Jack Wilson, the security volunteer who quickly shot and killed the Texas church shooter at West Freeway Church of Christ, likely saving many lives, is a former reserve deputy sheriff who was the long-time owner of a firearms training academy.
“I don’t feel like I killed an individual. I killed evil,” Wilson told reporters, according to Fox4 News. “I don’t see myself as a hero. I see myself as doing what needed to be done to take out the evil threat.” He fired a single shot. It was a head shot, and he says it was his round that killed the shooter. “I only fired one round. It was the only shot I had, which was a head shot.”
The gunman, now named as Keith Thomas Kinnunen, died at the scene after being shot; Wilson reacted within seconds and is being called a hero for his quick-thinking response.
“This man confronted an evil killer in a Texas church,” wrote Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Twitter. “He could have been killed in a split second. Instead he saved the lives of hundreds. Putting your life on the line for others is the ultimate valor. Texas is grateful for his heroism.”
Wilson, 71, is running a campaign for county commissioner in Hood County. Hours after the December 29, 2019 shooting, Wilson shared his account of what happened on a Facebook page for his campaign, saying that he had “to take out an active shooter in church.” People filled the post with comments declaring Wilson an American hero. “Prayers for you Jack. That’s a tough thing you had to do today, but you acted quick and saved countless lives. True American hero. Thank you and God bless,” wrote one person who responded.
“Thank you for what you did. While you may not think so, you ARE a HERO,” wrote another. And a woman wrote: “Thankful beyond measure of your heroic act in a horrific situation! Your calm and steady accuracy was exactly the swift action needed in that situation. Super proud to call you friend! Love you big! Prayers continuing for all of you and the loved ones of the two fallen heroes.”
The shooting occurred at the church in White Settlement, Texas, a community located a few miles from Fort Worth. Authorities said an armed parishioner also shot the gunman at the same time as Wilson.
“The suspect is deceased, and the threat has stopped thanks to the heroic action of those two parishioners at the church,” White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering said at a news conference. The second parishioner has not been named.
“The two security volunteers saved 242 other parishioners who were in the church,” said Jeff Williams, director of public safety, according to ABC News, which reported that both hit the gunman.
On his campaign website, Wilson, a vocal Donald Trump supporter, explained his platform and principles in early December: “There once was a time the President was honored, police were respected, newborns were treasured, & vets were revered. Let’s bring that back…” His campaign slogan: “Make sure your vote is on target.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Wilson Declared That ‘Evil Does Exist in This World’ & Revealed He ‘Had to Take Out an Active Shooter in Church’
The church shooting was captured on the church’s live stream on YouTube. You can watch a version of the video with the innocent victims blurred out above. It shows the gunman stand up and speak to a church official before shooting two people. However, he gets immediate return fire before more people in the packed congregation could be hurt. It all unfolds in seconds as screams ring out in the church. Kinnunen was a former boxer with a criminal history in multiple states.
According to ABC 7, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wilson shot the suspect and had also “trained other members in the church to shoot.”
Two innocent people died; Deacon Anton “Tony” Wallace has been identified as one of those victims. The second victim was Rich White, according to KTXS-TV, which reported that “one was serving communion when the gunman opened fire.” The person serving communion was later revealed to be Wallace. The shooter was killed at the scene. The New York Times reported that the still unidentified gunman was shot and killed by “a member of the church’s volunteer security team” who was not yet named by authorities.
Wilson shared his thoughts on the Jack Wilson County Commissioner for Precinct 3 Campaign Facebook page, revealing that he was that person. He also spoke on video to reporters.
“I just want to thank all who have sent their prayers and comments on the events of today. The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exist (sic) and I had to take out an active shooter in church,” he wrote.
“I’m thankful to GOD that I have been blessed with the ability and desire to serve him in the role of head of security at the church. I am very sad in the loss of two dear friends and brothers in CHRIST, but evil does exist in this world and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed. Please pray for all the members and their families in this time. Thank you for your prayers and understanding.”
He indicated in the comment thread that he used the following firearm: “SIG P229-357 SIG.”
