Man who confronted church shooter says he’s a survivor, not a hero

Stephen Willeford (KHOG)
Stephen Willeford (KHOG)

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — The NRA instructor who confronted the shooter in front of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on Sunday says he’s not a hero, but rather a survivor.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Stephen Willeford says the events that unfolded that morning were like “a slow motion movie.” The gunman, Devin Kelley, shot and killed 26 people and injured another 20.

When Willeford heard the gunshots from his nearby home, he grabbed his own AR-15 and ran towards the church barefoot. According to the statement, Kelley shot at Willeford twice and missed both times. However, Willeford is confident he hit the suspect. According to authorities, Kelley had three gunshot wounds, one of which they believe was self-inflicted.

“Unfolded like a slow motion movie.”

“I was scared to death. I was. I was scared for me, I was scared for every one of them, I was scared for my own family that lives less than a block away,” said Willeford in an interview with 40/29 News earlier this week. “I’m no hero. I am not.”

Willeford says all of the victims were his “neighbors, friends and family — his community.”

Willeford says while several GoFundMe pages have been setup — all without his permission — he would rather people donate to the First Baptist Church or to the families who lost loved ones in the shooting. He says he will not accept money out of this “tragic scenario.”

While Willeford spoke to 40/29 News, the statement indicates he won’t be granting any more interviews for the next couple of weeks. The downtime will allow he and his family to “process what has rocked their community and thrust Stephen into the limelight, which he has absolutely no desire to be in.”

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