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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Gunman kills four in Nashville before fleeing naked

More deaths at Waffle House restaurant prevented by customer who snatched rifle from attacker

Police vehicles parked outside a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee, where man with an assault rifle killed four people on April 22, 2018. Sheila Burke / AP Photo
Police vehicles parked outside a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee, where man with an assault rifle killed four people on April 22, 2018. Sheila Burke / AP Photo

A man wearing nothing but a green jacket fatally shot four people at restaurant in Tennessee on Sunday before a customer managed to wrest his assault rifle from him.

A witness said the attack began at around 3.30am when the gunman started shooting at people in the car park before entering the Waffle House restaurant in Nashville.

Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said the gunman sat in the parking lot for four minutes before shooting two people outside, then entering the restaurant. He continued firing until a customer snatched his rifle.

The gunman then fled, shedding his jacket. Mr Aaron said he lived at an apartment complex in the working- and middle-class area of south-east Nashville and, based on witness reports, went there and put on a pair of pants.

Police said they were looking for Travis Reinking, 29, in whose name the pickup truck driven by the gunman was registered.

Mr Aaron said Mr Reinking was known to both Illinois and federal law enforcement. Police were still tracking the suspect more than eight hours after the shooting, he said.

Witness Chuck Cordero told The Tennessean newspaper he had stopped to get a cup of coffee and was outside the restaurant when he saw the chaos unfold around 3.25am.

"He did not say anything," Mr Cordero said of the gunman, who he described as "all business."

He said the customer who snatched the attacker's gun had saved lives. "Had that guy had a chance to reload his weapon, there was plenty more people in that restaurant."

Police identified the customer as James Shaw Jr, 29.

Mr Shaw told the Tennessean he was "just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it."

The newspaper said Mr Shaw was grazed by a bullet, treated and released.

"When I was in the ambulance to hospital I kept thinking that I'm going to wake up and it's not going to be real," Mr Shaw said. "It is something out a movie. I'm OK though, but I hate that it happened."

The rifle used in the deadly shooting at a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee on April 22, 2018. Metro Nashville Police Department via AP
The rifle used in the deadly shooting at a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee on April 22, 2018. Metro Nashville Police Department via AP

Mr Aaron said three people died at the restaurant and one person died at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, where two others were being treated for gunshot wounds. A spokeswoman for the centre said one was in critical condition and the other was in critical but stable condition.

The TriStar Southern Hills Medical Centre in Nashville said two people were treated for minor injuries and released.

Meanwhile, the man who wrested the gun away from the suspect in Nashville’s Waffle House shooting was hailed as a hero for his actions. James Shaw Jr says he had entered the restaurant just two minutes ahead of the gunman.

He says he had gone to eat early Sunday after visiting a nightclub. He then heard gunshots, but initially thought they were stacks of plates that had fallen over. Mr Shaw says it was then that he saw restaurant workers scatter and a body near the front door as the gunman burst through the entrance.

“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. When the gun jammed or whatever happened, I hit him with the swivel door,” Mr Shaw told a news conference Sunday.

The gun then jammed up, and Mr Shaw managed to get one hand on the gun and grab it. He then threw it over the countertop and took the shooter with him out the entrance. Mr Shaw says the shooter then trotted away.

Authorities are hailing Mr Shaw as a hero for preventing further bloodshed at the restaurant.