COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A decorated former US Army Major says instinct took over when he helped disarm a man police say went on a murderous rampage inside an LGBTQ nightclub here.
“I wasn’t thinking,” said Rich Fierro to a group of reporters Monday night. “I Just ran over there, got him.”
The thoughts ran through Fierro’s mind quickly, he recalled. “I gotta kill this guy, he’s going to kill my kid, he’s gonna kill my wife,” he said.
“He ended up killing my daughter’s boyfriend.”
Fierro is one of two men police are crediting with saving lives by subduing a 22-year-old gunman who went on a shooting rampage Saturday night at Club Q, a well-known gathering place for the LGBTQ community.
The former soldier was there with his daughter Kassy, her boyfriend and several other friends to see a drag show and celebrate a birthday. He said it was one of the group’s most enjoyable nights, until the shooting started.
“The guy came in shooting. I smelled the cordite, I saw the flash. I dove, shoved my buddy down … when I tried to get up, I saw the ACUs, the armor plates,” he said. “I don’t know if he was shooting yet. I saw that and I saw the people on the patio. I grabbed him by the back of his cheap armor thing and pulled him down.”
Fierro said that he and another young man pinned the shooter, later identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich, stripping a pistol and a rifle away from him before beginning to beat Aldrich.
The other man who tackled the shooter was later identified as Thomas James.
“I just kept whaling on him, and I told the dude in front of me, kick him in his head,” Fierro said.
When a performer who was there for the drag show ran by, Fierro told them to kick the gunman. The performer stuffed a high-heeled shoe in the attacker’s face and also tried to subdue him, Fierro said.
“I love them,” Fierro said of the city’s LGBTQ community. “I have nothing but love.”
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After arriving on scene, police cuffed Fierro for about an hour, he said, detaining him in the back of a police car. Fierro said he doesn’t hold it against the Colorado Springs Police Department, saying they were just doing their job in sorting out what happened.
Fierro repeatedly rejected the label of “hero” for his actions. “I’m not a hero, I hope that people who really want to be a hero go do that. I hope my daughter is a hero. I’m just some dude from San Diego trying to make it,” said the two-time Bronze recipient and veteran of three combat tours.
“I used to tell my soldiers, let’s go, gotta get on the next patrol. No one in the building is gonna be able to get on the next patrol. They have to live with this until they’re able to deal with it. I feel for every person in that room,” he said.
Fierro expressed regret that he did not “finish” the shooter.
“That guy is still alive, and my family is not,” he said. ” I tried to finish him, he’s still in the hospital. I don’t know where he’s at, don’t care.”
Raymond Greene, his daughter’s boyfriend, was killed in the shooting. His daughter Kassy broke her knee during the violence.
Four other bar patrons were killed in the shooting, with 17 others wounded.
Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said Monday that Fierro acted courageously.
“I have never encountered a person who had engaged in such heroic actions who was so humble about it,” Vasquez said. “He simply said to me, ‘I was trying to protect my family.’”
The mass shooting left five dead and at least 17 wounded by gunfire. The suspect, who was said to be carrying multiple guns and additional ammunition magazines, faces murder and hate crime charges.
Fierro’s wife, Jess, said via Facebook that her husband had bruised his right side and injured his hands, knees and ankle. “He was covered in blood,” she wrote on the page of their brewery, Atrevida Beer Co.
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Fierro, who also owns the Brewing Company, said he loved the Club Q community and the wider Colorado Springs Community. “(Atrevida Brewing does) the pride parade every year because we love our community. Gay, straight, doesn’t matter. I’m straight, and my kids are straight, but we go there and patronize them because it’s about community. Everybody needs to survive out here, that’s what Colorado Springs is about.”
Fierro said he did not care what happens to Aldrich as the case moves through the criminal justice system. However, he said, he would be at court hearings. “That guy is going to see who did him,” Fierro said.
Aldrich is being held without bond and may be charged with five counts of murder and five counts of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury, though those charges are preliminary and haven’t been filed yet.
Contributing: Associated Press