Army veteran went into ‘combat mode’ to disarm Club Q shooter


“Was he shooting at the time? Was he about to shoot? I do not know. I just knew I had to knock him down.

Richard Fierro at his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado on November 21, 2022. Daniel Brenner/The New York Times

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Richard M. Fierro was at a Club Q table with his wife, daughter and friends on Saturday, watching a drag show, when the sudden flash of gunfire tore through the nightclub and instincts swirled. are forged in four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan immediately came into play. Fight, he told himself, protect your people.

In an interview at his home on Monday, where his wife and daughter were still recovering from their injuries, Fierro, 45, who spent 15 years as an army officer and left as a major in 2013, according to military records, described charging through the chaos at the club, tackling the shooter and beating him to death with his own pistol.

“I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into fight mode,” Fierro said, shaking his head as he stood in his driveway, an American flag waving in the freezing air. “I just know I have to kill this guy before he kills us.”

Authorities are holding Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, charged with killing five people, and say 18 others were injured in a rampage at the club that lasted just minutes. The death toll could have been much higher, officials said on Sunday, had bar patrons not caught the shooter.

“He saved a lot of lives,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said of Fierro. The mayor said he spoke to Fierro and was struck by his humility. “I have never met a person who has engaged in such heroic actions and been so humbled about it.”

It was meant to be a casual family night out – the combat veteran and his wife, Jess, joined their daughter, Kassandra, her longtime boyfriend Raymond Green Vance and two family friends to watch one of the friends of his daughter performing a drag number.

It was Fierro’s first time in a drag show, and he loved it. He had spent 15 years in the military and was now relishing his role as a civilian and a father watching one of his daughter’s old high school friends play.

Army veteran went into 'combat mode' to disarm Club Q shooter
Richard Fierro at his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado on November 21, 2022. –Daniel Brenner/The New York Times

“These kids want to live this way, want to have a good time, have fun,” he said, describing the night. “I’m happy about it because that’s what I fought for, so they can do what they want.”

Fierro was trying to improve to get out. In Iraq and Afghanistan, he had been shot, seen roadside bombs tearing apart trucks in his platoon, and lost friends. He was twice awarded the Bronze Star.

Wars were both past and still present. There were things he would never forget. Long after he got home, the crowd got on his nerves. He couldn’t help but be vigilant. In restaurants, he sat against the wall, facing the door. No matter how hard he tried to relax, a part of him was always ready for an attack, like an itch that couldn’t be scratched.

He was too often suspicious, quick to anger. It had been hell for his wife and daughter. He worked there. There were medications and sessions with a psychologist. He got rid of all the weapons in the house. He grew his hair long and grew a long white goatee to distance himself from his days in uniform.

He and his wife ran a successful local brewery called Atrevida Beer Co. and he enjoyed a warm relationship with his daughter and her longtime boyfriend. But he also accepted that the war would always be with him.

Army veteran went into 'combat mode' to disarm Club Q shooter
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers speaks during a press conference the day after a shooting at a club in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Sunday, November 20, 2022. –Daniel Brenner/The New York Times

But that night at Club Q, he wasn’t thinking about war at all. The women were dancing. He was joking with his friends. Then the shooting started.

It was a staccato of lightning near the front door, the familiar sound of small arms fire. Fierro knew that all too well. Without thinking, he hit the ground, dragging his friend with him. Bullets sprayed through the bar, smashing bottles and glasses. People shouted. Fierro looked up and saw a figure as big as a bear, easily weighing over 300 pounds, wearing a body armor and carrying a rifle very similar to the one he had carried in Iraq. The shooter walked through the bar towards a door leading to a patio where dozens of people had fled.

The long suppressed instincts of a platoon leader have come alive. He ran across the room, grabbed the shooter by a handle on the back of his body armor, pulled him to the ground and jumped on top of him.

“Was he shooting at the time? Was he about to shoot? I don’t know,” Fierro said.
“I just knew I had to knock him down.”

Both crashed to the ground. The shooter’s military-style rifle slammed just out of range. Fierro started to go, but then saw the shooter arrive with a gun in his other hand.

“I grabbed the gun from his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over again,” Fierro said.

