The neighbor gunman who stopped the Texas church shooter on Sunday morning has broken his silence to say through tears that he doesn’t consider himself a hero, but that he was just doing what needed to be done.
Stephen Willeford, 55, confronted Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, as he left First Baptist Church Of Sutherland Springs, wounding him, before he and Johnnie Langendorff, 27, chased him in a car after he fled.
During the 95mph car chase, Kelley lost control of his vehicle and ran off the road, before shooting himself in the head. He called his father shortly before to say he had been shot and didn’t think he was going to make it.
Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said Willeford ran out his home barefoot with his rifle and ‘engaged the suspect’.
He has since been praised as a hero by churchgoers and police, but, speaking out for the first time since the morning tragedy, told KHBS he doesn’t think of himself like that.
‘I’m no hero. All I want to stress today, is the people at that church, they’re friends of mine, they’re family, and every time I heard a shot I knew that probably represented a life.’
A local resident told DailyMail.com that Willeford, who attends a different church, was first alerted to the shooting when his daughter called him saying there was a man in body armor gunning down church goers during mass.
He grabbed his gun and headed down to confront the gunman.
And in that moment, he told KHBS with tears rolling down his face that he was ‘scared to death.
‘I was scared for me and I was scared for every one of them, and I was scared for my own family that lived less than a block away.
‘I think my god, my lord, protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done.
‘And I just wish I could’ve gotten there faster. But I didn’t know, I didn’t know what was happening.’
Willeford, a local plumber with no military experience, is however an excellent shot according to the resident, and when he came face to face with Kelley, he shot in between his body armor, hitting him in his side.
At this point Langendorff, who has a tattoo of a Texas Longhorn on his neck and who was headed to his girlfriend’s house, came across the exchange of fire.
When Kelley dropped his Ruger assault rifle and fled in an SUV, Willeford came up to Langendorff and hopped in his truck.
‘The neighbor with the rifle came to my truck and he opened my door and said, “He shot up the church”, and got in,’ Langendorff told Good Morning America. ‘He said, “Chase him” so that’s what I did. I just chased him.
‘It seemed everybody had headed up to the church. I’m not sure if anybody really realized that he had left and gone that direction.’
He added that he did not ‘freak out’ about the situation, adding: ‘It was an act now, ask questions later kind of deal.’
In a separate interview, Langendorff told KSAT 12 that he’d been speeding at 95mph, while on the phone to dispatch, while Willeford kept his rifle trained on the gunman’s car.
As they approached a sharp curve in the road, near the 307 and 539, he said Kelley appeared to lose control and his car swerved off the road.
‘That’s when I put the truck in park,’ he said. ‘The other gentleman jumped out, and had his rifle on him. He didn’t move after that.’