Day 1: What James Shaw Jr. said during the Waffle House shooter trial

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Posted at 6:25 PM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 07:22:58-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — James Shaw Jr. — the man who stopped Travis Reinking during a mass shooting in 2018 — said the whole night was a cluster of feelings of events he did and didn't want to do.

During the early morning hours of April 22, 2018, Reinking is accused of walking into the Waffle House on Murfreesboro Pike half-naked, shooting and killing four people — DeEbony Groves, Akilah Dasilva, Joe Perez, and Taurean Sanderlin. He was taken into custody the following day after a tense 34-hour manhunt.

Shaw and his best friend Brennon McMurry visited a previous Waffle House before arriving at the one on Murfreesboro Road. He said the two were laughing and having fun right before gunshots changed the outcome of the night.

He described Reinking looking at the courtroom the same way he was that night.

"He looks like he doesn't care," Shaw Jr. said.

Shaw said he saw a figure kind of falling outside while sitting at the bar of the Waffle House, and then the windows were shot like a silver glitter. The two ran through the door to the bathrooms.

"Shots were coming over my left shoulder," he said. "Immediately, I went to the right. I fell, and BJ picked me up. I was going to step on the empty booth and try to run out but something told me don't do that. I am listening to the gun, and it's not a handgun. It was a lot more deafening than a handgun is."

Shaw watched Reinking point the gun down to reload. That's when he took action.

"There was a voice that told me to do it, do it now. I wanted to keep an eye on him to find my moment and find that opportunity. I ran through the door as fast as I could. I ran through the door thinking it was going to me or him or death. I had to think when we're literally fighting off what I could do and not get injured. 'You're going to have to grab the barrel, James. You're going to have to push it down,' [I said to myself.] As he goes for my left hand, I take my left hand off him and pulling and pulling and I get the gun and I throw it. It seemed like the gun was in the air for days and it finally get over the bar. I manhandled him out of my way."

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James Shaw Jr. demonstrates how he grabbed the gun from Travis Reinking.

Before the jury, Shaw showed where his hand touched the barrel of the gun. He also had to watch the surveillance video of the incident and describe who people were along with his actions that night. He had second-degree burns on his hands, and a bullet grazed his elbow area.

After the two had an altercation, he saw Reinking trot away. Shaw testified that Reinking described him with a racial slur. Shaw jumped in his truck, but realized he needed to call 911 but his phone was faced down on the countertop.

Shaw returned back to the restaurant and described seeing Perez's body dead on the ground outside the eatery. Once he got back in, he also those who were still alive and those who died.

"I see Sharita — the first thing that comes to my mind is how can I move her?" he said. "I know I can't move her. The best example I can you is her leg looked like a banana peel with no banana in it. I saw Ebony laying in a way that she wasn't alive anymore. I wanted to help her, but I just couldn't help her."

Shaw said he was blessed.

"In the moment, it's real rough to put a label on it, right?" he said.