James Shaw Jr. and his best friend had just sat down in a Waffle House outside Nashville early Sunday when a loud crashing sound rang out in the restaurant. At first, Mr. Shaw said Monday, he thought a dishwasher had knocked over some plates.
It quickly became clear what was happening. Bullets pierced the restaurant’s windows. A man collapsed onto the floor. Waiters ran.
Mr. Shaw and his friend raced to the hallway outside the restrooms, taking cover behind a swinging door. As the gunman entered the Waffle House to continue shooting, Mr. Shaw recounted on Monday, he looked for a moment to fight back.
“There is kind of no running from this,” Mr. Shaw, in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday, said when asked about what he was thinking. “I’m going to have to try to find some kind of flaw or a point in time where I could make it work for myself.”
During a sudden break in the firing, Mr. Shaw sprinted through the door as fast as he could, slamming into the gunman and knocking him to the ground. He grabbed the rifle and tossed it over the restaurant counter.
The gunman, Travis Reinking, 29, then ran away, the authorities said, but not before he had killed four people and injured at least four more
.. Mr. Shaw said he eventually found out that the pause in the gunman’s firing came when he was trying to reload the rifle. It was a brief enough break, Mr. Shaw said, for him to make a move.
After Mr. Shaw wrested the weapon away, he said, the gunman left on foot at a jogging pace. Officials said the gunman shed his green jacket shortly thereafter. It was found with two loaded magazines in the pockets.