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5 things to know about the hero who stopped the Waffle House shooter

James Shaw Jr. wrestled the gun away from the killer


By PoliceOne Staff

A gunman wearing nothing but a green jacket entered a Waffle House in Nashville early Sunday, killing four and wounding others. The incident could have been even deadlier if not for the brave actions of James Shaw, Jr., who wrestled the gun away from the killer. Here are five things to know about the hero who stopped the violence.

1. Who is James Shaw?

Shaw, 29, is a graduate of Tennessee State University who currently works as a wire technician for AT&T. He has a 4-year-old daughter and was born and raised in Nashville. He entered the Waffle House mere minutes before the shooting began around 3:25 a.m. Interestingly, this wasn’t Shaw’s original choice for his late-night meal; he and his friends had initially gone to a different Waffle House, but left when they found it was too crowded.

Shaw, who was unarmed, has no combat training – he was simply a man in the right place at the right time who felt compelled to act.

"I knew I had it in me, but I don't have any specific combat training. I fight my daughter every night to get her to bed," he joked at a press conference.

2. Shaw was grazed by a bullet, but persevered.

Shaw headed toward the restaurant’s bathroom at the sound of the initial gunfire, but kept his sight on the gunman while taking cover. The gunman fired toward Shaw and grazed his arm.

“When he came in, I distinctively remember thinking that he is going to have to work for this kill,” Shaw said. “I had a chance to stop him and thankfully I stopped him.”

Shaw believes that at some point, the gunman’s rifle jammed or he needed to reload. As the gunfire paused, Shaw seized the opportunity and rushed the suspect, tackling him and wrestling away the rifle. He then threw it over the bar. Shaw’s hands were severely burned from grabbing the gun away from the killer.

Shaw then pushed the suspect outside of the restaurant and chased him away. He did not pursue him out of fear that he had another weapon.  He then flagged down drivers to call 911. He was later transported to a hospital, treated for his injuries, and released. He then changed clothes and attended church with his family.

3. Shaw says he doesn’t feel like a hero.

Truly humble, Shaw told reporters that he was just doing what he needed to do.

“I don’t really know, when everyone said that (of being a hero), it feels selfish,” he told the Tennessean. “I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it.”

4. Police credit Shaw for stopping further bloodshed.

Despite his humbleness, Shaw undoubtedly is a hero and stopped a bad situation from becoming far worse.

"Thrown into crisis, he acted with courage. He saved lives – that is certain and we are all thankful to him for his bravery," Nashville Mayor David Briley said.

In a statement to WCPO, Metropolitan Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron agreed:

"He is the hero here, and no doubt he saved many lives by wrestling the gun away and then tossing it over the counter, and prompting the man to leave," Aaron said.

"Had that guy reloaded, there were plenty more people who probably could have not made it home this morning," one witness said.

5. The Suspect still on the loose.

Police are still searching for the man believed to be responsible for Sunday’s bloodshed, 29-year-old Travis Reinking. Police say Reinking could still be armed with two guns.

 

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