Jack Wilson, an elder at West Freeway Church of Christ near Fort Worth, Texas who fatally shot the gunman who killed two people in the church last year, received the Governor’s Medal of Courage yesterday in Texas.
“I personally don’t feel like I killed a human being. I took some evil out. That’s how I’m processing this whole situation,” Wilson told reporters.
The Governor’s Medal of Courage is the highest award a civilian in Texas can receive from the governor. Texas Governor Greg Abbott presented the award to Wilson at the governor’s mansion in Austin, Texas on Monday, January 13, 2020.
Today I presented the Governor’s Medal of Courage to Jack Wilson.
He’s the hero who risked his life to save the lives of others by stopping a gunman in a deadly shooting at a church near Fort Worth.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 13, 2020
Wilson, 71, is the head of West Freeway’s volunteer church security team. On December 29, 2019, the Texas church shooter (later identified as Keith Thomas Kinnunen) opened fire inside the sanctuary as services began.
According to NBC 5, Wilson once owned a gun range and firearms school. He also trained the volunteer security team at the church. When Kinnunen entered the church on December 29th, he was wearing a long coat, wig and a fake beard. While Kinnunen had been seen at the church before and had received food from members trying to help him, Wilson and his team were moved to caution due to his appearance. Richard White, another member of the church’s security team, sat in a pew behind Kinnunen. When Kinnunen drew a shotgun, both White and Wilson also drew their guns.
White fired a round but missed his mark. White was then shot by Kinnunen, who proceeded to shoot Anton “Tony” Wallace who had been serving communion. Wilson told reporters he only had one shot—Kinnunen’s head.
“The only clear shot I had was his head because I still had people in the pews that were not all the way down … that was my one shot. When I teach people, I teach them not to shoot the head unless that’s all you have,” Wilson said, explaining that it’s easier to hit a person in their body because it’s a larger target than the head. “If that’s the only shot you’ve got, then that’s the shot you take.”
Wallace and White were both killed by the shotgun wounds they sustained. Wallace, 64, was a deacon and lifelong member of the church. Tiffany Wallace, daughter of Anton, told reporters she is grateful for Wilson’s actions. “He is a hero to me,” she said.
While many people widely agree that both White’s and Wilson’s quick actions saved lives that fateful day, some are lamenting the fact that guns in churches are not only extant but increasing.
The church decided to have a security team when they moved to a new building because of concerns of violence in the neighborhood. “Had we not had not had the security team in place it would have been a much, in my opinion, probably a much more severe outcome,” Wilson said. He also said a conviction to be prepared is the reason he carries a gun wherever he “legally can.” “You never know when you’re going to have to use it,” he explained.
Wilson told reporters he was “extremely close” to White and was grateful for Wallace’s many years of service to the church. He said he is concerned for both of the families who lost their fathers.
On December 29th, Gov. Abbott tweeted that Wilson had “confronted an evil killer in a Texas church” and that “Putting your life on the line for others is the ultimate valor.”