While most in the shooting and gun-owning community are aware that a citizen armed with an AR-15 rifle shot the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church attacker, thereby stopping the attack, you won’t find widespread discussion of it in most so-called “mainstream” media outlets.
Fact is, Stephen Willeford, who lives just down the road from the church, was instrumental in stopping the attack. And though gun-haters don’t want to admit it, Willeford is a prime example of a good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun.
“I kept hearing those shots, and I knew every shot might be representing another person getting hit by a bullet.”On that fateful morning when a deranged gunman opened fire on worshippers in the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Willeford was at his home nearby. His daughter had heard the commotion and had driven her car down to the church to see what was happening. She raced back and told Willeford, “There’s a man in black tactical gear shooting up the Baptist church!”
Willeford, a lifelong resident of the close-knit community near San Antonio, knew he had to do something.
“Those people are my friends. Those people have known my family. Those people have been here for generations,” Willeford said in an interview with NRATV. “I kept hearing those shots, and I knew every shot might be representing another person getting hit by a bullet.”
Willeford sprang quickly into action.
“When my daughter ran in and said the man was in tactical gear with a helmet and body armor, I opened up the safe and pulled out an AR-15,” he said. “An AR-15 is much easier to handle and much easier to aim. I grabbed a handful of ammunition—I was hearing shot after shot after shot, and I didn't want to waste time loading a full magazine.”
With no time to even put on his shoes, Willeford ran barefoot out the door and positioned himself behind a neighbor’s pick-up for cover.
“I saw this gray SUV setting out front in the street, with the engine running and the driver's side door open,” he said. “And as soon as I came up behind the pickup truck—it was a neighbor's truck—[the attacker] came running from around the front of the SUV and turned to get into the SUV.”
All Willeford was able to see at that point was that the man had a pistol in one hand was wearing a bulletproof vest.
“He saw me and we exchanged gunfire,” Willeford said. “And he got in his vehicle and he shot two rounds through the side window. And I saw very distinctively two rounds come through the window.
“I shot through the window with my rifle and the window collapsed down when I did. I took another shot, and he drove off and turned down 539.”
“I stopped his aggression and made him run. I turned his fight into flight. I did what I had to do.”Police would later reveal that Willeford had hit the gunman twice. Nobody knows whether the killer intended to go back in and finish off the church members that weren’t already dead, but Willeford’s quick, heroic action didn’t leave him that option.
After the killer fled, Willeford flagged down a passing vehicle, and he and the driver chased the murderer at speeds up to 95 mph for several miles before he lost control and wrecked his pickup in a ditch. To avoid another firefight, the culprit turned his gun on himself, ending the tragedy.
While most people who know the facts of the incident have lauded Willeford as a hero, some in the left-wing media and gun-ban groups claim he didn’t play much of a factor in stopping the shooting. In fact, on one MSNBC panel program, New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor even claimed that Willeford did not shoot at the church shooter and did not stop his rampage.
Of course, what would you expect when one fake news source appears on programming hosted by another?
In the end, Willeford did what he felt he had to do with the best tool he had on hand—an AR-15—and likely saved many lives in the process. A fan of the saying “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he was thrust into a nightmarish situation and was able to make a difference when the chips were down.
“I stopped his aggression and made him run,” he said. “I turned his fight into flight. I did what I had to do.
“I never, ever thought that I would be that guy.”
Mark Chesnut has been the editor of America’s 1st Freedom magazine for 17 years and is an avid hunter, shooter and political observer.