Stephen Willeford: Reckoning With History

BY Herschel Smith
5 days, 14 hours ago

Texas Monthly:

On most Sunday mornings, Willeford would have been 45 minutes away, in San Antonio, at the Church of Christ he and his family had attended since his kids were young. But on November 5, 2017, he decided to stay home and rest up. He was scheduled to be on call the upcoming week at San Antonio’s University Hospital, and he knew he’d inevitably be summoned for a middle-of-the-night plumbing emergency. He had drifted to sleep sometime before 11:30 a.m. when his oldest daughter, Stephanie, came into his bedroom and woke him up. She asked if he heard gunfire.

He did hear something, but to Willeford it sounded like someone was tapping on the window. He looked outside but didn’t see anyone. He pulled on a pair of jeans and went to the living room, where the walls were less insulated. The sound was louder there. It was definitely gunfire, he realized, but he couldn’t tell where it was coming from.

He rushed into a back room and opened his steel gun safe, where he stows his collection of pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Without hesitation, he snatched one of his AR-15s. He’d put the rifle together himself, swapping out parts and upgrading here and there over the years. It was light, good for mobility, and could shoot quickly. It wasn’t as accurate as some of his other rifles but good enough to hit the bowling pins he and his friends used for targets. He loaded a handful of rounds into the magazine.

[ … ]

As he approached the old white chapel, he screamed as loud as he could, “Hey!” To this day, he’s not sure why—he knows that giving away your position is foolish, tactically—but friends inside the church later told him that when the gunman heard Willeford’s cry, he stopped shooting and headed for the front door. “It was the Holy Spirit calling the demon out of the church,” he tells people.

[ … ]

Willeford propped his AR-15 on the pickup’s hood and peered through the sight. He could see a holographic red dot on the man’s chest. He fired twice. He wasn’t sure he’d hit him, though he was later told that the man had contusions on his chest and abdomen consistent with getting shot while wearing body armor. Regardless, the gunman stopped shooting and ran for a white Ford Explorer that was idling outside the chapel, roughly twenty yards from where Willeford had positioned himself.

As the shooter rounded the front of the Explorer, Willeford noticed that the man’s vest didn’t cover the sides of his torso. Willeford fired twice more, striking the man once beneath the arm—in an unprotected spot—and once in the thigh.

[ … ]

Willeford believes that what happened that day was a battle between good and evil. He says he was terrified, but he thinks the calm he experienced was the Holy Spirit taking over. He tells people he thinks it was the Lord’s hand shielding him as the man doing evil fired over and over again in his direction. And looking back now, he feels like God had been shaping him every day of his life, carving him into the perfect tool for that day.

[ … ]

He’d even had discussions with a police officer friend, long before his encounter with the gunman, about where to aim on a moving target wearing body armor: the side, the hip, the leg. More preparation from God, he believes.

[ … ]

For most of the afternoon, he was convinced he’d be going to jail, despite repeated assurances from the officers interviewing him. He’s always told people: if you use your gun, even in self-defense, expect to spend a night in jail before it’s all sorted out. He talked to five different law enforcement agencies, but his worries were assuaged only after the district attorney for Wilson County, Audrey Louis, introduced herself and put him at ease. She told him she had friends in that church, and she gave him a hug.

[ … ]

When the owner of Sons of Liberty learned that the rifle Willeford had used on the morning of the shooting had been confiscated and had yet to be returned, he insisted on building him a new one. It’s painted a desert camouflage, with a brown Texas flag on one side and a passage from Romans 13:4 on the other: For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Law enforcement recently returned the rifle to him in a ceremony at the church.)

[ … ]

So in those moments, when his mind is unoccupied, here is what Willeford is fated to ponder: if he’d arrived fifteen seconds sooner, Kris Workman might still be able to walk. If he had been there a minute earlier, Workman’s mother, Julie, might not have a bullet hole in her leg. If he’d gone running when he first heard the tapping on his bedroom window, maybe he could have saved some of the children.

When these thoughts start to consume him, he’s learned to remind himself he did the best he could.

There is so much there it’s difficult to mine it all, but a few things jump out.  First of all there are the tactical lessons.  Body armor, legs, hips and head.  Remember those lessons.  I will too.

Next, while I understand the need to collect firearms for forensic analysis, that firearm was Willeford’s and law enforcement had absolutely no right to keep it that long.  Not to law enforcement: be about your business.  The property you have belongs to someone else, an individual or the taxpayers.

Then there is the issue of the fact that Willeford was certain he’d be jailed for doing the right thing.  What a sad commentary on the state of America.

Finally, he did do the best he could.  There is no reason to second guess what happened.  He did God’s bidding.  I am a Calvinist.  God ordained that Willeford would be there that specific day, that he would have access to firearms to protect the community, and that he would respond.  And God made his shots true.  He was God’s tool for righteousness that day.

No regrets, no looking back, sir.  You did great.

But for God’s sake, Stephen.  Keep loaded magazines handy.


Comments

  1. On November 7, 2018 at 1:46 pm, TheAlaskan said:

    “No regrets, no looking back, sir. You did great.”

    Blood and faith, blood and faith. God approves.

  2. On November 7, 2018 at 1:57 pm, Longbow said:

    Its curious, Texas Monthly has always been a notoriously liberal publication. Giving this man a fair telling of his story is outstanding for them.

    The Alaskan said, “Blood and faith…”. Indeed.

  3. On November 7, 2018 at 4:36 pm, Gryphon said:

    He’s Very Lucky He didn’t wind up in Jail, or Dead… po-Lice responding to a Shooting are VERY likely to Open Fire on Anyone with a Gun, “Good Guy” or Not.
    While some would like to Fantasize about being the ‘Hero’, something that Every Gun Owner (and CC holder) needs to give serious Thought to is in terms of How you respond to an ‘Incident’ where You are not Directly Threatened.

  4. On November 7, 2018 at 5:59 pm, Donk said:

    @Gryphon
    I opine your concern is warranted. I attended my local Sherriff’s house of worship seminar a while back and the overwhelming message from every officer there was get on the ground when they arrive to an active shooter situation. A direct quote from one of the Sherriff’s Deputies, “…we are not there to talk with you, either get on the ground or we will put you on the ground.” As an aside one of the audience members asked about censoring the local media after an active shooter event so as not to name or describe the perp. Fully 6 officers on stage turned to look at the Sherriff and he said (paraphrased), “…we would like to but we still have the 1st Amendment.” I was shocked not at what he said but the sickening cop worship of most of the audience. This was in South Carolina, it made me sick.

    So now my church is considering hiring off duty Sherriff’s Deputy to either sit in his car or in our lobby (we meet in a building that is not our own), even though they know I and others carry at worship. Even though I love these people dearly I am seriously wondering how long I can stay there considering some of leadership’s seemingly pacifist bent.

  5. On November 7, 2018 at 6:12 pm, Gryphon said:

    Donk – That’s exactly my problem with the Idea of ‘defending strangers’ when those same folks Condone the actions of and the Idea that only the po-Lice can ‘protect’ them.

    And as for that thugpig ‘Deputy’ who said, “…we are not there to talk with you, either get on the ground or we will put you on the ground.” My response would have been “So We should just Shoot You as a Threat, also?”

  6. On November 7, 2018 at 7:39 pm, Matt said:

    Longbow: I heard the author of that piece on local sports radio yesterday. I found his reporting to be properly journalistic and not propaganda, which is what we get these days. The fact it was in Texas Monthly is startling.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published November 6th, 2018 by Herschel Smith.

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