Fierro, the Mexican-American co-owner of a popular local brewery, was at Club Q with his wife, daughter, and daughter’s boyfriend to celebrate a birthday, reports have said. He told The New York Times he’d actually never been to a drag performance before but that he was “happy about it because that is what I fought for, so they can do whatever the hell they want.”
But the evening’s festivities would be interrupted by a gunman who’d already been on law enforcement radar for reportedly making a bomb threat against his own mother. Even though he was charged with kidnapping and four other felonies, local prosecutors apparently never pursued a conviction against him.
Fierro told The New York Times that he instinctively pulled people down when the sound of bullets began to ring through the club. He then saw the body armor-clad shooter barreling toward a patio where terrified patrons had fled for safety. “The long-suppressed instincts of a platoon leader surged back to life,” the report said. “He raced across the room, grabbed the gunman by a handle on the back of his body armor, pulled him to the floor and jumped on top of him,” ultimately beating him with his own weapon. Fierro was aided by an unnamed drag performer who also beat the gunman with their high heels.
But after saving the lives of countless people at Club Q, police detained Fierro for over an hour after taking the gunman into custody, not knowing if he had something to do with it too. From the back of a police car, he panicked, not knowing if his loved ones were harmed. He had instinctively jumped into such quick action to stop the killer, that he no idea about their whereabouts.
“Eventually, he was freed,” the report continued. “He went to the hospital with his wife and daughter, who had only minor injuries. His friends were there, and are still there, in much more serious condition. They were all alive.” However, his daughter’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, was among the five patrons and employees killed. The four others were Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, and Derrick Rump. In a heartbreaking interview with CNN, Fierro broke down because he said he was unable to save them. But he should know he did so much.
The nation’s oldest Latino civil rights organization has since recognized Fierro as the hero he is, and announced that it is awarding him with a medal and a $5,000 reward. League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) president Domingo Garcia said Fierro’s heroism “exemplifies what our Latino servicemembers and veterans do in the face of danger, even when it means putting their own lives on the line.”
“LULAC is awarding this ex-combat soldier who did four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan the LULAC Presidential Medal,” he continued. “This recognition is the highest honor bestowed by the league in our 93-year history. Only a select group of men and women are worthy of this honor, and Rich is a hero whose actions saved lives, even if he might lose his own.”
LULAC said it was inviting Fierro to Washington to accept the honor, but that the organization could also come to him in Colorado. Of course, Fierro and his family’s recovery from this traumatic event is priority. The New York Times reported that Fierro had already been “on edge” and “vigilant” after returning from combat. This is only extending that trauma. There are no words to fully describe the horror of a recovering veteran, of patrons and cherished staff members, trying to come together in community, only to have it ripped apart in an instant.