Sutherland Springs Hero is a Certified NRA Instructor
After Joy Reid tweeted that the NRA was “soaked and bathed in blood” and asked “how its adherents sleep at night,” she might be interested to know that the Sutherland Springs hero who shot the suspect is a member and certified NRA instructor. If it weren’t for the intervention of Stephen Willeford, there may have been no one left alive at the tiny rural church.
Willeford was alerted to the situation at First Baptist Church by his daughter, who told him that shots were being fired at the church. He didn’t even take the time to put his shoes on when he responded. In an interview with KHBS/KHOG, he stated:
“I didn’t have any time, because I kept hearing the shots, one after another, at a time, very rapid shots, just pop, pop, pop. And I knew every one of those shots represented someone, that it was aimed at someone, that they just weren’t random shots, more than likely. I grabbed a handful of ammunition and started loading my magazine.
And I’m trying to survey the situation, not knowing what’s going on; and then I saw a man in a black tactical helmet with a dark-shaded helmet on, and obviously looked to me like it was a bulletproof vest. He had a pistol in his hand, and we exchanged gunfire.
And I was standing behind a pickup truck for cover, and we exchanged fire. He saw me, and I saw him, I’m like, it was surreal to me; it couldn’t be happening. I couldn’t believe it. I know I hit him. He got into his vehicle, and he fired another couple rounds through his side window. When the window dropped, I fired another round at him again.
We chased him down 539, and when we first started chasing him he was out of sight. And the man driving the truck, I found out later his name is Johnny; he was driving at a high rate of speed. We were trying to pass cars to catch up. We called 911 and we were talking to 911.
I was scared for me, and I was scared for every one of them; I was scared for my own family that lived just less than a block away.
I’m no hero; I am not. I think my God, my Lord, protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done. And I just wish I could have got there faster.” Stephen Willeford
Johnnie Langendorf was the man who drove the pickup for Willeford as they chased the suspect until he hit a sign and flipped into a field to stop. Willeford jumped out of Langendorf’s truck and yelled at the suspect to get out of the vehicle, but there was no movement, according to NPR. When police arrived, the suspect was dead, possibly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, although the exact cause has not been determined.
Is Stephen Willeford a hero? Absolutely. Every true hero overcomes their own fears to run toward danger. How about Langendorf? He’s a hero too…he had no idea what was going on, but when advised of it, he drove that pickup as fast as he could to help.
“A hero is someone who voluntarily walks into the unknown.” Tom Hanks
Training is important, and the NRA offers courses to facilitate both gun handling and range safety. Here’s an example from one of our Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children members who is an NRA certified instructor.