The man who wrestled an AR-15 out of the hands of a Waffle House shooting suspect is being hailed as a hero.
Waffle House Shooting
On Sunday morning at around 3:20 a.m., Travis Reinking, 29, arrived at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tenn. near Nashville. CNN reports Reinking sat in his truck in the parking lot for several minutes and watched people walk in and out of the establishment.
Eventually, Reinking emerged from his vehicle carrying an AR-15. Completely nude except for a green jacket, Reinking approached the Waffle House and started shooting. Four people were killed and two others were wounded.
The four people killed were identified as Waffle House employee Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29; Joe R. Perez, 20, who was killed outside the restaurant; Akilah Dasilva, 23, who was shot inside and died after being transported to a hospital; and DeEbony Groves, 21, who was killed inside the Waffle House.
Shanita Waggoner, 21, and Sharita Henderson, 24, were both shot and are undergoing treatment.
Reinking would have killed and injured more people were it not for the actions of 29-year-old James Shaw Jr.
Amidst the chaos, Shaw Jr.—who wound up at the Waffle House after leaving a frat party down the road—ran for the bathroom. Reinking opened fire in that direction. Shaw Jr. was grazed by a round.
“I remember I was like ‘Dang, I’m basically in a barrel,” Shaw Jr. told The Tennessean. “There is no place for me to go.”
Reinking then stopped to reload. Sensing an opportunity, Shaw Jr. rushed towards him and wrestled the gun away.
“I distinctively remember thinking that he is going to have to work for this kill,” Shaw Jr. said. “I had a chance to stop him and thankfully I stopped him.”
Shaw Jr. recalled that he “grabbed the gun and kept it down. He had one hand on it. I pulled it away and threw it over” the counter, Shaw Jr. recalled.
A physical struggle briefly ensued between Shaw Jr. and Reinking. It ended with Shaw Jr. pushing Reinking out the door. Reinking fled the scene. Shaw Jr. said he didn’t follow him because he was afraid he had another gun on him.
Shaw Jr. then flagged down passing motorists to call 911.
Emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene and transported Shaw Jr. and the others to an area hospital. Shaw Jr. was treated and released. He rejects being labeled as a “hero” for his actions, stating he was only trying to get out of the situation alive.
“It feels selfish,” Shaw Jr. said. “I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it.”
Shaw Jr. attended Tennessee State University and later Brightwood College. He works as an electrician for AT&T and is father to a four-year-old girl. He joked that the only hand-to-hand combat experience he has is wrestling his daughter to bed.
Shaw Jr. said he reacted to the situation “because I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to live. I didn’t really fight that man to save everyone else. That might not be a popular thing to say.”
Chief Steve Anderson of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department praised Shaw Jr. for his actions.
“It’s beyond belief that he could charge that man and take that weapon from him,” Anderson said at a news conference. “So I applaud him. It was a very brave thing to do and he saved lives.”
Police are still actively searching for Reinking at the time of this writing. He is an Illinois native who had just recently moved to Nashville.
In May 2016, a Tazewell County Sheriff’s deputy met Reinking and his parents at a CVS parking lot after his parents called for help, CNN reported. They told the deputy that Reinking believed pop star Taylor Swift was stalking him and hacking his phone. They also said he had made comments about killing himself. Reinking was evaluated at a hospital and released.
In July 2017, U.S. Secret Service agents arrested Reinking for trespassing in a restricted area near the White House. Reinking told the agents he needed to speak to President Donald Trump, describing himself as a “sovereign citizen” who had a right to inspect the grounds.
As CBS News reports, Reinking wasn’t armed when he was arrested at the White House. But the Illinois State Police revoked his FOID card and seized four guns he owned—including the AR-15 used in the Waffle House shooting on Sunday—at the FBI’s request. CNN says the four guns seized were a Kimber 9mm handgun, Bushmaster AR-15, CZ-USA .22 rifle, and a Remington 710 rifle.
Sheriff Robert Huston in Tazewell County, Ill. told CBS that Reinking’s father was allowed to take possession of the firearms, on the condition that he “keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis.” Police said Reinking’s father has acknowledged giving the firearms back to his son.
Police have recovered three of the four guns originally seized from Reinking. However, he is believed to be armed with at least one handgun.