Former NRA instructor Stephen Willeford is being hailed a hero for chasing down the man accused of opening fire at a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church, killing 26.
Willeford, whose family has lived in the area for four generations, spoke out about his confrontation with the 26-year-old suspect, saying that after he heard the shots from the nearby First Baptist Church, he grabbed his rifle and ran to the building barefoot. When he saw the suspected shooter, dressed in black tactical gear, he didn’t hesitate and fired.
“He saw me and I saw him,” Willeford told ABC affiliate KHOG. “I was standing behind a pickup truck for cover.”
Willeford added: “I know I hit him. 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.”
As the suspect pulled away in his car, Willeford stopped a pickup truck to ask for help, according to KHOG. “We need to stop him,” Willeford said he told the driver. They then proceeded to follow the suspect, calling 911 from the road.
As they caught up to the alleged gunman, the suspect’s vehicle accelerated and hit a road sign before flipping over into a ditch, according to KHOG.Willeford told KHOG that he yelled “get out of the truck, get out of the truck,” but never saw any movement. The suspect took his own life, according to officials.
Asked about his heroics, Willeford only thanked God for giving him the courage to pursue the suspect. “I think my God, my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done,” he said.
Devin Kelley, the gunman accused of carrying out Sunday’s deadly church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was convicted by a military court in 2012 on charges of assault and aggravated assault on his then-wife and a child, which should have prevented him from purchasing firearms, an Air Force official said Monday.
The mass shooting was neither racially nor religiously motivated, authorities said at a news conference this morning, noting there was a “domestic situation” within the suspect’s family.