A 70-year-old retired FBI agent is being hailed as a hero for saving dozens of lives when he and another quick-thinking parishioner took down a gunman who opened fire in a Texas church Sunday morning, killing two including a beloved deacon.
On Sunday, just before 10 a.m., worshippers at the West Freeway Church of Christ near Fort Worth were quietly waiting for communion when a man dressed in a bulky, black trench coat and fake beard stood up and approached a parishioner standing to the side of the pews.
Moments later, the bearded man pulled a shotgun from under his coat and opened fire, killing Anton “Tony” Wallace, 64, a deacon who was serving communion, and another parishioner, who has not yet been publicly identified.
Almost instantaneously, Jack Wilson, head of security at the church, and another member of the security team took action, shooting and killing the gunman.
“The heroism today is unparalleled,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said at a news conference on Sunday, The Associated Press reports.
“This team responded quickly and within six seconds, the shooting was over. Two of the parishioners who are volunteers of the security force drew their weapons and took out the killer immediately, saving an untold number of lives.”
Regional Director for the Texas Department of Public Safety Jeff Williams credited Wilson and the other security volunteer with saving “242 other parishioners,” local station CBSDFW reports.
Authorities say both of the men shot the gunman, local station WFAA reports.
Wilson said he and other members of the security team were keeping an eye on the gunman because he came into the church wearing “a fake beard and a fake wig,” he said, WFAA reports.
“I don’t consider myself a hero at all. I did what I was trained to do,” Wilson said, WFAA reports.
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Hours after the shooting, Wilson, who owns a firearms training academy and is running for local office as a county commissioner, wrote about the incident on the Facebook page for his campaign.
“I just want to thank all who have sent their prayers and comments on the events of today,” Wilson wrote on Facebook. “The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church.”
A Daughter and Father’s Heartbreaking Last Moments
Anton Wallace’s daughter, Tiffany Wallace, told NBC News that she watched in horror as the gunman shot her father.
“I ran towards my dad, holding him,” she told NBC News. “I told him I love him.”
Earlier that morning, Wallace said she saw the gunman enter the church and thought he was a new parishioner.
If the man “needed food, shelter, we would give it to him — whatever he needed,” she said. “He didn’t need to take an innocent life, our dad, grandfather, husband … fixing to be a father-in-law.”
Searching for a Motive
Authorities are trying to piece together why the gunman opened fire inside the church in the city of White Settlement.
Matt DeSarno, the special agent in charge of Dallas’ FBI field office, said investigators were still trying to determine the motive behind the shooting.
He described the gunman as “relatively transient” with ties to the area. He said the gunman had also been arrested several times in the past.