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Heroes chased shooter

A former National Rifle Association instructor who grabbed his rifle and ran barefoot across the street to open fire on the gunman who slaughtered 26 people at a small-town Texas church was hailed as a hero Monday, along with the pickup truck driver who helped chase the killer down.

Stephen Willeford, 55, said he was at his Sutherland Springs home Sunday when his daughter alerted him that she'd heard gunfire at the First Baptist Church nearby. Willeford said he immediately retrieved his rifle from his weapon safe.

"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," Willeford told KHBS/KHOG.

Willeford said he loaded his magazine and ran barefoot across the street to the church where he saw gunman Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, and exchanged gunfire.

"He saw me and I saw him," Willeford said. "I was standing behind a pickup truck for cover. I know I hit him. He got into his vehicle, and he fired another couple rounds through his side window. When the window dropped, I fired another round at him again."

As Kelley sped away, Willeford said he ran to a pickup truck stopped an intersection and told the driver, "That guy just shot up the Baptist church. We need to stop him."

The driver, Johnnie Langendorff, said he had been driving to Sutherland Springs on Sunday to pick up his girlfriend when a man who'd been exchanging gunfire with Kelley suddenly landed inside his truck.

"He jumped in my truck and said, 'He just shot up the church, we need to go get him.' And I said, 'Let's go,'" Langendorff, a 27-year-old Seguin resident, told The Associated Press on Monday, adding that the ensuing pursuit eventually clocked speeds upwards of 90 mph.

Willeford said he and Langendorrf kept a 911 operator advised as the high-speed pursuit continued. He said Kelley ultimately hit a road sign and flipped his vehicle into a roadside ditch.

Willeford said he then exited Langendorrf's pickup, perched his rifle on the rooftop and trained it on Kelley's vehicle. He then yelled: "Get out of the truck! Get out of the truck!" But Kelley did not move.

Langendorff said police arrived about five minutes later. Based on evidence at the scene, investigators believe Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"There was no thinking about it," Langendorff said. "There was just doing. That was the key to all this. Act now. Ask questions later."



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