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'Only God Knows': Hero Who Saved Lives in Texas Church Attack Awarded State's Highest Civilian Honor

01-14-2020
Jack Wilson, 71, poses for a photo at a firing range outside his home in Granbury, Texas, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Jake Bleiberg)
Jack Wilson, 71, poses for a photo at a firing range outside his home in Granbury, Texas, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Jake Bleiberg)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave the state's highest civilian honor to 71-year-old Jack Wilson on Monday for shooting and killing an armed attacker during a church service in December.

Abbot gave Wilson the Governor's Medal of Courage calling him a hero for stopping the shooter.

"Only God knows who is alive today because of Jack Wilson. 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."

Wilson's single-shot ended the attack within seconds, but the gunman had already managed to kill two people inside the church.

Wilson said he had eyes on the suspect immediately after he walked into the church. He appeared suspicious because he was concealing one hand at all times. He also was wearing what Wilson described as a fake beard and a wig, along with a large coat and hoodie.

"After he shot Richard and Tony, he started towards the front of the sanctuary and that's when I was able to engage him," Wilson said.
 
He also explained that his training kicked in the second he saw the suspect's shotgun.

"You train but you hope you never have to go to that extreme but if you do, your training will kick in," he said.

Wilson regularly trains others as part of his position heading up church security. In the video footage, multiple church members are seen drawing their weapons. Most of those are believed to be on Wilson's church security team — including one of the victims.

The Governor's Medal of Courage is presented to people who demonstrate acts of heroism by endangering their own lives to save another's.

"When faced with an evil that few of us will ever comprehend, Jack Wilson responded with strength, bravery, and with love for those in the church that day," Gov. Abbott said. "The courage in his actions cannot be understated, and Jack is not only a hero to West Freeway Church of Christ - he is a hero to the entire state of Texas." 

After receiving the medal, Wilson said he didn't feel like a hero but rather a "protector."

He explained that danger is lurking everywhere, including schools and churches, but everyone must be prepared.

"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 added.

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