Four people were killed and another four were injured in the shooting early Sunday.
Authorities say the gunman, Travis Reinking of Morton, IL., opened fire outside the Waffle House, killing two people and then entered the restaurant where the others were injured and killed.
James Shaw Jr. was credited with stopping the shooting by grabbing the gun from the suspect and tossing it to another part of the restaurant, police said.
Police said Shaw saved “many lives with his heroic action.”
Shaw, who was grazed by a bullet during the shooting, appeared at a news conference Sunday afternoon and told his story.
Shaw said that he had hidden in the restaurant when he saw a chance to approach the gunman.
“At the time he was reloading … is when I ran through the swivel door,” Shaw said. “The gun was jammed and pushed down and I managed to get him with one hand on the gun and grabbed it from him and threw it over the counter.”
Shaw, 29, of Nashville had a bandage on a hand during the news conference appearance.
“I just knew it was me or him or that type of situation,” Shaw said.
“I figured that if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it,” added Shaw, who has a four-year-old daughter.
A witness tells WKRN that he drove up to the Waffle House at the same time as the suspect and later saw Shaw get the gun from the suspect.
The witness did not go in immediately because the restaurant was packed. About 30 people were inside. The witness was waiting in his car.
The witness, whose name is Chuck, says he watched the gunman calmly get out of his truck and open fire, killing two people outside. Then he shot through the windows of the restaurant and walked inside.
Chuck saw the gunman shoot his friend, a cook he calls “T”. He was taking a smoke break outside when the shooting started.
Chuck says the gunman stopped shooting briefly to reload. At that moment a restaurant customer jumped the gunman and wrestled the gun away from him. Chuck calls that man a hero.
Police said Reinking was arrested last July by Secret Service for being in a restricted area near the White House.
— WKRN-TV contributed to this report