It was a 15-year army veteran and family man who disarmed the 22-year-old gunman who allegedly killed five people inside a Colorado Springs LGBTQ club, potentially saving dozens of lives.
Richard Fierro, who spent four combat deployments across Iraq and Afghanistan, told The New York Times he was at the Club Q drag show Saturday with his wife, daughter, Kassy, her boyfriend and some friends when bullets went flying.
Fierro, who spoke outside his home Monday, said it was “one of the group’s most enjoyable nights,” according to The Associated Press.
However the night took a drastic turn when the shots began and Kassy’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, was fatally shot. Fierro “teared up as he recalled Raymond smiling and dancing before the shots rang out.”
“Everyone else was running away and he ran toward him,” said Matthew Haynes, one of the club’s owners, said of Fierro.
Richard M. Fierro is a hero. He served his country and protected his community. He's the very best of us. pic.twitter.com/LMWQJw9bF9
— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) November 21, 2022
Fierro, who rose to the rank of major and earned numerous military awards including the Combat Action Badge and two Bronze Star Medals during his service, said he had only ever been shot at from afar before—but this time, he could smell the cordite.
“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.
Then, he says, he went into “combat mode.”
“It’s the reflex. Go! Go to the fire. Stop the action. Stop the activity. Don’t let no one get hurt. I tried to bring everybody back,” he said Monday outside his home, according to The Associated Press.
As he looked up from the floor, Fierro spotted the shooter’s body armor and instead of running from the attacker, moved toward him, grasped the body armor, then stripped suspected gunman Anderson Aldrich of his rifle and beat him bloody with it.
“I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over,” Fierro told the Times, describing a scuffle in which he found himself atop the 300-something pound gunman, who had momentarily lost his grip on his rifle. “I just know I have to kill this guy before he kills us.”
He said he enlisted the help of another patron, Thomas James, to secure the rifle so it was out of reach of their attacker.
He also enlisted the help of a drag performer from the club, asking them to kick the gunman. The performer, he said, “stuffed a high-heeled shoe in the attacker’s face.”
“Nobody in that club asked to do this,” he said, but now people are “going to have to live with it now.”
When police arrived, a blood-stained Fierro was handcuffed and detained in a cop car as law enforcement assessed the situation.
In a post on the Facebook page of the couple’s brewery, Atrevida Beer Co., Fierro’s wife, Jess, described the “horrific series of events.”
“My family, friends and I decided to have a fun night out. Unfortunately, we were all there when the shooter entered. It was absolute havoc. It was terrifying.”
Jess said Kassy broke her knee “as she was running for cover” while their best friends were both shot multiple times.
“I bruised the right side of my body and Rich injured both his hands, knees and ankle as he apprehended the shooter. He was covered in blood.”
She announced: “With an incredibly heavy and broken heart we lost Raymond, who had been a part of our lives since our daughter was in high school. Raymond was Kassy’s boyfriend. We are going to miss him and his bright smile so much. We are going through a lot of emotions as a family and as a brewery. 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 or business.”
She finished by saying the shooting “has left us and our community scarred but not broken. Much love to everyone.”
Local police, who credit the actions of a slew of unnamed patrons with saving “dozens and dozens of lives” Saturday night, cuffed the bloodied 45-year-old Fierro when they arrived at the scene, leaving him in the backseat of a police vehicle for more than an hour as he cried to be reunited with his family.
Fierro’s wife and daughter are reportedly at home, still recovering from their injuries, according to the Times. In total, five people lost their lives in the senseless attack at the LGBTQ nightclub Saturday night, while another 18 people were left injured.
“I just want people to take care of people, the people who are hurt and no longer with us,” Fierro told the Post. “I still got two of my best friends who are in the hospital. They still need prayers; they still need support.”
At a Monday afternoon press conference, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said he’d met with Fierro, whom he called a “real hero” earlier in the day.
“I was just trying to protect my family,” he said Fierro told him.