The two heroes who helped chase down and subdue Texas church shooter Devin Kelley are worthy of our praises, though the duo are surely also in need of something else entirely: our prayers.
Stephen Willeford, 55, has spoken out in great detail over the past week, explaining his brave effort to subdue Kelley after the gunman killed 26 people at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs; he also credited God with protecting him.
To recap a bit more: Willeford hopped in a vehicle driven by a 27-year-old guy named Johnnie Langendorff after exchanging gunfire with Kelley, and the two bravely chased Kelley before police say he took his own life.
“I’m no hero. I am not,” Willeford told KHBS-TV. “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 gotten there faster.”
There was a sense of deep emotion, as he recounted what happened, shared his fears and openly wished he could have reached the site sooner. It’s clear that Willeford was deeply impacted by his involvement in the incident, and that matters.
Too often, we simply stop at praising people like Willeford, dubbing them heroes, cheering for them and then promptly moving on without going a bit deeper.
It has become clearer and clearer as these traumatic events unfold that there’s a horrific toll not only on victims and survivors, but also on first responders and those like Willeford and Langendorff who intervene to try and stop the carnage.
So, as we pray for and remember those inside the church on Sunday who survived and those who are mourning the lives lost, let’s also remember and pray for Willeford, Langendorff and the first responders.
At least one of Willeford’s friends has spoken out and shed light on the struggles the hero has faced in the wake of the church attack. John Wood, a retired pastor, revealed that Willeford is a “faithful Christian” who was quite shaken up by all that unfolded on Sunday.
“That PTSD is going to be something that’s with him and the whole family for a while,” Wood told The Christian Chronicle. “He is a blessing to many. They need lots of prayers and blessings to get through this situation themselves.”
Wood recalled how he spoke with Willeford right after the incident and before any police arrived.
“He called me and said, ‘I just killed a man,'” Wood explained, before diving deeper into Willeford’s faith. “He has the character of a man. In everything he does, God is glorified.”