James Shaw Jr. attacked a gunman who fatally opened fire at a Tennessee Waffle House restaurant early Sunday, likely saving many lives by wrestling the assault-style rifle out of the assailant’s hands. However, Shaw says his heroic act sprung from a instinctual sense of self-preservation.
During an appearance on Today, Monday morning, Shaw described the scene at the Nashville-area eatery, saying he dashed from the countertop seats to an area near the Waffle House’s bathroom when the gunfire began.
Four people were killed and two injured in the shooting, and the gunman remains at large.
“The bathroom just seemed like a bad idea. Actually, in that hallway seemed like a bad idea,” Shaw recalled of the attack. “It was kind of like shooting fish in a barrel.”
Shaw said that when he saw the gunman lower the barrel of the gun, “I saw my opportunity and I attacked.”
The 29-year-old said he busted through a door that acted as a shield and helped keep the rifle pointed at the ground as he grabbed the gun with his left hand and hit the gunman with the other. When the shooter only had a grip on the weapon with one hand, Shaw grabbed it and threw it over the counter.
Shaw then wrestled the gunman outside.
“I didn’t know if he had another weapon like a knife or he might have a handgun, but I knew if I could get outside I would be alright,” he told Today.
The gunman, who was nude except for a jacket, then walked off.
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Shaw has been called a hero by police and others who learned of his bravery. However, he claims he did it simply to stay alive.
“I did that completely out of a selfish act,” Shaw told reporters Sunday, according to CNN. “I was completely doing it just to save myself.”
He added, “I don’t want people to think that I was the terminator or Superman or anybody like that.”
However, Shaw did tell Today that he later learned that the gunman had other magazines and could have reloaded if he hadn’t stopped him.
“I’m glad I acted,” he said to Today.
Shaw said he is “sore” from the altercation, in addition to having been grazed by a bullet on his arm and receiving burns on his hand from grabbing the rifle’s barrel. However, he is more concerned with the victims.
“There’s four families that are grieving right now. So much life was lost for no reason,” he said, according to CNN. “I feel like it could be very selfish of me if I didn’t point it out. And I apologize.”
Shaw also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the victims’ families. Within 12 hours, people had contributed over $13,000 of its $15,000 goal.
RELATED VIDEO: 4 People Dead After Shooting in Nashville Waffle House
Metro Nashville Police identified the shooting victims as 29-year-old Taurean C. Sanderlin, an employee of the restaurant; 20-year-old Joe R. Perez, a patron; 21-year-old DeEbony Groves; and 23-year-old Akilah Dasilva, who was critically wounded inside the restaurant and later died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The gunman fatally shot Sanderlin and Perez outside the restaurant before heading inside, according to police.
Shanita Waggoner, 21, and Sharita Henderson, 24, were wounded by gunfire and are being treated at Vanderbilt.
Police have named 29-year-old Travis Reinking of Morton, Illinois, as a person of interest in the case after learning the vehicle that the gunman arrived in is registered to him. They are asking anyone who has seen him to call 615-862-8600 immediately.
Reinking was arrested last July for being in a restricted area near the White House, police said in a news release. Subsequently, his Illinois firearms authorization was revoked and four weapons, including the AR-15 used in the Waffle House shooting, were seized by authorities. Police said Reinking’s father, who received the weapons, admitted to giving them back to his son.