A gunman wearing only a jacket and carrying an assault-style rifle opened fire at a Waffle House in Nashville early on Sunday, killing four people and leaving the police searching for him and a motive, officials said.
The police said murder warrants were being drafted for the suspect, Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Ill., who remained at large.
Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, said at a news conference that Mr. Reinking pulled into the parking lot of a Waffle House in the Antioch neighborhood of Nashville around 3:19 a.m. in a pickup truck.
He sat in the vehicle for up to four minutes before getting out and using an “assault-type rifle” to fatally wound two people who were outside the restaurant, Mr. Aaron said.
The gunman went inside the restaurant and opened fire, killing another person.
A customer who heard the shots ran in the direction of the restrooms and watched the gunman. When the customer heard the shooting stop and saw Mr. Reinking look down at his rifle, he rushed the gunman, wrestled the weapon away and threw it over the counter, Mr. Aaron said.
“You had a citizen step up to intervene with an active shooter and that’s what this man did,” he said. “He is the hero here and no doubt he saved many lives.”
The mayor’s office identified the customer who intervened as James Shaw Jr. In an interview with The Tennessean, Mr. Shaw said he saw an opportunity to rush the gunman. He said he was unsure if the man was reloading or his weapon had jammed.
“It really wasn’t a process of thinking,” he said. “It was more so of a now, you have to do this now or if I let him load that weapon there wasn’t going to be another window, there wasn’t going to be another chance.”
The gunman, who was naked but for a green jacket, then fled and shed the jacket as he reached a corner not far from the Waffle House. Mr. Aaron said the jacket had an unspecified amount of additional ammunition.
Federal and other law enforcement agencies were aware of Mr. Reinking “due to previous interactions,” Mr. Aaron said, but he did not elaborate.
Court records in Illinois show a series of traffic violations dating to 2005 to which Mr. Reinking mostly pleaded guilty and paid a fine.