In the video interview, Wilson described how the gunman had a “fake beard and fake wig” and was wearing a long coat. Wilson could see his right hand “pretty much at all times” but believes the shooter initially hid the shotgun he carried underneath the long coat.
He said that the shooter “shot Richard and Tony” and then “started toward the front of the sanctuary. I was able to engage him.” He had to briefly pause because after the suspect’s first shot, some people stood up in panic. He said the security team “had eyes on him, physical eyes and cameras” from the start.
“I didn’t have a clear window because I had members that were jumping, going chaotic,” said Wilson, according to AP. “They were standing up. I had to wait about half a second, a second, to get my shot. I fired one round. The subject went down.”
He added: “The whole thing was less than six seconds from start to finish. My goal was to make sure the shooter didn’t get up.”
After shooting him, Wilson went over to the gunman and said he was “down. He was bleeding profusely from his head. His only movement was his body twitching.”
According to The Times, the church has a security team of people licensed to carry firearms that has existed for about a decade; they were already suspicious of the gunman, the newspaper reported.
CNN reported that “two members of the church security team shot and killed” the gunman. One of them was Jack Wilson, the head of security for the church, according to the post he put on Facebook. The second member was not identified.
“Two of the parishioners who are volunteers on the security force drew their weapons and took out the killer immediately, saving untold number of lives,” said Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in a news conference.
Patrick said in the news conference that the church security members were heroes. “The heroism today is unparalleled,” Patrick said. “This team responded quickly, and within six seconds the shooting was over.”
One of the deceased victims, Rich White, was also a member of the security team.
“Richard did get his gun out of the holster, he was, I think, able to get a shot off but it ended up going into the wall. The shooter had turned, shot him and then shot Tony [Wallace], and then started to turn to go to the front of the auditorium,” Wilson recalled, according to NBC Dallas/Fort Worth. It was not clear whether Rich White was the second person that authorities described as also firing at the shooter.
Mike Tinius, a church elder, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the gunman had drawn the attention of the church security team because of his appearance, but he didn’t elaborate. ABC News reported that the shooter was wearing what appeared to be a fake beard.
Parishioner Isabel Arreola told the newspaper of the security team: “They saved us. Unfortunately, two men lost their lives while they were doing so.”
Patrick said the way the church security team responded would be “studied and watched by law enforcement, private citizens, and churches or anyone else who trains in their own security to see how lives can be saved.” AP reported that five to six other members of the security team trained by Wilson also drew guns in the church after the gunman opened fire.
The Star-Telegram newspaper reported that Texas state law, passed in 2017, allows armed security guards in churches and, in September 2019, a law passed that allows licensed handgun owners to bring guns into churches unless the churches oppose them doing so.
2. Wilson Was President of On Target Firearms Training Academy, Inc., a Gun Range That Burned Down in 2016
Wilson revealed on Facebook that he’s the owner of On Target Firearms Training Academy, Inc. The company’s Facebook page describes it this way: “On Target Firearms Training Academy, Inc. was established in 1995 to provide Firearms Training & Service for YOU to exercise YOUR 2nd Ammendment (sic) Rights.”
One photo posted on the company’s Facebook page reads, “As an American, it is your right to own guns. It is your duty to know how to use them.” However, the page has not posted since 2016, when the facility burned to the ground. You can see photos of the blaze here.
In November 2016, Wilson ran into some neighborhood opposition when he wanted to rebuild. NBC Dallas reported that the blaze was caused by an electrical fire, and Wilson wanted to reopen a scaled down version but residents in a subdivision were not all happy about that.
Wilson told CBS, “One of the things that was quite interesting, we had two large banners on the side of the building that had the American flag and Texas flag and the Second Amendment below it. And with the statement, it says, ‘Open seven days a week to exercise your rights,’ and one of them survived.” The article said that the ATF was investigating because of the nature of the business but did not think the blaze was related to weaponry, foul play, or ammo. At that point, he had been running the business for 21 years.
The business contained an indoor public handgun and high power rifle range, electronic fingerprinting services, and classes in such things as concealed handgun licenses, hunters’ education, emergency preparedness, and an AR-15 class.
