A Plumber With a Rifle
The world is trying to figure out what evil, or madness, caused Devin Kelley to kill 26 people and wound 20 more at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday morning. But forgive us if we focus on Stephen Willeford, the local plumber who saved lives by grabbing his rifle and firing at Kelley.
Freeman Martin, the Texas Department of Public Safety chief, said Mr. Willeford “grabbed his rifle and engaged the suspect” as he left the church. Kelley dropped his Ruger AR-15 and fled, and Mr. Willeford jumped in a truck driven by another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, and pursued the killer. After a 95-mile-per-hour chase, Kelley crashed his vehicle, where police found him dead a short time later. Police believe Kelley killed himself.
The two locals are being hailed as heroes since their quick action was the only deterrent to more murders until police arrived. Kelley, who was discharged from the Air Force for bad conduct, should not have been able to obtain a gun legally, but the Journal reports that the military failed to send his conviction record to the FBI. The harsh reality of mass murders is that often only the presence of someone with a legal weapon to shoot back can stop the rampage.
We saw this in Virginia this year when Capitol Hill police saved the lives of many Members of Congress. Security officers in Garland, Texas, prevented mass casualties by killing two jihadists in 2015 trying to shoot up a contest featuring cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
No one wants crowds of vigilantes looking for someone to shoot, but we’re sure glad Stephen Willeford had a rifle and knew how to use it. Like the passengers aboard Flight 93 on 9/11, or the Yanks who foiled a terror attack on a train in Belgium in 2015, he didn’t wait for orders to protect his fellow human beings.
Appeared in the November 7, 2017, print edition.