Here at The Federalist Papers Project, we reported that a heroic neighbor confronted the gunman at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Because of his heroic action, the gunman fled the scene of the attack and did not shoot any more than he had already.
Until this point, only the man who drove the truck chasing the suspect was identified. Johnnie Langendorff spoke to the media, describing the chase with the neighbor in the passenger seat, after having explained that the suspect had just shot up the church.
“I pulled up to the intersection where the shooting happened, and I saw two men exchanging gunfire, the other being a citizen of the community,” Johnnie Langendorff told local station KSAT.
“The shooter of the church had taken off and fled in his vehicle. The other gentleman came and he said we needed to pursue him, that he just shot up the church. So that’s what I did.”
The neighbor was not identified for some time, but now we know who this man is that bravely confronted the attacker and saved countless lives according to Texas law enforcement. His name is Stephen Willeford, The Daily Mail is reporting.
Stephen Willeford, 55, confronted gunman Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, when he was leaving First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, wounding him, before he and Johnnie Langendorff, 27, chased him in a car after he fled.
During the 95mph car chase, Kelley lost control of his vehicle and ran off the road, before shooting himself in the head.
Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said Willeford, a keen biker, had ‘grabbed his rifle and engaged the suspect’.
A local resident told DailyMail.com that Willeford, who attends a different church, was first alerted to the shooting when his daughter called him saying there was a man in body armor gunning down church goers during mass.
He grabbed his gun and headed down to confront the gunman.
Willeford does not have a military background, nor was he ever a law enforcement officer. He’s just a hell of a good shot, even under immense pressure. For anyone who carries or has a firearm for personal protection, they will know that shooting under pressure is difficult.
The good news here is that Willeford is an excellent shot, even in this incredibly high pressure situation. He hit the suspect between his body armor, striking him in the side. When he was shot, the suspect then fled to his vehicle and drove off. It was a moment after that Willeford flagged down Johnnie Langendorff and then proceeded to chase him down until he finally stopped dead 11 miles down the road.
The two men came to each other at just the right moment. As Langendorff told Good Morning America, “It seemed everybody had headed up to the church. I’m not sure if anybody really realized that he had left and gone that direction.”
He added that he didn’t “freak out” about what was happening, saying that “It was an act now, ask questions later kind of deal.”
Thank God that these two sprung into action when it mattered the most. The ones who were right there at the scene of the attack were the ones who halted it before more lives were lost. May we all be ready to act as these brave men did in the most trying moment of their lives.