Sutherland Springs, TX - A local plumber and avid biker became a hero on Sunday, when he grabbed his own rifle and confronted Devin Kelley, the shooter, after multiple victims had been shot inside the First Baptist Church.
Stephen Willeford, age 55, is a local plumber who received a call from his daughter while the mass shooting was in-progress, according to the New York Post.
She told him that a man wearing body armor was inside the church shooting worshippers.
Willeford didn't hesitate, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Chief Freeman Martin, who said, "Willeford grabbed his rifle and engaged the suspect."
He shot Kelley after he came face-to-face with the gunman as he came out of the church, hitting him through a gap in his body armor.
Kelley then fled, and Willeford knew he had to go after him to make sure no one else would be harmed.
An eyewitness told KENS5:
"Our neighbor [Willeford], he’s a very good guy, a very big Christian, he’s the nicest man on the planet, he’ll do anything for anyone around here. We’ve known him for years. He’s childhood friends with my dad.
He … came with his [gun], and he took cover behind a car, and he shot the guy. I'm not sure if it was inside the church or the guy was coming out, but if it wasn’t for him, the guy wouldn’t have stopped.
And then that’s when the guy got in his vehicle and drove off. And our friend shot through the window at him, trying to get him again, and then he apparently crashed down the road."
“If it wasn’t for our friend … there might have been more lives lost.”
After Willeford shot Kelley, the gunman dropped his assault rifle, according to police. Kelley fled, and Willeford jumped into a truck owned by resident Johnnie Langendorff, who said he witnessed the confrontation.
Kelley's father said that Kelley called him as he fled, and said that he had been shot and didn't think he was going to make it.
The two community heroes chased Kelley at speeds of up to 95 mph, until Kelley crashed his vehicle.
“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. 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."
Langendorff told KSAT that he didn't know Willeford before the incident, but he could see that he was in distress.
“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].
“So we were doing about 95 mph, going around traffic and everything."
“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."
Kelley was found dead in his vehicle.