On Sunday morning, a masked gunman opened fire on a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, leaving 26 people dead and dozens more injured. If not for the actions of an armed local hero, the death toll could have been even worse.
In a press briefing last night, Freeman Martin, a Texas Rangers major and spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, provided a timeline of the event.
At approximately 11:20 Sunday morning, the suspect was seen at a Valero gas station in Sutherland Springs, Texas. According to witnesses, he was dressed in all-black, tactical-type gear with a ballistic vest.
He drove across the street, got out of his vehicle and began firing at the front of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. The weapon was later identified by police as a Ruger AR-15 rifle.
He moved around to the right side of the building and continued to fire. He then entered the church and fired upon the congregation, which neighbors say is usually around 50 people.
He then came back out of the church and a brave local resident — identified by witnesses as 55-year-old plumber, Stephen Willeford — engaged the suspect with his own rifle, causing the suspect to drop his weapon. The suspect ran to his car and began firing back at Mr. Willeford with a pistol.
Mr. Willeford and a second citizen who had just pulled over in his truck, Johnnie Langendorff, apparently pursued the suspect, who was found dead by police officers a short time after at the Wilson-Guadalupe County line.
A local resident and neighbor of Mr Willeford, Kevin Jordan, described the event to news reporters on the scene.
“Our neighbor, he’s a very good guy, a very big Christian, he’s the nicest man on the planet. He’d do anything for anyone around here. We’ve known him for years, he’s childhood friends of my dad.
He came with his [gun], he took cover behind a car and he shot the guy. I’m not sure if it was inside the church or when the guy was coming out, but if it weren’t for him, the guy wouldn’t have stopped.
That’s when the guy got in his vehicle and drove off, and our friend shot through the window at him, trying to get him again. Then he apparently crashed down the road.”
Police are reporting that the shooter was shot by Mr. Willeford. They have records of a phone call to his father, who he reported told that he’d been shot and didn’t think he was going to make it. Officers later discovered multiple weapons and potential explosives inside the suspect’s SUV, indicating he may have been planning to continue his massacre beyond the church. Despite what may have been a life threatening wound from Mr. Willeford, evidence at the scene indicates that Kelley’s actual death may have been self-inflicted.
The suspected shooter is believed to be Devin Patrick Kelley, a former U.S. Air Force airman from a town near to San Antonio. Mr. Kelley was apparently court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of assault on his wife and assault on his child. He received a bad conduct discharge and 12 months confinement.
Former classmates told news reporters that Kelley was a loner and atheist who hated Christians and believed they are stupid. Some alternative media outlets have also identified him as an Antifa member, but this rumor has not been substantiated. Two people told reporters they had blocked him on Facebook due to his frequent posts mocking Christians.