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Strangers hailed as heroes for helping stop Texas church killer are forever bonded by their actions

Stephen Willeford (L) and Johnnie Langendorff, (R) who both chased after suspected killer Devin Kelley, hug during a vigil in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 6, 2017, a day after a mass shooting that killed 26 people. (Mark Ralston/Getty Images)

Two men who heard gunshots ring out Sunday inside a tiny Texas church sprang into action and helped bring an end to the massacre that left dozens dead in Sutherland Springs.

On Monday evening, they hugged during a candlelight vigil held for the 26 killed and 24 wounded during the gunman's rampage at the First Baptist Church.

Oddly, in a town of about 600 where nearly everyone knows each other, Stephen Willeford and Johnnie Langendorff did not.

Now, they are forever bonded through their tragedy and heroism.

What did the men do to help stop the shooter?

Willeford's daughter alerted him to the shooting, according to People.

The former NRA instructor, who lives about a block from the church, grabbed his rifle and ran out the door barefoot to confront the gunman.

"I kept hearing the shots, one after another, very rapid shots — just 'pop pop pop pop' and I knew every one of those shots represented someone, that it was aimed at someone, that they weren't just random shots," Willeford told KHBS-TV.

Willeford loaded his magazine as fast as he could, his cousin, Ken Leonard, told CNN, and he exchanged fire with the shooter.

"I know I hit him, I don’t know where I hit him, but I know I hit him,” Willeford said during the interview. “And he [the shooter] got into his vehicle and he fired another couple of rounds through his side window.”

“And I fired when the window dropped,” Willeford added, “I fired another round at him again. And one as he was pulling away and he turned down 539, and he sped away.”

Willeford noticed Langendorff's pickup nearby and ran over to him.

"I said, 'That guy just shot up the Baptist church. We need to stop him,'" Willeford told KHBS.

"We gotta get him," Willeford said to Langendorff.

"I said, ‘Let’s go," Langendorff told People.

Langendorff opened his door, Willeford jumped in and they chased the shooter as he tried to get away.

Eleven miles later and speeds up to 95 miles an hour, the pursuit finally ended when the killer lost control and crashed his Ford Explorer into a ditch.

Both men jumped out of Langendorff's truck and took refuge behind it.

Willeford turned his rifle onto the gunman and yelled at him to get out of his truck, Langendorff said during his interview with People. “There was no movement at the time, traffic was coming around. I went to direct traffic just in case there was crossfire. After that, police showed up.”

Police found the gunman dead with multiple gunshot wounds. Two of Willeford's bullets struck the shooter and a third was self-inflicted, according to authorities during a press briefing Monday.

Why did they put themselves in such danger?

"Because that's what you do, you chase a bad guy," Langendorff said.

“I’m no hero, I am not,” Willeford said in the latter part of his interview with CNN. “I think my God, my Lord protected me, and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done.”

What else?

Sutherland Springs is about 30 miles east of San Antonio. About 4 percent of the town's population was killed in the shooting.

It is "the largest mass shooting" in the state's history, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, who ordered flags to be flown at half-staff across the state on Monday.

One last thing…
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