Wednesday 16 January, 2019

US restaurant attack: Hero praised as police seek gunman

(Image: AP: James Shaw (R) gets a hug from Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer)

(Image: AP: James Shaw (R) gets a hug from Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer)

Police are searching for a half-naked man suspected of killing four people at a restaurant in the US city of Nashville on Sunday, as officials praised the man who wrestled the gun from him, preventing more bloodshed.

Travis Reinking, 29, was wearing only a green jacket when he opened fire with an AR-15 in the Waffle House parking lot and then stormed the restaurant, police say.

Four people were killed and four others were injured before James Shaw Jr, a 29-year-old Nashville resident, snatched the gun from his hands.

Dozens of police officers and law enforcement officials are now searching for Reinking, who fled the scene. Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said it was not clear why he opened fire on restaurant patrons, though he may have "mental issues". He warned he could still be armed.

(Image: AP: The Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee)

As the search continued, authorities in Illinois shared past reports suggesting multiple red flags about a disturbed young man with paranoid delusions.

In May 2016, Reinking reportedly told deputies from Tazewell County, Illinois, that music superstar Taylor Swift was stalking him. Another sheriff's report said Reinking jumped into a community pool wearing a woman's coat over his underwear. Investigators believed he had an AR-15 rifle in his car trunk, but it was never displayed. No charges were filed.

Last July, Reinking was arrested by the US Secret Service after he crossed into a restricted area near the White House and refused to leave. Reinking was not armed at the time but at the FBI's request, state police in Illinois revoked his state firearms card and seized four guns from him, authorities said.

The AR-15 used in the shootings was among the firearms seized. Tazwell County Sheriff Robert Huston said deputies returned the guns to Reinking's father on the promise that he would "keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis". A Nashville police spokesman said Reinking's father had admitted giving them back to his son.

'Life or death'

Meanwhile, the man who snatched the AR-15 rifle from him says his was a "selfish" act of self-preservation and he doesn't consider himself a hero.

"When I grabbed the barrel of the weapon it was hot, but I didn't care. It was life or death," said James Shaw Jr.

He said he went to the restaurant after a night out. When he heard shots, he first thought someone had dropped some plates.

"I looked back and I saw a person lying on the ground right at the entrance of the door, then I jumped and slid... I went behind a push door - a swivel door," Shaw said. "He shot through that door; I'm pretty sure he grazed my arm. At that time I made up my mind... that he was going to have to work to kill me."

The two men began wrestling for the gun. "I grabbed it from him and threw it over the countertop and I just took him with me out the entrance."

Shaw said after getting the man out, he then ran one way and saw the suspect going another way. He played down the suggestion he was a hero.

"I didn't really fight that man to save everyone else. That may not be a popular thing," said Shaw, a wireless technician. "I took the gun so I could get myself out" of the situation. He said he was glad others were saved.

Waffle House CEO Walter Ehmer thanked Shaw for his bravery. "You don't get to meet too many heroes in life," he said. "We are forever in your debt."

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