The neighbor being hailed as a hero for preventing even more carnage in the small Texas town was a longtime NRA member and former instructor who pulled out an AR-15 to engage the mass murderer.
Stephen Willeford, 55, said he was at his Sutherland Springs home Sunday when his daughter alerted him that she'd heard gunfire at the First Baptist Church nearby.
Willeford said he loaded his magazine and ran barefoot across the street to the church where he saw gunman Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, and exchanged gunfire.
The hero who stopped the gunman behind the deadly Texas church massacre said using an AR-15 enabled him to end the bloodshed. "Pop!' - and I knew every one of those shots represented someone, that it was aimed at someone, that they weren't just random shots", Willeford said Monday during an interview with television stations KHBS/KHOG in Fort Smith and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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"When he turned to get in the SUV, I saw he had a pistol in one hand, he had a bulletproof vest", Willeford told NRA TV, noting that he couldn't see the killer's face because of the gear he was wearing.
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. "I just wished I could've gotten there faster".
"I was panicking because I heard the return fire - I heard and I couldn't quite see him", Stephanie said.
Langendorff told KSAT that Willeford "came to my vehicle in distress with his weapon" and said " 'we need to pursue him.
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Law enforcement arrived at the scene and it's believed that the gunman took his own life.
Martin later praised Willeford and Langendorff: "The number one goal of law enforcement is to neutralize the shooter". "I ran out with an AR-15 and that's what he was shooting the place up with". He told KHBS his family has lived in Sutherland Springs for four generations and he has several friends who attend the church.
"Stephen is the best shot that I know", Leonard told CNN.
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