Four people were killed and several others injured last week when an armed man opened fire in a Tennessee Waffle House, and the reason those numbers aren’t even higher is that 29-year-old James Shaw Jr. is an absolute hero. Shaw was unarmed, but he tackled the gunman and wrestled the rifle away from him and threw it behind the restaurant’s counter. Shaw sustained a gunshot wound to the elbow and seriously burned his hands grabbing the barrel of the gun, but the shooter ran away. Then Shaw raised nearly $200,000 for the families of victims of the attack.
Just hours after the attack, Shaw started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the families of Waffle House employee Taurean C. Sanderlin and customers Joe R. Perez, Akilah DaSilva, and DeEbony Groves, who were murdered by the shooter. Shaw’s original goal was to raise $15,000 for the victims’ families, but the campaign passed that goal in no time. In just six days, more than 5,500 people have donated more than $197,000, and the number is still rising.
Moved by Shaw’s heroism and selflessness in starting the memorial campaign for the victims’ families, Yashar Ali started another GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for James Shaw himself, or for his four-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.
“I normally don't get involved directly in these matters, but James' grace has inspired me to start this page to give him the support I feel he deserves,” Ali wrote. “According to news reports, James has a four-year-old daughter. Perhaps this money can be used for her college fund or some other education related expense. But I'd be just as happy if James used some of this money to take his family on a nice vacation.”
So far that campaign has raised more than $198,000 in five days.
Shaw has said he is not a hero, because he said he felt like grabbing the gun was an act of self-preservation. But Shaw’s actions saved many lives in addition to his own, and the fact that his first thoughts afterwards were for the people who died and their loved ones is absolutely heroic. For more generosity and acts of heroism, here are some of the food world’s most inspiring stories of the last year.