Following the late Sunday morning Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas, many people throughout the community are getting recognition for selfless actions that lead directly to saved lives.
The shooting left 26 dead including the shooter and dozens more were injured. But first responders say many more would have died if not for the intervention of critical care providers and quick-thinking bystanders.
Two people stand out for their part in ending the shooter’s horrible crime spree.
Stephen Willeford was the armed resident who stopped the shooting and shot the shooter, reportedly aiming around his body armor.
Johnnie Langendorff was the driver who chased the shooter down 11 miles of open road at high speed, coordinating with local law enforcement along the way.
Neither men had any special training or military or police histories. They were ordinary men who did what seemed necessary in the moment.
Willeford, who lives near the Sutherland Springs church, responded to the shooting shortly after it began. Langendorff was on his way to see his girlfriend and caught the end of the shootout.
The shooter managed to get to his SUV and drive off. That was when Willeford asked Langendorff for assistance and the two managed to catch up to the shooter, even though he had a head start. During the chase the men raced at speeds up to 95 miles an hour.
The chase ended after the shooter lost control of his vehicle and went off the road. Willeford held the SUV at gunpoint until the police arrived, about seven minutes later. The two did not approach the stopped car and simply kept a safe distance.
“He was just a member of the community, and whenever he came to my vehicle in distress with his weapon, he explained very quickly what happened and he got in the truck and I knew it was just time,” he told KSAT.
“So we were doing about 95 mph, going around traffic and everything,” he said.
“Eventually he came to kind of a slowdown and after that, we got within just a few feet of him and he got off the road … he just lost control and that’s whenever I put the vehicle in park … the other gentleman jumped out and had his rifle drawn on him and he didn’t move after that,” he said.
With the police dispatched to the church there’s no doubt these two curbed the amount of pain and suffering in this tragedy. In addition dozens of first responders went above and beyond to prevent any more loss of life.
Thanks to emergency training local hospitals were able to quickly expand their surgery rooms to treat the wounded. In the coming days and weeks many more people will stand out as heroes.