Ever since I posted Sunday night that a “good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy with a gun,” I’ve been beset by critics on Twitter and elsewhere claiming that I’m wrong. The Texas hero, Stephen Willeford, didn’t “stop” the Sutherland Springs shooter. The massacre was finished, they say. He may have helped apprehend the shooter, but he didn’t stop him.
There are two responses to this. First, even if the shooter was “finished” at the First Baptist Church, it’s quite a feat to divine that he was somehow “finished” committing murder. He was still armed and very, very dangerous. Willeford did indeed stop him. We can’t know if the shooter’s crimes were complete.
The second response relies on an eyewitness account that says Willeford actually interrupted the shooting. Here’s an excerpt of a powerful piece in the Washington Post. According to a wounded woman named Farida Brown, the shooter “paced back and forth, firing into the pews and shooting at cellphones.” Brown knew her time had come:
The gunman fired four shots into the torso of the woman on Farida Brown’s left, David Brown said.
“With every shot, she was crying,” he said of the woman. “She was just staring at my mom while she tried to comfort her.” As he fired rounds into the woman, Farida Brown held her hand, telling her she was heading to heaven.
Up to that point, Farida Brown had sustained only shots to her legs. But as the shooter fired into the woman next to her, she prepared to be slain.
“Then she thought that it was her turn,” David Brown told The Post. “She just started praying.”
But then, help arrived:
At that moment, she heard a shot fired from a different man, at the front door.
The other man was Stephen Willeford, who lives near the church. Willeford, a certified shooting instructor, grabbed his own rifle and raced out of his house barefoot.
Willeford modestly says that he’s not a hero. But he most certainly is. When the government failed — it failed to enforce its own laws, and its law enforcement officers couldn’t arrive in time to stop the slaughter — a private citizen stepped up. He risked his life to save those he could. Then he risked his life again to chase down a murderer on the run. So, yes, he stopped the Texas church massacre. We owe him our unreserved, unqualified thanks.