Richard M. Fierro was with his wife, daughter and friends when a gunman opened fire at Club Q nightclub on Saturday, reports The New York Times. Fierro’s training as an Army officer from four combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan kicked in and he charged towards the shooter.
“I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into combat mode,” Fierro told the New York Times. “I just know I have to kill this guy before he kills us.”
He was there to celebrate a friend’s birthday with his family and to support a drag show performed by his daughter’s best friend. When the gunshots fired, Fierro said he rushed towards the gunman through the chaos, tackling him and beating the gunman with his own gun.
“I had my whole Colorado Springs family in there. I had to do something. He was not going to kill my family,” Fierro told the Washington Post. “I just want people to take care of people, the people who are hurt and no longer with us. I still got two of my best friends who are in the hospital. They still need prayers; they still need support.”
Authorities are holding 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, who opened fire on Saturday night at the LGBTQ+ nightclub Club Q. The attack, which killed at least five people and injured 25 more, was described by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers as having “all the trappings of a hate crime,” though he added that an official motive is “still under investigation.”
Fierro’s account of the shooting at Club Q closely matches descriptions given by the police, city officials and the club’s owners, who reviewed security footage, reports the New York Times. Chief Adrian Vasquez of the Colorado Springs Police Department identified Fierro and Thomas James as the people who knocked down the gunman.
When one club owner, Nic Grzecka, was shown a photo of Fierro, he said that he looked like the man who took down the gunman. “I don’t even know his name,” Grzecka said. “I would really like to meet him.”
When the gunfire started, Fierro said that he looked across the room and saw the shooter standing at the door. “I ran across the bar, grabbed the guy from the back and pulled him down and pinned him against the stairs,” he said.
“I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over,” Fierro said.
He said he yelled for other patrons to help him and that a man near the shooter moved the rifle to safety and a drag queen kicked the gunman with her high heels. Fierro continued to beat the attacker’s head while blood pooled around them. When police arrived, Fierro said that the shooter was no longer struggling.
The suspect in the shooting was taken into custody and remained hospitalized on Monday afternoon.
At first, Fierro said officers tackled, handcuffed, and put him in a police car for more than an hour before releasing him to be reunited with his wife and daughter.
He found out later that his daughter’s high school sweetheart, 22-year-old Raymond Green Vance, was one of the victims that night.
Military records show that Fierro served as an Army field artillery officer from 1999 to 2013, and that he rose to the rank of major before leaving the service, according to the Post. Fierro received a Combat Action Badge and two Bronze Stars for his service.
“NO ONE should ever have to witness bloodshed like this,” his wife, Jessica Fierro, wrote on Facebook. “The loss of lives and the injured are in our hearts. We are devastated and torn. We love our #lgbtq community and stand with them. This cowardly and despicable act of hate has no room in our lives.”
Police and others have credited unnamed patrons with saving “dozens and dozens of lives,” as one of club’s owners, Matthew Haynes, said at a Sunday memorial vigil. “Stopped the man cold. Everyone else was running away and he ran toward him.”