Apr 23, 2018, 8:06 AM ET

Waffle House 'hero' says he 'felt like a fish in a barrel' before wrestling gun from shooter


Feeling "bumped and bruised" a day after being hailed as "Nashville's newest hero," the man who wrested an assault rifle from a man at a Waffle House told ABC News’ "Good Morning America" today that he sprang into action after he felt "like a fish in a barrel."

A little over 24 hours since exhibiting bravery in the face of terror, James Shaw Jr., 29, said he decided to take on alleged gunman Travis Reinking the very moment the gunfire ceased as the suspect was apparently reloading.

Shaw said he and a friend only ended up at the Waffle House in the Nashville suburb of Antioch at 3:17 a.m. Sunday because another Waffle House they first went to was too crowded. As he entered the restaurant, Shaw said, he noticed the killer sitting in his gold-color pickup truck out front.

"I saw his face. We kind of saw each other and I walk in," Shaw, an AT&T worker, told "GMA" co-anchor Michael Strahan.

PHOTO: James Shaw Jr. speaks during a press conference in Nashville, Tenn., April 22, 2018.Rick Musacchio/EPA-EFE via REX/Shutterstock
James Shaw Jr. speaks during a press conference in Nashville, Tenn., April 22, 2018.

After the shooting started and he saw a body splayed in the entranceway, Shaw said, he ran to the bathroom area and hid behind a swivel door in a hallway.

"I actually just stood in the hallway because I didn't want to be locked in there with just no line of sight and I just wanted to kind of keep an eye on it to see what was going on," Shaw, the father of a 4-year-old girl, said.

"So he shot actually through that door and one of the bullets grazed me and then I think that's when I became alert about the situation and was like, there's kind of no running from this. Kind of like a fish in a barrel type thing and I'm going to have to try to find some kind of flaw or a point in time where I can make this work for myself."

Since the shooting, Shaw said, he has learned the suspect, who is still on the run, paused to reload, giving him the opportunity to take action.

"I think he was reaching in his pocket and he was about to reload the weapon and the barrel of the gun was down so that's when I took my opportunity and me kind of was just wrestling -- wrestling it from him and I ran through the door at full speed, hit him with the door and took the gun and threw it over the bar and then I took him and myself outside -- outside the restaurant and then I was just trying to run away from him and just, you know, get to freedom," Shaw said.

PHOTO: James Shaw Jr. shows injuries he received when he stopped a gunman from continuing to fire in a Tennessee Waffle House, April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn.Courtesty of James Shaw Jr. via USA Today Network
James Shaw Jr. shows injuries he received when he stopped a gunman from continuing to fire in a Tennessee Waffle House, April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn.

Shaw was praised by everyone from the mayor and police chief of Nashville to seasoned federal agent for his heroic actions.

"It's beyond belief that he could charge that man and take that weapon from him," Chief Steve Anderson of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said of Shaw during a news conference on Sunday. "So I applaud him. It was a very brave thing to do and he saved lives."

But Shaw said he doesn't feel like a hero, only someone who did what he had to do to save his own life.

"On my Instagram and Facebook, everybody's calling me a hero, but I want people to know that I did that completely out of a selfish act," Shaw said during a news conference Sunday. "I was completely doing it just to save myself. Me doing that ... I did save other people, but I don't want people to think that I was the Terminator or Superman or anybody like that. I figured if I was going to die, he was gonna have to work for it."

PHOTO: James Shaw Jr., 29, shows his hand that was injured when he disarmed a shooter inside an Antioch Waffle House, April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn.George Walker IV/The Tennessean via USA Today Network
James Shaw Jr., 29, shows his hand that was injured when he disarmed a shooter inside an Antioch Waffle House, April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn.

Besides suffering a grazed elbow from a bullet during the Waffle House rampage, Shaw also burned his right hand when he grabbed the scalding hot barrel of the AR-15 assault rifle.

"I'm doing all right. I'm a little bumped and bruised," Shaw said on "GMA." "I'm a little bumped and bruised. I still got some blisters and stuff on my hands from where I actually grabbed the barrel of the gun after it was discharged. But I'm all right. I'm all right. I'm going to make it."

Shaw, who grew up in Nashville, said the shooting erupted at 3:23 a.m. shortly after he and a friend took seats at the Waffle House. At first, he thought the gunshots were plates breaking in the kitchen.

"Then the second one happened, then the third one happened. I think that's when the glass busted and broke through," Shaw said Sunday.

Police said the suspected gunman, Reinking, 29, arrived at the Waffle House in a pickup truck. He was only wearing a green jacket and nothing else when he opened fire outside the restaurant with an AR-15 assault rifle.

