Tuesday 28 January 2020

Man who snatched AR-15 rifle from Waffle House gunman: I’m no hero

James Shaw Jr confronted the gunman during the incident which left four people dead in Nashville, Tennessee.

Despite being credited with saving several lives, James Shaw Jr insisted he was no hero (AP)
Despite being credited with saving several lives, James Shaw Jr insisted he was no hero (AP)

By Sheila Burke

The man credited with saving several lives after snatching an AR-15 rifle from a gunman at a busy Tennessee restaurant has said it was a “selfish” act of self-preservation, and he does not consider himself a hero.

James Shaw Jr, 29, found himself wrestling with the suspect after four people had already been fatally shot at a Waffle House bustling with patrons early on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee.

He said: “When I grabbed the barrel of the weapon it was hot, but I didn’t care. It was life or death.”

Mr Shaw joined law enforcement officials and Nashville’s mayor at a news conference, some 12 hours after the shooting, with his right hand bandaged. There he was singled out by Waffle House CEO Walter Ehmer, who thanked Mr Shaw for his bravery.

“You don’t get to meet too many heroes in life,” Mr Ehmer said before addressing Mr Shaw, who dabbed away tears.

“We are forever in your debt.”

Hero James Shaw wipes tears away during a press conference following the shooting (AP)

Mr Shaw said that after going to a nightclub he had decided to stop with a friend early on Sunday at a Waffle House. But the first one he visited was too crowded with overnight patrons, so he ended up going to another in Nashville.

As he entered the Waffle House, he was just two minutes ahead of the gunman, seating himself at a counter.

Suddenly he heard a loud noise, thinking at first that freshly washed plates had crashed from a stack in the restaurant. Then, he said, he saw restaurant workers running before seeing a body near the front door as the gunman burst in.

It was then that he realised he was hearing gunshots.

“I looked back and I saw a person lying on the ground right at the entrance of the door, then I jumped and slid … I went behind a push door — a swivel door,” Mr Shaw said.

Mr Shaw, gets a hug from Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer (AP)

“He shot through that door; I’m pretty sure he grazed my arm. At that time I made up my mind … that he was going to have to work to kill me. When the gun jammed or whatever happened, I hit him with the swivel door.”

Mr Shaw said it was then that they began wrestling, ignoring his own pain as he grabbed the hot barrel of the AR-15 weapon.

“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.”

Of the gun, he added: “I grabbed it from him and threw it over the countertop and I just took him with me out the entrance.”

Mr Shaw was injured during his confrontation with the gunman (AP)

Mr Shaw said after getting the man out of the Waffle House, he then ran one way and saw the suspect, naked except for a jacket, going another way.

He said he had an apparent bullet graze on one elbow and fell and hit his knee as he escaped, which required hospital treatment.

“I didn’t really fight that man to save everyone else. That may not be a popular thing,” said Mr Shaw, a Nashville native who went to college in Tennessee and now works as a wireless technician. “I took the gun so I could get myself out.”

He said he was glad others were saved.

When Mr Shaw’s father went to visit him in the hospital on Sunday before he was released, he had one piece of advice for his son: “Don’t do that again.”

James Shaw Sr said: “I take no pride in him charging a loaded gun.

“I do take pride in him helping save the lives of other people.”

PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News