NASHVILLE — A 29-year-old man credited with saving numerous lives Sunday morning after he disarmed a man who opened fire on a Tennessee Waffle House said he was just trying to stay alive.
James Shaw Jr. said he saw an opportunity to tackle the man shooting into an Antioch Waffle House after feeling cornered. He said he doesn’t feel like a hero.
Police spokesman Don Aaron told reporters Sunday morning that the Waffle House hero rushed the suspected shooter, disarmed him and threw the assault rifle he was carrying over the Waffle House counter.
“I don’t really know, when everyone said that, it feels selfish,” Shaw Jr. said. “I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it.”
Shaw Jr. said he was at a fraternity house party before heading to the Bell Road Waffle House at about 2:30 a.m. with some friends. They left soon after because it was too packed, he said.
They decided on the Waffle House on Murfreesboro Road, which was just over 2 miles away.
The group pulled into the Waffle House at about 3:20 a.m. Not soon after, chaos broke out.
Police said the suspected shooter opened fire at about 3:25 a.m. at the Waffle House in Antioch. The shooting left at least four dead and four injured.
Shaw Jr. said he was grazed by a bullet, treated for a minor gunshot wound and released from the hospital later in the morning.
“I don’t know if it has hit me yet as far as witnessing other people dying,” Shaw Jr. said. “It's kind of, it shouldn’t have happened. When I was in the ambulance to hospital I kept thinking that I’m going to wake up and it’s not going to be real. It is something out a movie. I’m OK though, but I hate that it happened.”
The suspect then fled on foot, nude, after shedding his coat, police said.
Police said they are drafting warrants for murder charges against Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton Illinois, in connection to the shooting. Authorities continue to search for Reinking.
A man believed to be Reinking was last seen in a wood line near Discovery at Mountain View Apartments on Mountain Springs Drive, near the Waffle House. The man was wearing black pants and no shirt, police said.
After going home, Shaw Jr. changed clothes and attended church with his family. Mayor David Briley also attended church with Shaw Jr. at about 10:30 a.m.
Shaw Jr. can’t recall how many shots there were, just that a man was on the floor. Shaw Jr. said a bullet grazed and he jumped toward the bathroom.
"I remember I was like ‘Dang, I’m basically in a barrel,’ ” Shaw Jr. said. “There is no place for me to go.”
As the suspect came through the door, he needed to reload, Shaw Jr. said. That’s when he said he rushed him.
“When he came in, I distinctively remember thinking that he is going to have to work for this kill,” Shaw Jr. said. “I had a chance to stop him and thankfully I stopped him.”
He added: “I grabbed the gun and kept it down. He had one hand on it. I pulled it away and threw it over the bar.”
Shaw Jr. said he pushed the suspect outside and the shooter walked quickly away. He didn’t follow him for fear that he had another gun. The man was clothed only in a green bomber jacket, Shaw Jr. said.
Shaw Jr. said not soon after he flagged down drivers to call 911.
He was taken to the hospital at about 4 a.m. and released at 7:30 a.m.
"While I was in hospital, a girl that was there said you saved my life," he said. "I didn’t do it to be hero."
Follow Jason Gonzales on Twitter @ByJasonGonzales