Texas Senate honors church shooting hero

Stephen Willeford stood in the Texas Senate Tuesday morning with his wife by his side.

Willeford gave an uneasy smile as Lt. Governor Dan Patrick shared a story about their first meeting. 

"And when I sat down and talked with him and his pastor, we sat there and he said very clearly, Governor, I’m not a hero, I'm a victim, these are my friends this is my community,” Lt. Governor Dan Patrick ( R ) Texas. 

On November 5th, 2017, Willeford confronted an active shooter who emerged from the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. The gunman had just killed 26 and injured 20. Senate Resolution 75, introduced by Senator Judith Zaffirini ( D ) San Antonio formally recognizes Willeford for jumping into action.

"Strengthened by his trust in the lord and fueled by his fierce courage to protect the defenseless, Mr. Willeford ran outside barefoot,” said Senator Zaffirini ( D ) san Antonio.

The measure passed with every Senator standing in support. Family and friends were in the Senate gallery during the vote and joined the Chamber in a standing ovation. Later with his grandchild in his arm, Willeford had this to say.

"I was absolutely honored. I feel that Texas is a special place and there are other men out there who would have done the same thing I did, and that’s part of who we are as Texans, and even greater than that, it’s who we are as American citizens,” said Willeford.

After the vote, each Senator embraced Willeford and then later he offered this warning about the evil he faced in Sutherland Springs.

"Be ready. Train, be ready and hope it never happens,” said Willeford.

The Senators were mindful that Willeford was not alone that day.  It was noted in the Resolution that he gave chase with the help of a young man who pulled up in his pickup truck. That person was Johnnie Langendorff.

"I'm just a man who did what I felt was the right thing to do,” said Langendorff in a 2017 interview.

Langendorff, at the time, described how Willeford asked for his help.

"(He) Jumped into my truck and told me, he (the gunman) just shot up the church, we got to go get him, and I said OK, let’s go."

Tuesday, in recalling the chase Willeford described Langendorff as a true Texan.

"We're flying down the road, doing 95 mph, and I looked at Johnnie and I said you know if we catch him, you'll have to put him off the road, and Johnnie is just sitting there with his hands on the wheel, tilted back, and he said, yeah, I already figured that, and I’m like oh my goodness who am I riding with, but it’s a Texas attitude, I got this, and I believe Johnnie to be a hero himself,” said Willeford.