What should have been a typical, early morning at a Nashville, Tennessee Waffle House turned into a nightmare when a crazed gunman walked into the restaurant and opened fire. According to the New York Times, the shooter – identified as Travis J. Reinking – entered the restaurant wearing only a green coach and opened fire with an AR-15 assault rifle. Reinking claimed the lives of four innocent victims – Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29; Joe R. Perez, 20; Deebony Groves, 21; and Akilah Dasilva, 23 – and injured several other restaurant patrons. But, the shooting could have been much worse if one man wouldn’t have stepped up to the plate and stripped Reinking of the assault rifle. That man has been identified as 29-year-old James Shaw, Jr.
Meet James Shaw —29 years old, #HBCU grad, member of Alpha Phi Alpha & #TSU alum. He’s an American hero who singlehandedly disarmed a gunman in the #Antiochshooting. He later went to the hospital to treat his injuries & was at church by 10. Thank you #JamesShawJr #GunReformNow pic.twitter.com/Fayxt3fF2Z
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) April 22, 2018
Do Or Die:
On Monday, April 23, Shaw appeared on “The Today Show” where he shared his reaction to the shooting from the moment he heard the first gunshot to how he found a quick opportunity to take Reinking down. He revealed he had attended a fraternity party before stopping by the Waffle House. Since the party was crowded, he and his friends left and stopped by the Waffle House around 3:00 am that morning. Initially, he thought about fleeing to the bathroom, but then he quickly realized he’d be boxing himself in with no chance of escaping. However, he was sure about one thing: he wasn’t going down without a fight. “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.”
His quick thinking ultimately saved his own life and the lives of others. “When I first heard the gunshots immediately it’s like a what’s-going-on type of feeling, and I saw a gentleman near the door of the Waffle House and I jumped from the high countertop seats and jumped toward the bathrooms,” Shaw said during his appearance on the show. “The bathrooms seemed like a bad idea — kind of like shooting fish in a barrel.”
He continued, “I was waiting for chance, so when I saw the barrel down I saw an opportunity, and I attacked and took it and it worked out for myself and others who were in the Waffle House at same time,” Shaw said.
Investigation on going at the Waffle House. Scene being processed by MNPD experts. This is the rifle used by the gunman. pic.twitter.com/lihhRImHQN
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) April 22, 2018
According to KHOU, when Shaw saw the opportunity, he tackled Reinking and the two wrestled until Shaw was able to strip him of the assault rifle. Reinking, who entered the restaurant wearing only the coat, fled on foot naked after losing the coat during the tussle. “I grabbed the gun and kept it down. He had one hand on it. I pulled it away and threw it over the bar.”
“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,” he said. “It wasn’t any kind of talking between us; I just knew I just had to get that away from him.” Shaw was grazed by a bullet during the struggle, but given the damage Reinking had already done when he opened fire, the situation could have turned out quite differently. “Later on I learned he had other magazines in his gun and could have reloaded, so I’m glad I acted,” Shaw said.
Shaw admitted that he doubts he’s actually processed what really happened. Although he did witness people die, the heart-pounding incident is still like a blur to him. “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.”
A Hero, But Not A Hero:
Since James Shaw is credited as the man who took down Travis Reinking, he’s made national headlines as a hero; the man who disarmed a mass shooter. In fact, on Sunday, Shaw appeared at a news conference with Mayor David Briley and Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer, reports The Tennessean. To them, Shaw is definitely a hero. “You don’t get to meet many heroes in life, Mr. Shaw,” Ehmer said. “But you are a hero. You are my hero.”
However, he doesn’t exactly agree with the reports. Despite all of the reports of heroism, James Shaw has admitted he doesn’t see himself as a hero. During an interview, Shaw admitted that his first instinct was simply to protect himself. He clarified that in the process of doing so, he also saved the lives of others. “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.”
"I kind of made up my mind… that if it was gonna come down to it, he was gonna have to work to kill me": Hero customer James Shaw Jr. describes the moment he disarmed a gunman who killed 4 people at a Waffle House near Nashville https://t.co/uXRm31g4La pic.twitter.com/UJUL3C2Uhv
— CNN (@CNN) April 23, 2018
When it comes to being a hero, Shaw said, “I’m not a hero. I’m just a regular person.”
“I don’t really know, when everyone said that, it feels selfish. I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it.”
Travis Reinking remains at large as the manhunt for him continues.