Jack Wilson didn’t see himself as a hero when he pulled the trigger. Shooting and killing the active shooter came with the territory. As head of the volunteer security team at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Wilson was simply doing the job the church had hired him to do: protect church members from evil. 

The active shooter is a modern-day devil, and Southern churches have been arming themselves with guns instead of Bibles to deal with the threat. He is predominantly male, typically white and bitter. In recent years, he’s been filled with racial hate. 

When the devil came to White Settlement, he arrived as a bitter white male. Keith Thomas Kinnunen was 43 with a violent history, known to have run ins with the law. His ex-wife called him a religious fanatic who was battling a demon. He appeared to be an angry one in his mugshots. Head shaved like a skinhead, he looked like an extra from Edward Norton’s American History X. He was allegedly wearing a wig when he walked into church on that Sunday morning in late December. 

Wilson and his security team had been watching him since he arrived. One church member moved to another seat because he made her feel uncomfortable. A few minutes later, he pulled a short-barreled 12-gauge shotgun from his coat and shot and killed two people, Anton “Tony” Wallace, a server, and Richard White, Wilson’s colleague on the volunteer security team. 

A retired lawman and firearms instructor, Wilson didn’t hesitate.  “The only clear shot I had was his head because I still had people in the pews that were not all the way down as low as they could,” he told the Associated Press in a December 29 article. “That was my one shot.”

Six seconds. The active shooter was dead. Nearly a month later, Wilson is still being recognized as a hero for pulling the trigger and the reason why church members need to be armed. He’s become the hero gun rights advocates needed and claimed recent changes in Texas gun laws allowed him to pull the trigger.

“Only God knows who is alive today because of Jack Wilson,” Governor Greg Abbott announced at Wilson’s award ceremony last week. “What we do know is that so many lives were saved because of Jack Wilson’s quick calmness under pressure and above all else, his courage and his willingness to risk his life to save the lives of others.” 

Abbott awarded Wilson with the Medal of Courage, the highest honor the governor can bestow on a Texas civilian. The medal is a fairly new award, according to a January 13 Austin American-Statesman report. Wilson is the first recipient. 

“When events arise, you’re going to do one of two things,” Wilson explained when he accepted the medal at the Texas Governor’s Mansion. “You’re either going to step up and do what’s right or walk away. I’m not one to walk away.”

Wilson wasn’t the only cowboy who didn’t walk away. Five or six other volunteer security team members were all pointing their weapons at evil. Wilson simply pulled the trigger first. 

State legislators passed a law this legislative session that allows licensed gunslingers like Wilson to carry in church. After the shooting, Texas officials seem to reply collectively on social media, “See, this is why our gun laws work in Texas.”

But Texans and guns go hand-in-hand like McDonald’s and apple pie or Chick Fil A on a Saturday night. It’s ingrained in our culture. Texans probably have enough firearms to finish a revolution. So it’s not surprising that six Texans pulled their weapons when the devil revealed himself after church members fed him. 

What is surprising is that only one of them pulled the trigger. 

Maybe it’s due, in part, to Wilson’s firearms instruction. He trained the volunteer security team at the West Freeway Church of Christ. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton commended Wilson’s background at a press conference after the shooting, pointing out that he was a reserve deputy who owned a shooting range. “He’s not just responsible for his actions, which ultimately saved lives of maybe hundreds of people,” Paxton said. “But he’s also trained hundreds in that church.”

Wilson isn’t the only one offering active shooter training. Law enforcement officials in Collin, Denton and Wise counties have been hosting one-night active shooter training sessions, teaching community leaders and members how to respond when an active shooter appears in their midst. They show a video, offer a few tips and have been known to demonstrate self-defense moves. The concept is fairly simple: run, hide or fight.

Since the late December killings, Wilson has appeared in dozens of news articles, telling and retelling his heroic tale. He claimed he felt like he had killed evil incarnate instead of a fellow human, according to a December 31 Associated Press report. “That’s how I’m coping with the situation,” he said. 

He’s never seemed boisterous in his re-telling of those six seconds on that Sunday morning in late December to news outlets. He didn’t paint himself as a Terminator, more of a Rambo doing what must be done. “I feel more as a protector than I do a hero,” he said at the awards ceremony Monday. “I feel very honored that God allowed me to have that capability to what needed to be done that particular time.” 

Christian McPhate

Christian McPhate has been working as a journalist for more than decade. He enjoys tackling true crime stories and late night writing sessions. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including...