(NEW YORK POST) – The rifle-toting local hero who stopped the Texas church shooter mid-massacre has spoken out for the first time — confessing he was “scared to death” when confronting the man he’d just heard gun down dozens of friends.
“The people at that church, they’re friends of mine and family. Every time I heard a shot I knew that that probably represented a life,” said Stephen Willeford in an emotional interview with ABC affiliate 40/29 News.
“I was scared to death. I was.”
The Sutherland Springs man, a former National Rifle Association trainer, said his daughter first alerted him to the gunshots coming from the nearby First Baptist Church on Sunday morning.
He grabbed his rifle from his safe and ran across the street without his shoes on.
“I kept hearing the shots, one after another, very rapid shots — just ‘pop pop pop pop’ and I knew every one of those shots represented someone, that it was aimed at someone, that they weren’t just random shots,” he told the local news outlet.
Using a pickup truck for cover, he exchanged gunfire with shooter Devin Kelley, landing a blow, before the madman retreated to his own vehicle.
“He fired another couple rounds through his side window. When the window dropped, I fired another round at him again,” Willeford said.
That’s when Kelley sped off — so he ran to a nearby car and asked asked the driver to help him take chase.
On the highway they called 911 and tailed Kelley’s getaway vehicle — but just as they were closing in, the shooter floored his truck — then hit a stop sign and flipped into a ditch, Willeford said.
When the cops arrived, they found Kelley dead.
Willeford has been hailed for his heroic actions in the wake of the tragedy, but he says it’s God who deserves all the thanks.
“I think my God, my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done,” Willeford told 40/29 News.