"I was scared for my own family, who live a half a block away", Willeford said, describing his instinct to run out of his house after his daughter told him someone was shooting up the church.
Stephen Willeford, a former NRA instructor, said in an interview Monday that he wouldn't have been able to stop the gunman with a pistol.
Willeford, a plumber with no military experience, shot Kelley at the church, officials said, and when Kelley fled, Willeford flagged down another nearby resident, Johnnie Langendorff, who chased Kelley at nearly 100 miles per hour in his truck. Willeford then took cover behind a pickup truck and returned fire at the shooter until Kelley fled in his pickup truck.
In a story November 6 about two men who chased down the Texas church shooter, The Associated Press misspelled in two instances the last name of one of the men. Kelley fatally shot 26 people and had just exited First Baptist Church when Willeford surprised him. "I knew every shot might be representing another person getting hit by a bullet".
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"I know I hit him", Willeford said.
Willeford, sans shoes but with his rifle in tow, then flagged down local resident Johnnie Langendorff and the pair pursued the wounded Kelley for 11 miles while on the phone with police.
Law enforcement would later say Willeford shot the killer twice, once in the leg and once in the torso.
Kepper and other neighbors said Willeford's family has been in the Sutherland Springs area for at least three generations, including a father and grandfather who were in dairy farming.
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He called Willeford a "free spirit" sort who loves motorcycles despite losing both parents to a motorcycle crash when he was a young adult. "AR-15 is much easier to handle and much easier to aim".
Willeford also said that he hid behind a truck, exchanging gunfire and hitting Kelley and that when the gunman fled, he and John Langendorff chased him in a auto.
Willeford came to a vigil Monday night in honor of the victims. "He was just the first one there", Kepper said. He lauded the "ordinary citizen" who engaged the gunman. "We need to be celebrating that bravery and courage", Cruz said.
"Those people are my friends. I was terrified while this was going on". Food that had been delivered to the house was stacked up on the front porch.
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