It was in the early hours of April 22 when 29-year-old James Shaw Jr. and his friends arrived at a Waffle House in Antioch neighborhood of Tennessee, Nashville, following a fraternity house party. However, seeing the restaurant was overcrowded, the group decided to visit another Waffle House on Murfreesboro Pike just two miles away.
In a fortunate twist of fate, it was this decision that saved numerous lives during the shooting that took place shortly after Shaw Jr. arrived at the eatery, according to The Tennessean.
A semi-nude gunman, identified as Travis Reinking, first fatally shot two people in the parking lot of the restaurant before entering the establishment and opening fire, killing two more people, said the police.
Two other people were taken to hospital in critical condition.
As soon as the shooting began, Shaw Jr., who has a 4-year-old daughter named Brooklyn, reportedly ran and hid in a restroom — though he didn’t stay there for long. As soon the suspected gunman paused, the man decided to disarm him.
As Metro Nashville Police Spokesman Don Aaron explained, Shaw Jr. “saw the gunman looking at his rifle. At that point, the shots had stopped. So, he decided to rush the gunman, actually wrestled that assault rifle away, tossed it over the counter. At that point, the gunman then fled.”
A bullet grazed the heroic patron’s elbow during the struggle and he burned his right hand grabbing the barrel of the “assault-type rifle” the suspect was carrying.
It is important to note that Shaw Jr. was unarmed while the suspect was holding an AR-15 — the most common weapon used by mass shooters. Yet, it was his quick actions that saved the lives of several other people inside the Waffle House.
However, despite his heroic effort, Shaw Jr. does not see himself as a hero.
“It feels selfish,” he said. “I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it.”
Shaw Jr. insisted he was only looking out for himself, when the truth is, if it weren’t for him disarming the alleged shooter, the death toll could have been much worse.
“I did that completely out of a selfish act. I was completely doing it just to save myself,” the Good Samaritan added. “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 going to have to work for it.”
While utterly noble, it’s a sentiment that his family members, friends, the community and social media users across the country disagree with.
This is what a hero looks like. All of Nashville is grateful to James Shaw Jr. for intervening to prevent even more deaths and injuries at the Waffle House this morning. pic.twitter.com/wxBZhtVrNK— Mayor David Briley (@MayorBriley) April 22, 2018
This is the Waffle House hero, James Shaw Jr. He tackled the shooter and saved so many lives in the process. Thank you James. And thank you TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center for your wonderful doctors and nurses who quickly took care of his injuries. pic.twitter.com/kKORfI24G1— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) April 22, 2018
Meet James Shaw, Jr. - the hero who single handedly tackled and disarmed the mass shooter at the Waffle House in Tennessee.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) April 22, 2018
This man put his body on the line, snatched the AR-15 away from him, and saved so many lives. https://t.co/xe8kmp052m pic.twitter.com/KW9RB4KlOn
Online users also did not waste time pointing out how Shaw Jr. contradicted the infamous “good guy with a gun” philosophy touted by the National Rifle Association and gun fanatics with his incredible act of courage.
Myth: The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun Reality: An unarmed civilian stops the Nashville Waffle house shooter— Kanisha J (@KaniJJackson) April 22, 2018
Bravo Mr. James Shaw jr.
You are as brave as it gets! pic.twitter.com/SsTKPOBR8V
The irony of an unarmed black man disarming a white domestic terrorist, putting his life on the line. Thank you, James Shaw, Jr. ??????? Thank God ppl aren’t hashtagging his name for other reasons (#blacklivesmatter) Praying for those who lost their lives in the #Antiochshooting https://t.co/Yg1NplQg29— Kendrick Sampson (@kendrick38) April 22, 2018
The only thing that stopped the Waffle House shooter was a good guy with no gun.— Allan Brauer (@allanbrauer) April 22, 2018
Disturbed white shooter opens fire on victims with AR-15 and would’ve killed more if he wasn’t disarmed by an unarmed black hero. The Waffle House/James Shaw Jr story totally dismantles the right-wing fantasy that white good guys with guns are saving us from a minority hellscape.— Adam Best (@adamcbest) April 22, 2018
In an interview with WSMV, Shaw Jr. apologized to the families of people who lost their lives.
“There’s four families that are grieving right now. So much life was lost for no reason. I feel like it could be very selfish of me if I didn't point it out. And I apologize,” he said.
A witness recalled how Shaw tackled Reinking, who is still at large as of this writing.
“I looked back and there was a gentleman wrestling with the gunman,” Chuck Cordero, a witness who watched the horrific incident from the restaurant’s windows, told CNN affiliate WSMV. “He was a hero ... had that guy had a chance to reload his weapon, there was plenty more people in that restaurant.”
Shaw Jr., the youngest of three siblings, attended Hunters Lane Comp High School in Nashville and is a graduate of Tennessee State University. He then studied online to be an electrician technician at Brightwood College.
He currently works as a wire technician for AT&T.
Shaw Jr. has created a GoFundMe page to help the shooting victims. He has raised more than $18,000 toward his $15,000 goal so far.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Jason Davis / Stringer/ Getty Images