Though denying he’s a hero, James Shaw Jr., 29, acted like one when a man entered the Nashville, Tennessee Waffle House around 7 am on April 22, wielding an “assault-type” rifle.
Shaw’s first reaction, he says, was “selfish”—he hid in the bathroom to save himself, not wait for a moment to stop the gunman, who killed four people. “I figured if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it. I don’t want people to think that I was the Terminator or Superman or anybody like that.”
But when the gunman paused, Shaw decided to act by rushing the man and wrestle the gun from his hands. In doing so, Shaw burned his hand from the heat of the rifle. His elbow was grazed by a bullet.
After Shaw tossed the rifle over the counter, the man ran from the restaurant. Police are still searching for him.
In an interview, Shaw was overcome with emotion about the four people who died and his inability to save them.
“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.
Despite the injuries and the incident, Shaw attended church that morning with his father, and expressed gratitude that he lived and can see his 4-year old daughter. “I want her to grow up in a world with less tragedy,” he said. “I hope we can bring violence in all facets—not just gun violence, but all facets of violence—to an end.”
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