Man Who Disarmed Waffle House Shooter Says He's Not A Hero, But Others Disagree

"I just wanted to live."

When a gunman opened fire in a Tennessee Waffle House early Sunday morning, killing four people, one customer jumped into action. James Shaw Jr., 29, is being hailed as a hero for disarming the shooter, who fled the scene. However, Shaw disagrees with the title, saying he was only trying to stay alive.

According to the Tennessean, Shaw rushed at the gunman when he went to reload, grabbing his AR-15 rifle by the barrel and throwing it over the counter before pushing him out of the restaurant. Shaw had been grazed by a bullet and received burns on his hands from the gun's barrel. 

"I distinctively remember thinking that he is going to have to work for this kill," Shaw said of his decision. "I had a chance to stop him and thankfully I stopped him."

After receiving a phone call from Nashville Mayor David Briley, Shaw reportedly invited him to a service at his church Sunday morning. More than 10 of Shaw's fraternity brothers also attended the service, in addition to friends and family. As friend Johnathon Washington said, "What he did, it never crossed my mind as something he wouldn't have done."

People are praising Shaw for his actions, with some — including Parkland survivor David Hogg — pointing out that his bravery challenges the myth of the "good guy with a gun" being the only way to stop a shooter. 

"I'm not a hero, I'm just a regular person, and I think anybody could have done what I did if they were just put into that kind of cage," Shaw, who is the father of a 4-year-old daughter, said at a press conference Sunday afternoon, according to the Huffington Post. "I just wanted to live. I didn't really fight that man to save everybody else. I know that may not be a really popular thing but I'm going to be honest."

However, many people, including Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer, believe that he is a hero. "You're my hero," Ehmer told him on Sunday. "You saved people's lives, and I talked to some of those people you saved today, and they will think of you for the rest of their days, as will I. We are forever in your debt."

As Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said, "A real definition of a hero is someone that knows the danger that they're facing and yet takes that action and certainly James did."

Cover image: Jonathan Weiss /


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