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, and some friends when bullets went flying.
“Everyone else was running away and he ran toward him,” said Matthew Haynes, one of the club’s owners.
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,” stripping suspected gunman Anderson Aldrich of his rifle and beating 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.”
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.