Hero in Church Massacre Says He Was 'Scared To Death' While Pursuing Shooter

News - Inside Edition Staff

Stephen Willeford has been hailed as the hero in the Texas church massacre.

But in a recent interview, the retired plumber who engaged shooter Devin Kelley freely admits he's no Superman.

"I was scared to death," Willeford said in a Tuesday interview with KHBS/KHOG.

That fear, though, didn't stop the ex-NRA instructor from leaping into action when shots rang out from inside First Baptist Church.

Willeford said he was at home in Sutherland Springs when his daughter heard gunfire at the church. He grabbed his rifle, loaded it and ran barefoot to the church.

He said he then stationed himself behind a pickup truck and exchanged fire with the gunman.

"I know I hit him," Willeford recalled.

Kelley would later be found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the head, as well as two other bullet wounds.

Before that happened, however, Willeford said Kelley jumped in his vehicle and fled the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in modern Texas history.

Undaunted, Willeford said he ran to a pickup truck and asked a driver, later identified as Johnnie Langendorff, to help him.

The two men pursued Kelley until his vehicle hit a road sign and flipped into a ditch.

Willeford said he got out of the truck, perched his rifle on the truck's rooftop and yelled, "Get out of the truck," but saw no movement.

Law enforcement arrived at the scene and it's believed that the gunman took his own life.

In a moment of intense sorrow, Willeford's bravery is a glimmer of hope for grief-stricken residents of tiny Sutherland Springs.

And the hero grieves with them.

"People of that church... they're friends of mine, they're family. And every time I heard a shot, I knew that that probably represented a life," Willeford said. "I just wished I could've gotten there faster."