A former soldier used the training he learned in the U.S. Army to help subdue the suspect in the horrific shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs over the weekend, saving perhaps "dozens and dozens of lives."
Richard Fierro, 45, was at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Saturday evening with his wife; his daughter, Kassy; and his daughter's boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, to celebrate a friend's birthday and watch a drag show, when the unthinkable happened. Just before midnight that evening, reports say Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, walked into the club carrying two guns and began shooting into the crowd.
Fierro immediately identified the threat and, in his words, "went into combat mode."
"I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into combat mode," Fierro told reporters later. "I just know I have to kill this guy before he kills us."
"It's just the reflex: Go. Go to the fight. Stop the action. Stop the activity. Don't let no one get hurt," he added.
According to accounts from Fierro and other witnesses, Fierro did, indeed, do his best to "stop" the shooting. Aldrich was supposedly wearing body armor during the attack and was reaching for his other firearm when Fierro grabbed the suspect by the body armor and located areas of vulnerability.
"[H]e was in armor plates, so I started hitting him wherever there was skin," Fierro recalled. "The back of his head was my target."
Fierro then trapped the suspect against a stairway, and a drag queen kicked the shooter with high heels.
One club owner, Matthew Haynes, credited Fierro with saving "dozens and dozens of lives."
Another club attendee that evening, Thomas James, also reportedly aided in disarming or otherwise subduing the suspect, though his role has not been confirmed. On the night of the shooting, Colorado Springs Police Deputy Chief Adrian Vasquez asserted that "[a]t least two heroic people inside the club confronted and fought with the suspect and were able to stop the suspect from continuing to kill and harm others." James has not spoken publicly about his actions that evening.
Fierro stated that his main motive was to protect others, especially his family, and he made sure to tell the suspect exactly what he thought of him.
"I told him while I was hitting him, I said, ‘I’m going to f****** kill you, man, because you tried to kill my friends.' My family was in there. My little girl was in there," Fierro said through tears.
Unfortunately, Fierro was not able to protect everyone. Reports claim that Aldrich managed to kill five people and wound at least 24 others. One of the deceased was Vance, Fierro's daughter's boyfriend. Kassy, Fierro's daughter, also broke her knee that night, and there are reports of a non-shooting injury. Whether Kassy's knee is that "non-shooting injury" remains unclear.
Aldrich also sustained injuries that evening and received treatment at a local hospital. His condition is unknown. He has been charged with five counts of murder and five counts of committing a bias-motivated crime that caused injury, though The Hill claims that those charges may change before his first court appearance. He is expected to appear in court virtually after his release from the hospital.
Fierro served his country for decades in the Army. He joined as a field artillery officer in 1999 and served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan between November 2003 and April 2012. He left the Army as a major in 2013. During his time in the Army, he earned the Combat Action Badge and two Bronze Stars.
"If you actually do this stuff, it’s in you. I was proud to be a soldier," Fierro stated.
"I’m an officer, and that’s what we do. I took control of the scene as best I could."
Now as a civilian, Fierro and his wife own a local brewery called Atrevida Beer Company. The family, who all identify as heterosexual, proudly support the LGBTQ and pride movements.
"I love every one of them," said Fierro. "That community, I love. I have nothing but love. I have nothing but love for everybody."