The mysterious man who shot the gunman who'd opened fire on a Texas church on Sunday has spoken out, calling the incident a “surreal” experience while claiming he is not a “hero.”
Stephen Willeford, of Sutherland Springs, told KHBS on Monday that he heard gunfire coming from the First Baptist Church nearby, and knew that each of the gunshots he heard “represented someone, that it was aimed at someone -- that they weren’t just random shots, more than likely.”
Willeford, reportedly a former NRA instructor, decided to take action -- even though he “was scared to death.” He grabbed a “handful of ammunition” and began to load his magazine as he heard the “very rapid shots, just pop, pop, pop.”
Willeford said that when he surveyed what was going on, he saw a man -- now known to be gunman Devin Patrick Kelley -- in a black tactical helmet and what he believed to be a bulletproof vest. He saw Kelley was holding a pistol, and the two exchanged gunfire.
“We exchanged gunfire and I know I hit him, I don’t know where I hit him, but I know I hit him,” Willeford told KHBS. Officials said Monday evening that an autopsy determined Kelley was shot by Willeford twice.
He said he got in his vehicle and fired some more shots before Kelley drove away.
Willeford said he saw Johnnie Langendorff was watching the incident go down from his own truck nearby. Willeford hopped in the truck with Johnnie and they chased after a speeding Kelley, and called 911.
The two finally reached Kelley’s SUV after a 95-mph chase. Kelley allegedly lost control and backed his SUV down into a ditch. Willeford was shouting at Kelley from the truck, telling him to “Get out of the truck!”
Willeford said he didn’t see any movement coming from Kelley’s vehicle but stayed put until police showed up five to seven minutes later.
Breaking down in tears, Willeford said he wasn’t a hero. He said that those killed or wounded in the shooting were his friends and family.
“I think my God, my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done,” he said. “I just wish I could’ve gotten there faster but I didn’t know, I didn’t know what was happening.”