On Facebook, Wilson says he’s president at On Target LTC, LLC and went to C.F. Brewer High School. He lives in Granbury, Texas.
In 2016, President Barack Obama moved “to require all gun sellers to register as dealers — even those who sell at gun shows and online — and to run background checks on all prospective purchasers,” according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, which quoted Wilson in that story.
“To me, it’s kind of a dog-and-pony show,” said Wilson to the TV station, which identified him as “president and general manager of On Target Firearms Training Academy in Fort Worth.”
“What he’s doing is not causing any major changes in the way business happens,” Wilson added.
The story described Wilson as a “law enforcement instructor for more than 20 years” who “said Obama’s plan does not curb the problem of illegal gun sales on the black market.”
The Yelp reviews are mixed. In 2015, one woman wrote, “They have a sign posted on the bulletin board that was very offensive to me; talking about why the President hadn’t been assassinated. I understand that I’m in a gun range, but this is Texas and they need to understand that not every customer that walks in their doors is a republican.”
However, another customer wrote that same year, “Just bought a gun and had never been to a range before. Met at the door by friendly staff. Helped me through the whole process. Will definitely be back. Will recommend this place to anyone.”
3. Wilson Is a Former Deputy Sheriff Who Negotiated Contracts for a Major Defense Company
In a Facebook post, Wilson explained that he has been a “small Business owner for over 30 years. Worked for 18 years negotiating proposals and contracts for major defense company.”
He added that he also served as a Hood County Reserve Deputy Sheriff from 1980-1986. “Presently a TCOLE Instructor and CHL/LTC Instructor. I continue to work with Federal, State and local levels of law enforcement,” he wrote.
“My wife of 51 years and I have raised our family in Granbury/Hood County for the last 42 years. We are the proud parents of 3 daughters and blessed grandparents of 10 and 1 great. I feel I have the knowledge and passion to move this growing county into a place all residents can be proud to call home,” he added.
4. Wilson Is a Donald Trump Supporter Who Believes the ‘Survival of the USA’ Will Be Determined by the 2020 Election
In early December, Wilson wrote on his campaign Facebook page, “I totally stand by President Trump. Please be sure you are registered to vote and please vote. The survival of the USA is in the balance in 2020!!!”
That’s not the only time he urged people to vote for Trump. He also posted this graphic.
On his campaign website, Wilson shared a graphic from another man that reads in part, “All members of the House &/or Senate that support illegal aliens over US Citizens are in violation of their Oath of Office and should therefore be REMOVED FROM OFFICE. IT REALLY IS THAT SIMPLE.”
He also shared a post opposing impeachment. Wilson wrote in December, “I attended several meetings this week. It was great to meet with conservatives that are like minded. I heard there are many concerns about our freedom and liberties. I hope everyone will keep in mind that voting is the best thing you can do to insure the freedoms we enjoy. VOTE!”
5. People Praised Wilson’s Quick-Thinking
A man named Ken Joseph wrote in the comment thread of Wilson’s post, “Ohio church security team member, and have watched the segment of the video too many times to count. It will be used to train others. Your professionalism and training were very apparent. Picture perfect in every aspect. You were protecting the people in every action. Hats off to you. I don’t wish to ever be in your shoes and faced with that situation, but if required, I would just hope to conduct myself as well as you. May God bless all involved.”
Another man wrote, “I’m not in your region or area but that shot from across the room on a moving target was legendary. If I were in your district, you’d have my vote. Great work and once more great shot.”
Added another comment writer, “The marksmanship and emotional fitness you displayed was outstanding.” Another wrote, “I think it’s safe to say you’ll win that County Commissioner race after what happened yesterday. You, sir, are a hero to Ft. Worth and a grateful nation. (You’re also one hell of an impressive marksman!) Thank you!”
Wrote another: “You Sir are a true American hero, and all of us folk in the Last Frontier on the side of Good and Light can’t thank you enough. Thank you Jack.”
READ NEXT: Learn More About the Church Shooting.