by WorldTribune Staff, November 6, 2017
A citizen who Texas Rangers said “grabbed his rifle and engaged the suspect” is being hailed as a hero after he shot the gunman who had opened fire in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
The armed citizen, Stephen Willeford, managed to shoot Devin Kelley through a gap in Kelley’s body armor, the Daily Mail reported. Kelley killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church.
After confronting the gunman, Willeford jumped into another man’s truck and they chased Kelley down.
An area resident told the Daily Mail that Willeford learned of the shooting at the First Baptist Church when his daughter called to say a man clad in body armor was shooting worshipers.
Related: Stephen Willeford was there with an AR-15 and what if he had not been? Nov. 6, 2017
The resident said that although Willeford, a plumber, has no military background, he didn’t hesitate when he came face to face with the suspect and managed to squeeze off a round that struck the gunman, who had dropped his Ruger AR-15 variant.
Kelley had taken a hostage in his SUV’s passenger seat before fleeing, the resident said.
Willeford jumped into a truck driven by another local, Johnnie Langendorff, who witnessed the confrontation, and the pair gave chase.
Langendorff later told reporters about the pursuit.
“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,” he said.
“The shooter of the church had taken off, fled in his vehicle, and the other gentleman came and he said, ‘We need to pursue him,’ that he just shot up the church. So that’s what I did. I just acted.”
He said he didn’t know who the heroic citizen was at the time.
“He was just a member of the community, and whenever he came to my vehicle in distress with his weapon, he explained very quickly what happened and he got in the truck and I knew it was just time [to go],” he said, KSAT reported.
“So we were doing about 95 mph, going around traffic and everything,” he added.
“Eventually he came to kind of a slowdown and after that, we got within just a few feet of him and he got off the road … He just lost control and that’s whenever I put the vehicle in park … The other gentleman jumped out and had his rifle drawn on him and he didn’t move after that,” he said.
Langendorff’s girlfriend, Summer Caddel, said Kelley died a few feet away from Langendorff.
The local man, who knows both Willeford and Langendorff, said Willeford made sure Kelley’s hostage was outside the vehicle when they approached the SUV, the Daily Mail reported.
But he said Kelley was already dead when they found him.
“He was bleeding pretty bad,” the resident told the news outlet of Kelley while he was driving. “He didn’t live much longer than that.”