With the death toll at 26, Stephen Willeford confronted — and shot — the Sutherland Springs gunman.
Third Place, In-depth Coverage, Associated Church Press
By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle
Heroes need prayers, too.
To many, Willeford’s actions outside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs made him a hero.
But the hero, who is described as a faithful Christian, was distraught when he called Wood at his Ohio home right after confirming gunman Devin Patrick Kelley’s death.
“I talked to him immediately after it happened, basically before any of the law enforcement arrived,” Wood — a retired Church of Christ minister and Air Force chaplain — told The Christian Chronicle. “He called me and said, ‘I just killed a man.’”
Texas Department of Public Safety Cmdr. Freeman Martin told reporters that an armed citizen, identified as Willeford, shot Kelley in the leg and torso. However, an autopsy indicated that a third shot — a self-inflicted wound to the head — likely killed Kelley.
Wood had just gotten home from worship at the Xenia Church of Christ in the Buckeye State when his phone rang.
The longtime preacher said he relied on his training in counseling as he comforted Willeford, who has long ties to Churches of Christ.
First published online, this story appears in the December 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.