A sharpshooting plumber fired the shot which hit a gap in the body armor of Texas church shooter Devin Kelley, inflicting the wound which would eventually kill him.
Stephen Willeford learned from his daughter that a man clad in body armor was on a rampage in the nearby church.
Willeford “grabbed his rifle and engaged the suspect” said Texas Department of Public Safety chief Freeman Martin.
Willeford ran into Kelley as the shooter left the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church, where he had just killed 26 people.
Willeford, a 55-year-old motorcycle enthusiast, had no particular training in firearms combat; he had never been in the military. Yet when confronted with a hostile gunman, he didn’t hesitate. He squeezed off a quick shot, hitting a gap in Kelley’s armor. Kelley dropped his gun and fled to his vehicle.
Another resident, Johnnie Langendorff, was passing the church in his pick-up truck and saw the whole scene.
“I pulled up to the intersection where the shooting happened and I saw two men exchanging gunfire, the other being a citizen of the community,” Langendorff explained.
“The shooter of the church had taken off, fled in his vehicle, and the other gentleman came and he said, ‘We need to pursue him,’ that he just shot up the church. So that’s what I did. I just acted.”
Langendorff didn’t recognize Willeford—he just knew that he was a local.
“He was just a member of the community, and whenever he came to my vehicle in distress with his weapon, he explained very quickly what happened and he got in the truck and I knew it was just time [to go].”
The two townsmen charged off after the fleeing killer, speeding through traffic.
“We were doing about 95 mph, going around traffic and everything,” said Langendorff.
Langendorff said he was on the radio with the police dispatcher throughout the pursuit, relaying information.
After eleven miles of hot pursuit, Kelley lost control while trying to round a sharp left turn.
“Eventually he came to kind of a slowdown and after that, we got within just a few feet of him and he got off the road … He just lost control and that’s when I put the vehicle in park … The other gentleman jumped out and had his rifle drawn on him and he didn’t move after that.”
The police arrived several minutes later.
Langendorff said Kelley was nearly dead when he and Willeford reached the car.
“He was bleeding pretty bad,” Langendorf said of Kelley. “He didn’t live much longer than that.”
Public Safety chief Freeman Martin confirmed Kelley was found dead at the scene.
The police official said at the time they were “not sure if it was self-inflicted or if he was shot by a local resident.”
Kelley, 26, served two years in the Air Force starting in 2010. In 2012 he was court-martialed for beating his wife and child. He spent twelve months in a military prison and was discharged for bad conduct.
He had also been charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty on Aug. 1, 2014, when he lived in a mobile home park near Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was given a deferred probationary sentence and was ordered to pay $368 in restitution. The charge was dismissed in March 2016 after he completed his sentence.