Officials confirmed former NRA instructor Stephen Willeford as the hero who shot at and pursued the gunman responsible for the Sutherland Springs church massacre.
Willeford, a Texas resident who lives near First Baptist Church where gunman Devin Kelley killed 26 people, said he grabbed his gun and ran, shoe-less, to stop the murder after his daughter burst into the house and told him of the ongoing shooting, according to 40/29 News. Willeford’s daughter told him she saw a man garbed in black, tactical clothing enter First Baptist Church and heard gunshots follow shortly afterward. Without hesitation, 55-year-old Willeford loaded his rifle and rushed outside across the street to stop the madness, knowing that every shot he heard potentially meant another death in the church.
“I kept hearing the shots, one after another, very rapid shots – just ‘pop pop pop pop’ and I knew every one of those shots represented someone, that it was aimed at someone, that they weren’t just random shots,” Willeford told 40/29.
Willeford came face-to-face with Kelley and the two began exchanging fire, with Willeford using a truck for cover. The gunfight continued until Willeford shot Kelley in the side through a gap in Kelley’s body armor, according to The Telegraph.
“I know I hit him,” Willeford told 40/29. “He got into his vehicle, and he fired another couple rounds through his side window. When the window dropped, I fired another round at him again.”
Willeford then jumped into a car with bystander Johnnie Langendorff, telling him “That guy just shot up the Baptist church. We need to stop him.”
Willeford and Langendorff pursued Kelley as he fled in a car chase that hit speeds of up to 95 miles per hour before Kelley crashed. Willeford exited his car, gun trained on Kelley’s vehicle, and shouted for him to get out of the car. Kelley never moved again, however, as authorities found him dead in his car upon arrival to the scene.
Willeford, who works as a plumber, denies claims that he is a hero. despite stopping Kelley’s massacre.
“I think my God, my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done,” Willeford said. Willeford’s intervention ended the worst church shooting in American history.
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