Stephen Willeford, the man credited with stopping the massacre at a Texas church on Sunday morning, says that he’s heartbroken and that he’s no hero.
“The people of that church, they’re friends of mine, they’re family. And every time I heard a shot, I knew that probably represented a life,” Willeford told KHBS in his first televised interview.
“I was scared to death. I was,” he said. “I was scared for me. I was scared for them. I was scared for my own family that lived a block away.”
Yet Willeford grabbed his own weapon and engaged the church shooter, identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, in a shootout outside the church, striking the killer at least twice.
“It was surreal to me,” Willeford said of the moments when he responded, barefooted, to the sound of gunfire at the church. “It couldn’t be happening. I couldn’t believe it. We exchanged gunfire. I know I hit him. I don’t know where, but I know I hit him. He got into his vehicle, and he fired another couple of rounds through his side window, and I fired another round at him as he was pulling away.”
As Kelley drove away, Willeford enlisted Johnnie Langendorff and his pickup to chase after the gunman. Kelley crashed on a rural highway and died of what has been ruled a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“I am not a hero,” Willeford said. “I think my Lord, my God, protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done. I wish that I could have gotten there faster.”