COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. –
When U.S. army veteran Rich Fierro realized a gunman was spraying bullets inside the club where he had gathered with friends and family, instincts from his military training immediately kicked in.
First he dove to duck any potential incoming fire, and then he moved to try to disarm the shooter.
“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.
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 LGBTQ2S+ community in Colorado Springs.
Fierro 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.
Fierro told reporters that once his instincts kicked in, he and another man approached the shooter. He grabbed the attacker’s body armor and began punching him while the other man, Thomas James, began kicking him. The suspect reached for a handgun, but Fierro grabbed it from him. He also told James to kick away the shooter’s AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.
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 LGBTQ2S+ community. “I have nothing but love.”
Fierro and James, about whom little was known as of Monday evening, pinned the shooter down until officers arrived minutes later.
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..
Though his actions saved lives, Fierro said the five deaths — including his daughter’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance — were a tragedy both personal and for the broader community.
“There are five people that I could not help. And one of which was family to me,” he said, as his brother put a consoling hand on his shoulder.
Fierro said he doesn’t remember if the gunman responded as he yelled and struggled to subdue him, but he has thought about their next interaction.
“I’m gonna see that guy in court,” Fierro said. “And that guy’s gonna see who did him.”
Metz reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press reporter Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed.