Monday, December 4, 2023

‘Hero’ commissioner pulls double duty as church security adviser


These days, Jack Wilson isn’t in the news so much anymore, except in the pages of his local community newspaper.

As the elected county commissioner for Precinct 3, Wilson is frequently quoted or referred to in articles about county government.

There was a time, though, just a few years ago, when Wilson was big news all across the country. The then-71-year-old was hailed as a hero for taking down a shooter at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement. There seemed to be no question that his quick thinking saved many lives.

Wearing a wig and a fake beard, 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen rose from the pew where he was seated near the back of the church auditorium, pulled a sawed-off shotgun from under his coat and shot two church members, Anton Wallace, 64, and Richard White, 67, killing each with a single shot. He then turned to his left, presumably to begin firing into the crowd of worshippers.

Thanks to Wilson, he never got that chance.

Wilson, a firearms instructor and head of security for the church, killed Kinnunen with a single shot to the head within six seconds of him opening fire. Livestream video shows a calm and steady Wilson walking swiftly past the two mortally wounded church members to make sure the gunman was no longer a threat as worshippers screamed and crouched in their pews or on the floor.

Although it was Wilson who took down Kinnunen on that Sunday in late December 2019, video shows other church members drawing weapons, preparing to defend innocent lives.

Wilson had trained the church security team’s 18 members, providing 300-man hours of training at the shooting range on his property in Hood County. The training didn’t just involve static, or non-moving, targets. Wilson said they prepared for a variety of scenarios.

“It’s continual training and practice,” Wilson said of the skills needed to protect worshippers in a mass shooting situation. “And one of the things that I teach them when I’m doing classes on the range is you don’t do head shots, you do body shots unless that’s literally all you have. Well, in my situation, all I had was a head shot because I had people between the shooter and I, including some kids. I made the decision in a split second what my target was because (a head shot) was all I had without having to worry about collateral damage.” 


Three-and-a-half years have passed since the West Freeway shooting and the ceremony that occurred two weeks later in Austin during which Wilson was awarded the Governor’s Medal of Courage.

Since that time, Wilson’s life has changed, and not just because he was elected to the Hood County Commissioners Court, a post he had already announced he would seek before the shooting incident occurred.

Wilson routinely receives and accepts speaking invitations and requests for security training from churches, not only in Texas but in other parts of the country. He does some of that work as a volunteer but is sometimes paid when travel is involved.

He recently traveled to Southaven, Mississippi, and in late June headed with his wife Jayma to an engagement near San Antonio, with plans to be back at work in the county the following day. Wilson is scheduled to return to the San Antonio area in September.

Later this month, he is scheduled to be in Lebanon, Tennessee, near Nashville, to speak twice at a Faith Based Security Network event. He’ll be going back to Nashville in August for a three-day event.

“And then I do quite a few locally, off and on,” he said, referring to requests by leaders of churches in Hood County.

Should anyone question whether Wilson is shirking his duties as a commissioner, they would likely receive a quick and pointed reply.

“I’ve already been on the phone with county business today, twice, since I left,” he told the Hood County News by phone while driving to San Antonio. “And I will continue to do so because that’s the job I signed up (for).”

Wilson stated, “Bottom line is, even though I may not be physically at the office, I can assure you that I’m working for the citizens of the county. If anybody wants to throw that stone, that’s fine, but I’ll match my hours with anybody on the court any day of the week. I don’t have a problem with that.”

The first-term commissioner said he accepts requests for help because security at churches is “something that is necessary” in today’s society.

He stated, “The one good thing that came out of my shooting event is, all across this country it woke people up to the fact that they need security teams at churches.”