Man Who Pursued Texas Church Gunman Invited as Guest to State of the Union - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Man Who Pursued Texas Church Gunman Invited as Guest to State of the Union

Stephen Willeford helped track down the man who fatally shot 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in November

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    FILE - Stephen Willeford, who confronted the gunman who fatally shot 26 people at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, attends a memorial service at the Floresville High School on Nov. 8, 2017, in Floresville, Tex.

    One of the men who pursued the gunman after last year's deadly Texas church shooting will be a guest Tuesday at President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address.

    Stephen Willeford and his wife will be guests of Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, of Laredo.

    After a man opened fire at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in November, killing 26 people, Willeford, a former National Rifle Association instructor, jumped into action.

    He grabbed a rifle from his home, exchanged gunfire with the church gunman and then flagged down a passing driver, Johnnie Langendorff, for help.

    Together, the two chased the church gunman until he crashed, and the gunman died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

    Cruz praised Willeford's actions in the ensuing days, lauding the "ordinary citizen" who engaged the gunman.

    "One individual demonstrated bravery and courage. We need to be celebrating that bravery and courage," Cruz said.

    Also attending Tuesday's State of the Union is Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree, a guest of Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, of Lake Dallas.

    In a note posted to Murphree's Facebook page, the sheriff said attending the address is a "bucket list item I really thought would never come. To be sitting in the House Chamber when the President of the United States gives the State of the Union is an honor I can't even comprehend."

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    Additionally, Jon Bridgers, of Walker, La., is among the special guests who will be seated with first lady Melania Trump for the presidential address. Bridgers founded the Cajun Navy, a non-profit rescue and recovery organization whose members helped in the rescue and relief efforts across southeast Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

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