Waffle House shooting survivor played dead to stay alive

'All I could do was pray'
Posted at 2:58 PM, Apr 25, 2018

One of the people inside the Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee where a gunman opened fire said she played dead in order to stay alive.

Kayla Shaw, age 21, shared her story with Scripps station WTVF in Nashville three days after three customers and a restaurant employee were killed. 

"That was a very traumatic experience, and it changed my life," Shaw said. "I went to a store for the first time yesterday, and I was constantly looking over my shoulder and checking my surroundings. Every little noise scared me."

Shaw is from Brownsville, Tennessee and was in Nashville to visit her cousins over the weekend.

They were at a different Waffle House that morning, but it was so busy that they placed a to-go order at the Murfreesboro location instead.

She was paying for her food near the counter when gunshots erupted.

"I heard a loud pop on my left side, and after that I felt the glass from the window hit my face and I fell on my right side," she remembered. "I laid there, and my first thought was, 'God please don't let me die inside of a Waffle House.'"

The young mother showed the scratches to her face from the glass and the bruise on her arm after hitting it against a stool. 

She said all she could do at that point was close her eyes and pray.

"The one time during the altercation I opened my eyes, the only thing I saw was the shooter's genitals because he was naked in the direction I was laying. I question why I got to live, but I feel like my actions by playing dead actually helped me live after I heard the gunshot," she emphasized. "My whole body was motionless."

Unbeknownst to her, another restaurant patron wrestled the AR-15 from the gunman and likely saved countless people from dying.

She hid behind the counter as soon as she no longer heard gunshots.

"I actually tripped over someone's dead body and I fell right in front of a young lady who had a majority of her leg blown off. I was in such a state of shock, all I could do was pray over her," added Shaw. "She asked me to give her her phone which was under the guy's body I tripped over."

When it was clear to go, Shaw frantically ran to the car and drove off with her cousins.

It did not take too long before she spotted the naked gunman on the run.

"I'm speeding though like we're so shocked, and I see the naked shooter on the side of the road. I was almost paralyzed in that moment. It was so terrifying to leave that place and to actually see him on the side of the road walking, while my cousin was on the phone with dispatchers," she said. 

That same day she got to meet James Shaw (who she is unrelated to), the man credited and honored by Tennessee lawmakers for stopping the shooter from killing others. 

She described the moment as emotional as both hugged and cried in each other's arms.

"I continued to express my gratitude to him," she said. "James, on behalf of me and everybody that walked out of the Waffle House, we thank you so much."

Travis Reinking, age 29, was arrested for the shooting following a nearly 35-hour long manhunt. 

The victims he's accused of killing were Taurean Sanderlin, Joe R. Perez, DeEbony Groves, and Akilah Dasilva.