As details about yesterday’s shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas started trickling out, witnesses and police sources shared how one brave man with a rifle confronted and shot suspected killer Devin Kelly, forcing him to flee.
A high-speed pursuit ensued, which ended when Kelly’s car crashed into a ditch. Police said they found Kelly dead in his vehicle, but it isn’t clear how he died.
However, two men who reportedly helped stop the shooter are now being hailed as selfless heros – “good guys with guns” who potentially saved dozens of lives by stopping the killer before he could murder more innocent people. As Sheriff Joe Tackitt pointed out in an interview with CNN, “there’s another church right down the road,” suggesting that the killer could’ve headed there next after murdering more than half of First Baptist’s congregation if he had not been stopped.
My San Antonio is now reporting that the man who confronted Kelly outside the church is Stephen Willeford, a sharp-shooting plumber with no military background who managed to shoot Kelly – who was reportedly dressed in tactical gear – prompting him to flee the scene. Earlier media reports identified Willeford as being a neighbor of the church.
As Willeford exchanged gunfire with Kelly outside the church, a second man – identified as Johnny Langendorff – pulled over when he witnessed the carnage and saw Kelly speed off. Willeford saw Langendorff and quickly rushed to his car.
Here’s more from My San Antonio:
Johnny Langendorff was one of the men who chased after suspected killer Devin Kelley, a 26-year-old from Comal County, he told KSAT in a television interview.
"I pulled up to the intersection where the shooting happened and I saw two men exchanging gunfire," Langendorff said, noting the shooter and another local were shooting at each other.
Once the gunman fled the church grounds in his vehicle, Langendorff said the other man came to his car.
"The other gentleman said we needed to pursue (the shooter) because he shot up the church," he said. "So that's what I did. I just acted."
“So we were doing about 95 mph, going around traffic and everything,” he added.
The pair chased the man down FM 539 headed North before the shooter lost control and ran off the roadway. Langendorff said the other man with him jumped out of the car and drew his rifle on Kelley.
"He didn't move after that," Langendorff said.
According to the New York Post, Texas Department of Public Safety chief Freeman Martin said Willeford “grabbed his rifle and engaged the suspect” after Kelley left the First Baptist Church. An area resident told the paper that Willeford, an avid biker who attends another church, learned about the shooting when his daughter called to say a man clad in body armor was shooting worshipers.
The local said that although Willeford 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 local man told the paper.
Devin Patrick Kelley
According to Langendorff, it took cops about five to seven minutes to arrive. In the meantime, they kept a gun trained on Kelley.
“The police arrived and they pushed us back and they took care of the rest,” he said.
Langendorff’s girlfriend, Summer Caddel, said Kelley died a few feet away from Langendorff.
The local man, who knows both heroes, said Willeford made sure Kelley’s hostage was outside the vehicle when they approached the SUV.
Authorities are now reporting that between 12 and 14 children were among the 26 fatalities of the shooting. Another 20 people were injured. Police said not all of the victims were shot inside the church, but declined to elaborate.
Yesterday’s church shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history, and the deadliest shooting at a church in US history.
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