As soon as gunshots tore through the Waffle House, James Shaw Jr. bolted and hid in a restroom.
But he kept an eye and an ear out for the gunman. And the moment the shooter paused, Shaw decided to ambush him.
“I figured if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it,” Shaw told reporters Sunday.
That heroic act by a customer saved countless lives at a Nashville-area Waffle House, where a seminude gunman killed four people early Sunday morning.
Shaw “saw the gunman looking at his rifle. At that point, the shots had stopped,” Metro Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said.
“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.”
Shaw was grazed by a bullet on his elbow while grappling with the gunman.
He also burned his right hand grabbing the barrel of the weapon, which police called an “assault-type rifle.”
Shaw “is the hero here, and no doubt he saved many lives by wrestling the gun away and then tossing it over the counter and prompting the (gun)man to leave,” the police spokesman said.
Witness Chuck Cordero saw everything unfold from outside the Waffle House’s famously wide windows.
As he ran away, “I looked back and there was a gentleman wrestling with the gunman,” Cordero 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.”
But Shaw, 29, insists he wasn’t heroic. He says he was actually being selfish.
“I did that completely out of a selfish act,” Shaw told reporters. “I was completely doing it just to save myself.”
“I don’t want people to think that I was the Terminator or Superman or anybody like that,” he added.
Shaw said he felt uneasy knowing that the gunman was still on the loose, and hoped law enforcement would track him down soon.
Still, that didn’t stop Shaw from going to church with his father Sunday morning, mere hours after he’d confronted the gunman.
“I don’t think it really has hit me,” Shaw told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield.
“But I know it’s going to take time. I’m going to try to talk to some professional help, ’cause I know what I saw is probably not normal or average.”
In his interview with WSMV, Shaw broke down thinking about the people he couldn’t save and apologized to their families.
“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.
Shaw said he wants to stay in touch with those families, as well as the survivors.
“I would love to talk to you and know that you’re OK,” he said.
His first step in giving back to the families was creating a GoFundMe page Sunday to assist the victims of the shooting, a GoFundMe spokeswoman told CNN. Within hours, the $15,000 goal had almost been met.
“I am creating this page to help the families of the victims,” he says on the fundraising site.
On a personal note, Shaw is grateful he survived to see his 4-year-old daughter again. He wants her to grow up in a world with less tragedy.
“I hope we can bring violence in all facets — not just gun violence, but all facets of violence — to an end,” he said.
Story written by Holly Yan for CNN.
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