Texas church shooting ‘protector’ Jack Wilson receives first-ever Medal of Courage from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott honored Monday the man who stopped a gunman at the West Freeway Church of Christ near Fort Worth last month.
Three people died at the church in White Settlement, a town of about 17,000 people near Fort Worth, but the shooting lasted only seconds. The gunman mortally wounded two people before he was shot and killed by Jack Wilson, the head of the church’s volunteer security team.
Wilson, a former reserve sheriff’s deputy and firearms instructor, fired a single shot.
Abbott bestowed for the first time an award he created called the Governor’s Medal of Courage, described by his office as the highest honor given to civilians by the governor for those “who display great acts of heroism by risking their own safety to save another’s life.”
Gov. Greg Abbott presented the Governor's Medal of Courage on Monday morning Jan. 13, 2020 to Jack Wilson, front, who shot and killed 43-year-old gunman Keith Thomas who opened fire on the congregation and killed two people at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas on December 29th, 2019. The Governor's Medal of Courage is given to civilians who display great acts of heroism by risking their own safety to save another's life. It is the highest award given to civilians by the Governor. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) (Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell, AP)
Abbott’s spokesman did not respond to a question about when the governor created the award.
In front of roughly a dozen friends and family at the Governor’s Mansion, Abbott placed the medal around Wilson’s neck.
“Only God knows who is alive today because of Jack Wilson,” Abbott said. “What we do know is that so many lives were saved because of Jack Wilson’s quick action, his calmness under pressure and, above all else, his courage and his willingness to risk his own life to save the lives of others.”
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Wilson, 71, spoke for several minutes from the podium after receiving the medal, saying that he didn’t feel like a hero but rather “a protector.”
“When events arise, you’re going to do one of two things. You’re either going to step up and do what’s right or walk away, and I’m not one to walk away,” Wilson said.
The ceremony comes in the midst of a yearslong debate over how to curb gun violence.
Following a 2017 mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, the Legislature passed a bill that allows armed volunteer guards and churchgoers in houses of worship.
Gun advocates argue that such laws expanding gun rights help prevent gun violence, while gun control activists say stricter gun laws are needed to keep criminals from obtaining weapons.
President Donald Trump weighed in after the shooting in White Settlement, praising the Texas law that allows armed parishioners.
Jack Wilson: Firearms instructor who trained parishioners brought down Texas church gunman with a single shot
“It was over in 6 seconds thanks to the brave parishioners who acted to protect 242 fellow worshipers,” Trump tweeted. “Lives were saved by these heroes, and Texas laws allowing them to carry arms!”
Wilson on Monday said that an expansion of gun rights allowed him to stop the shooter.
“There are no safe havens left, whether it be schools, whether it be churches,” he said. “You have to be prepared for what will come out in front of you at any time.”
Wilson, who obtained a concealed handgun license in 1995, estimated that he’s trained thousands of people as a firearms instructor.
Church security guards at the West Freeway Church of Christ spent roughly 300 hours in firearm training — practicing with multiple and moving targets, according to Wilson.
“All members of the team are proficient in what they do,” he said. “Any of them could have taken the shot.”
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