The gunman killed two people outside the restaurant, including a Waffle House cook who had gone out for a cigarette break. The gunman then fired through the window before entering the restaurant to continue his massacre.

Nashville Mayor David Briley called Shaw "Nashville's newest hero."

"Thrown into crisis, he acted with courage," Briley said of Shaw Sunday. "He told me he saw an opportunity and he took it. He saved lives. That is certain and we all are thankful to him for his bravery."

ABC News' Kelly McCarthy contribited to this story.

News - Waffle House 'hero' says he 'felt like a fish in a barrel' before wrestling gun from shooter

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  • Jack25

    He may not be a hero in traditional words, but he is clearly an honest man, and in the Trump era this makes him a hero on multiple levels.

  • JuPMod

    Very humble this brave man. He took action at the opportune moment, yet he does not want to see himself as a hero for what he did, even though he admit he did it for save himself. God bless you, young man. :)

  • Realpshep

    Not a word from president Trump. No congratulations, goid job, calling him an American hero, nothing....simply because he is black. Now if he had taken a knee during the anthem Trump would've tweeted 100 insults by now

  • Brenda

    Brilliant father. Giving a stash of guns back to this mentally ill son. Sure, why not. It isn't like there have been any stories in the news giving reasons why that might not be a good idea.

  • justamutt

    A wonderful, humble gentleman. Thank you.

  • ycplum

    If you can run, run.
    If you can't run, hide.
    If you can't hide, fight.

    Cringing as the attacker walks up to you to shoot you is not a very good strategy.

    PS. Kudos to the guy for having the clearness of mind to act.It is not uncommon for people to simply freeze.

  • rampantlion

    Shaw: "I'm not a hero..." YES, YOU ARE! In a crisis, some people freeze and are helpless; some people panic and are distractions; finally, some people just react to the situation to try to improve/resolve it. You are in the last group--they are heroes and so are you!

  • Jonas Blane ll

    An unarmed black man fights off and takes gun from active shooter. On the other hand, armed white cops hide while active shooter kills kids.

  • katerant

    I'd like to know how a person with a history of mental illness gets a hold of such a gun.

  • rayj76

    STILL waiting for Trump to tweet about this guy like he did all of the other people who stopped a mass shooter. Hmm.... What could be the difference here?

  • Dennis

    I am sure our brave president would have run in there unarmed and subdued the shooter, right after he had a stack of waffles, with a 5 egg omlete, bacon, susage and bicuits with gravy!

  • Rocket Cat

    Real life hero: i don't want anyone thinking I'm Superman, or anything.

    Real life fact: Superman is bulletproof. You're not. That puts you one better than Superman.

  • Molson Cree

    Way to go man, that was awesome. He did what Donald Trump could've only claimed he would've done. Lol.

  • tet1953

    I thought for sure they would find him dead in the woods from a self-inflicted gun shot. But it appears they have caught him.

  • Donmustgo

    Once again some nutbag was trying to preform a mass shooting and his weapon of choice was an AR15 assault rifle.
    Where have I heard the name of that gun before? It's kind of fuzzy in my mind. Oh, wait....

  • tet1953

    Suspect in custody.

  • Ruspert

    The US Army taught that if a weapon is being pointed at you, the pointer intends to kill you and if you do nothing you will be killed and to take action against the pointer or you will be shot and if you do take action there is all to be gained and nothing to lose.

  • allison kirkpatric

    AR-15....gee, imagine that.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money

    In other news, some woman in the UK had a baby.

  • WC

    The Federal assault weapon ban of 1994 lasted 10 years, during that time we did not have a mass shooting every 10 minutes.. Guess what party started the ban and guess what party ended it, with the help of the NRA. Now it will take Democrats in office to stop this slaughter of the innocent. I don't even like everything Democrats stand for such as abortion, immigration, etc,,, but this playing Russian roulette with people lives have got to stop. Universal background check, severe penalties for straw purchases, ban any weapon that looks like it just came from a Rambo movie, make whoever own any gun or purchase a gun go through training to prove they can handle the weapon safely , a gun license similar to a car license. is what we need. Start requiring gun safety classes at school for kids 7 years and up, guns are not going away, but we can decrease the accidents. Lastly, place new restrictions on how the news media sensationalize mass shootings... The perp wants to hear his name spoken to millions, ..

  • MAGreenA

    This man saved many lives and injuries. He deserves to be honored for what he did.

  • EastCoastGirl

    The real life Black Panther! ~Wakanda Forever~