Texas Man Who Bravely Confronted Church Shooter Says He's No Hero

He was barefoot at the time.

Editor's note: A Plus does not publish the names of mass shooters in an effort to combat mass shooting contagion. Throughout this piece, we will refer to the alleged perpetrator of this attack as the suspect.

Stephen Willeford was at home in Sutherland Springs, Texas — his family's home for four generations — on Sunday when his daughter came into his bedroom and told him she heard gunfire at the nearby First Baptist Church. He didn't even put on his shoes. He just got his rifle from his safe and ran across the street, brave in the face of senseless violence.


"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 KHBS-TV, an ABC affiliate based in Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Ark.

"I was scared to death. I was scared for me. I was scared for every one of them. I was scared for my own family, who live less than a block away."

As we now know, Willeford was witnessing the deadliest mass shooting in recorded Texas history, one that claimed the life of 26 people in the small town about 30 miles east of San Antonio.

Once he neared the church, Willeford came face to face with the suspect and sprang into action. Standing behind a pickup truck for cover, he exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who then fled the scene by truck. Willeford flagged down another motorist, Johnnie Langendorff, and the two men pursued the suspect at speeds of up to 95 miles per hour. Willeford and Langendorff called 911 during the chase and provided information to the cops.

Eventually, the suspect's vehicle flipped, and Willeford saw no movement. The suspect is believed to have died by suicide.

Willeford and Langendorff later reunited and hugged at Sutherland Springs' candlelight vigil on November 6.

"It takes a lot of courage, and we're thankful," one Sutherland Springs resident said of the men's heroism in an interview with Central Texas NBC affiliate KAGS-TV. "And something good will come of this, even though we don't see it."

Meanwhile, talking to KHBS-TV, Willeford rejected the the idea that he's a hero. "I am not," he said. "I think my God, my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done. I just wish I could have gotten there faster."


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