Two men hailed as heroes for chasing down Texas church shooter
by Mickey McLean
Posted 11/06/17, 05:36 pm
Johnnie Langendorff was driving to his girlfriend’s house Sunday morning when he approached the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where he saw two men exchanging gunfire in front of the church. One of the men, dressed in black, drove off in a pearl-colored SUV. The other man, who was barefooted, approached Langendorff and quickly explained the situation. “He jumped in my truck and said, ‘He just shot up the church, we need to go get him,’” Langendorff told the Associated Press on Monday. “And I said, ‘Let’s go.’” The Dallas Morning News identified the barefooted man who confronted Devin Patrick Kelley—the suspect accused of killing 26 adults and children, including an unborn baby, and wounding 20 others—as Stephen Willeford, 55, a plumber who lives near the church. “I didn’t want this and I want the focus to be on my friends,” Willeford told reporter J. David McSwane. “I have friends in that church. I was terrified while this was going on.” According to his neighbors, Willeford is known as a “free spirit” who enjoys guns and motorcycles. Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said the man now identified as Willeford was armed with an “AR assault rifle and engaged” the shooter. The 27-year-old Langendorff, who is from Seguin and did not know Willeford, said he and his armed companion chased the suspect’s vehicle at speeds approaching 90 mph while staying in close contact with law enforcement. Kelley’s SUV eventually ran off the road and crashed near the county line. Langendorff said Willeford approached Kelley’s vehicle with his rifle, but the suspect did not move. Police officers, who arrived on the scene five minutes later, found Kelley dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Asked if he felt like a hero, Langendorff said, “I don’t really know how I feel. I just hope that the families and people affected by this can sleep easier knowing that this man is not breathing anymore and not able to hurt anyone else. I feel I just did what was right.”
Editor’s note: This article has been edited to reflect the correct number of deaths in Sunday’s shooting. On Tuesday, Nov. 7, officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety said their count of 26 deaths included the unborn child of Crystal Holcombe, who was pregnant when she and three of her other children were killed.
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Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, daughter, and a dog/administrative assistant named Daisy.