COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A decorated army veteran who tackled the shooter who killed five in a Colorado Springs gay club said he wanted to protect the close knit community inside the room.
Richard Fierro, 45, was at Club Q celebrating a birthday with his wife, their daughter and her friends when he found himself one of two people who subdued the attacker armed with an AR-15 style rifle and wearing a flak vest.
“I just know I got into mode, and I needed to save my family — and my family was at that time everybody in that room,” he said in a news conference outside his home on Monday.
“That’s what I was trained to do. I saw him and I went and got him… I tried to save people and it didn’t work out for five. There’s five people who aren’t home right now.”
“I didn’t ask for this,” he said, adding he was there to watch his daughter’s junior prom date perform. “I’m not a hero, I’m just some dude,” he said.
Fierro served in the military for 15 years, doing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, before leaving as a major.
Authorities on Monday identified Fierro and Thomas James as the patrons who stopped the gunman after he opened fire just before midnight.
“I have never encountered a person who had engaged in such heroic actions who was so humble about it,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said of Fierro during a news conference Monday. “He simply said to me, ‘I was trying to protect my family.’”
In an interview at her home Monday afternoon, Jessica Fierro described her husband’s heroic efforts to prevent greater tragedy.
“My husband took the gunman down,” she said. “My husband knocked the guns out of his hands and took the pistol and literally started hitting the guy with it.”
“We were having a great time, we were all on the dance floor and from one minute to the next you just heard gunshots and everyone was separated and just started running,” she said. “It was absolute chaos.”
Her husband yelled for someone to call the police, she said.
At the time, another man who had fallen to the ground, got up and started kicking the gunman. Fierro injured his hands, knees and ankles in apprehending the shooter, his wife said.
As gunfire erupted, Jessica Fierro made her way to a patio area, she said.
“I was zoned, I was dazed, I was scared,” she said. But her husband remained inside.
Jessica Fierro said her two best friends were shot and her daughter broke her knee running for cover. She said her daughter’s boyfriend was killed in the attack.
The 22-year-old suspect was arrested by police who arrived within minutes, authorities said Sunday. He was arrested on suspicion of five counts of first degree murder and five counts of bias motivated or hate crimes.
Joe Aldaz, a family friend, had not heard of Fierro’s actions as of Monday afternoon, but said such bravery would come naturally for the veteran.
“I know Rich Fierro,” Aldaz said. “That would not surprise me that he would jump to that type of heroism.”
Aldaz is the president of the Colorado Springs Hispanic Chamber and said Jessica and Richard Fierro are members. The couple own Atrevida Beer Co., which opened in January 2018.
A Bronze Star Medal recipient, Fierro served as a field artillery officer in the Army from June 1999 to November 2013, and held the rank of Major at the end of service, the Army said.
Besides the Bronze Star, which is given to service members who have “distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service,” he was also awarded several other commendation and achievement medals.
According to a biography on San Diego State University’s website, Fierro graduated as the AROTC Distinguished Military Grad in 1999. He spent the next 15 years in the Army serving in various positions including platoon leader, battery commander, battalion operations officer, brigade plans officer and corps counter fire officer.
He earned his MBA from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs last year.
Deon J. Hampton reported from Colorado Springs, and Janelle Griffith and Melissa Chan reported from New York.