2017 Man of the Year: Former NRA Trainer Who Ended Texas Church Attack

Law enforcement officials investigate at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs
Law enforcement officials investigate at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs / Getty Images
December 28, 2017

Stephen Willeford was at his home on the morning of Nov. 5 when his daughter informed him of gunshots being fired at nearby Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church. A man had opened fire on worshipers and was murdering them in droves. Willeford, disregarding his own safety, grabbed his AR-15 and ran barefoot toward the gunfire.

Willeford arrived at the church as the gunman was still executing victims. He engaged him, shooting him several times and causing him to flee the area while Willeford gave chase. Willeford and Johnnie Langendorff, the man he flagged down to drive after the gunman, stayed with the attacker until he drove off the road and police arrived to confirm he had died.

Farida Brown's story, as told to theĀ Washington Post by her son David Brown, makes it clear that she credits Willeford with saving her life. As Farida, who had already been shot several times in her legs, hid from the attacker she saw him walking through the church and heard him shooting those that survived the initial barrage. The shooter finally settled on the woman next to Farida.

"With every shot, she was crying," David Brown told The Post. "She was just staring at my mom while she tried to comfort her."

As Farida held her hand, she told the woman she was heading to heaven. "Then she thought that it was her turn," her son told the paper. "She just started praying."

That's when Willeford began shooting at the gunman.

Willeford later told conservative YouTube personality Steven Crowder that he believed the gunman was prepared to take many more lives.

"I'm gonna tell you, and I found out later, they said he had multiple firearms in the vehicle and lots of ammunition," he said. "I don't know what his plan was but my thought in looking at it is he had a tactical helmet and a Kevlar vest, he wasn't through. There was the River Oaks Baptist Church in the same direction that he left, and I'm by no means saying that that's where he was going, but they were in the middle of Sunday morning services too."

For demonstrating that the only thing capable of stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, Stephen Willeford is a Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year.

Published under: Men of the Year