When the gunman had shot as many people as he could, he went outside to his truck to reload. That’s when he ran into Stephen Willeford, the good guy of this story..
Willeford is what we call a “good guy with a gun.” He was in his home next door to the church when his daughter came into the bedroom and told him there were gunshots coming from the First Baptist Church Sunday morning.
A plumber, and former NRA instructor, got his rifle out of his safe while his daughter looked out the window. She said she saw a man in tactical gear shooting up the church.
“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 said.
He loaded his rifle and ran across the street – not taking the time to put his shoes on. When Willeford saw the man, he fired at him.
“He saw me and I saw him,” Willeford said. “I was standing behind a pickup truck for cover.”
“I know I hit him,” Willeford said. “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.”
Willeford is a marksman – what years of training, practice and being an NRA firearms instructor will do – he shot the gunman in the seam between his tactical vest, where he was most vulnerable.
The gunman got in his truck and sped down the highway. Willeford then saw a pickup truck at a stop sign. He flagged the driver down, saying “That guy just shot up the Baptist church. We need to stop him.”
Racing down the road at 95 miles per hour to catch up, they called 911 to tell the police they were in pursuit.
Eventually, they caught up to the gunman’s truck. He slowed down, then sped up and hit a road sign. The vehicle flipped and went into a ditch.
A barefoot Willeford got out of the truck and put his rifle on the roof. He yelled “get out of the truck!” but there was never any movement.
Willeford tells 40/29 News he’s no hero.
“I think my God, my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done,” Willeford said.
The massacre killed 4 percent of the entire population of Sutherland Springs. Nobody who was in the church that morning came out unscathed, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said.
“I think nearly everyone had some type of injury,” the sheriff told reporters Monday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the slaughter “the largest mass shooting” in the state’s history and ordered flags to fly at half-staff across the state Monday.
Willeford wasn’t a special person – he was a “good guy with a gun,” who knew how to use it. Almost 30 people were murdered Sunday morning. 20 more were injured. If the shooter had been allowed to reload and head back into that church, that would be 20 more dead.
Surely, the world should be grateful that Stephen Willeford had a gun – and knew how to use it.