secret Service arrested him for being in a secure area near the White House. All of Reinking’s guns were taken from him and given to his father. Authorities now believe Reinking’s father gave him all the guns back.
Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer also praised Shaw.
“You don’t get to meet too many heroes in life Mr. Shaw, but you are a hero. You’re my hero,” Ehmer told him at the press conference. “You saved people’s lives, and I talked to some of those people you saved today, and they will think of you for the rest of their days, as will I. We are forever in your debt.”
According to the Tennessean, the names of the victims are:
Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, of Goodlettsville. Sanderlin was an employee of the Waffle House. He was fatally wounded standing outside the restaurant.
Joe R. Perez, 20, of Nashville. Perez, a patron, was fatally wounded standing outside the restaurant.
Akilah Dasilva, 23, of Antioch. Dasilva was wounded at the restaurant and died at Vanderbilt University Medial Center.
DeEbony Groves, 21 of Gallatin. Friends say Groves was a brilliant young woman, a hard worker and a tenacious basketball player.