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Dem invites Sutherland Springs shooting ‘hero’ to State of the Union

Greg Nash

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) announced Thursday that he will bring a man who confronted a gunman in a church in his district as his guest to the State of the Union next week.

Stephen Willeford, who lives near the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, exchanged gunfire with a shooter on Nov. 5. The shooter ultimately died from injuries that included a self-inflicted head wound.

Willeford, a former National Rifle Association instructor, then teamed up with another man, Johnnie Langendorff, to chase the gunman by car and call 911 to provide the location.

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The gunman killed 26 people and injured 20 others in the church, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

“It is amazing that this man, who almost became a victim himself, managed to face the assailant and ultimately prevented further tragedy from unfolding,” Cuellar said of Willeford in a statement.

The Sutherland Springs shooting came a month after the massacre in Las Vegas, where a gunman killed 59 people and injured more than 500 others gathered for a music festival. The Las Vegas shooting is the deadliest mass shooting in modern history to date.

Before Las Vegas, the 2016 shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., was considered the deadliest with 49 deaths and more than 50 people injured.

Lawmakers have brought guests who experienced gun violence to other State of the Union addresses in recent years.

In 2013, the White House and Democratic lawmakers invited dozens of shooting victims or surviving family members to President Obama’s State of the Union. That address came about a month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adult staff members.

Obama pushed for gun control measures in his address, but those proposals ultimately stalled in Congress.

This year, Democratic lawmakers have announced a variety of guests they’re bringing to President Trump’s State of the Union address.

At least two lawmakers, Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Bill Foster (D-Ill.), are bringing people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — amid the debate in Congress about whether they should be allowed to stay in the country.

Some female Democrats also plan to bring guests associated with the “Me Too” movement highlighting sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition, female Democrats will be wearing black in solidarity with the “Me Too” movement like Hollywood actresses did at the Golden Globes show earlier this month.

Five Democrats have announced boycotts of Trump’s speech altogether so far: Reps. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Frederica Wilson (Fla.) and John Lewis (Ga.).

Tags Bill Foster Donald Trump Earl Blumenauer Frederica Wilson Gerry Connolly John Lewis Maxine Waters Pramila Jayapal
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