As he held the man down and slammed the gun to his skull, Fierro began barking orders. He yelled at another club patron, using a series of swear words, to grab the gun, then told the patron to start kicking the shooter in the face. A drag dancer was passing by and Fierro said he ordered her to stomp on the assailant with her high heels. All the while, Fierro said, he continued to hit the shooter with the gun while shouting obscenities.

What enabled him to reject all fear and take action? He said he had no idea. Probably those old war instincts, which had plagued him for so long at home, suddenly had a place now that something like war had happened in his hometown.

Army veteran went into 'combat mode' to disarm Club Q shooter
Richard Fierro, left, talks to his brother Ed Fierro who stands by his side in support at his home during a news conference about his efforts to subdue the shooter in the Club Q nightclub shooting on Monday November 21, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo. –AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

“In combat most of the time nothing happens, but it’s that crazy minute, that crazy minute, and you get tested in that minute. It becomes a habit,” he said. “I don’t I don’t know how I managed to get the gun away from that guy, no idea I’m just a guy, I’m a fat old vet, but I knew I had to do something.

When police arrived minutes later, the shooter was no longer struggling, Fierro said. Fierro said he feared he killed him.

Fierro was covered in blood. He got up and swayed frantically in the dark, looking for his family. He spotted his friends on the ground. One had been shot several times in the chest and arm. Another had been shot in the leg.

As more police arrived, Fiero said he started shouting as if he was back in action. Victims. Victims. I need a doctor here now. He shouted to the police that the scene was clear, the shooter was shot, but people needed help. He said he took tourniquets from a young policeman and put them on his bleeding friends. He said he tried to talk to them calmly while he worked, telling them everything would be fine.

He spotted his wife and daughter at the edge of the room and was about to walk towards them when he was tackled.

Officers rushing into the chaotic scene spotted a bloodied man with a handgun, unsure if he posed a threat. They handcuffed him and locked him in the back of a police car for what seemed like over an hour. He said he screamed and begged to be released so he could see his family.

Eventually he was released. He went to the hospital with his wife and daughter, who had only minor injuries. His friends were there, and are still there, in a much more serious condition. They were all alive. But her daughter’s boyfriend was nowhere to be found. In the chaos, they had lost him. They returned to the club, looking for him, circling familiar streets, hoping to find him on his way home. But there was nothing.

The family received a call late Sunday from her mother. He had died in the shooting.

When Fierro heard, he said, he held his daughter and cried.

Army veteran went into 'combat mode' to disarm Club Q shooter
A portrait of victim Raymond Green Vance is seen surrounded by candles and flowers during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub, at Acacia Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado on November 21 2022. – Cecilia SANCHEZ / AFP

In part, he wept because he knew what awaited him. The families of the dead, the people who had been shot, were now at war, like him. They would fight like he and so many of his battle buddies had. They would suffer from misplaced vigilance, they would burst into anger, they would never be able to scratch the itch of fear, they would be torn apart by the desire to forget and the urge to always remember.

“My little girl, she screamed and I cried with her,” he said. “Driving home from the hospital, I said to them, ‘Look, I’ve been through this before, and downstairs, when that happens, you go on the next patrol. You have to get it out of your mind. That’s how you cured him. You cured it by doing more. Eventually, you return home safe and sound. But here, I’m afraid there’s no next patrol. It’s harder to cure. You are already at home.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

const onetrustStorageConsent = JSON.parse(localStorage.getItem( 'consent_one_trust_bdc' ) ); /* Checking to see if the user has consented to the use of cookies. * If they have not, it is deleting the cookie. * This will comment for now, until further notice. *///if ( onetrustStorageConsent.C0002 === false ) { //document.cookie="_fbp=;expires=Thu, 01 Jan 2010 00:00:00 UTC; path=/;"; //} /* Checking if the user has given consent for the cookie C0002. * If the user has given consent, the variable consent will be set to 'grant'. * If the user has not given consent,the variable consent will be set to 'revoke'. * Documentation */if ( ( onetrustStorageConsent !== null ) && (onetrustStorageConsent.C0002 !== true ) ) { consent="revoke"; }

!function(f,b,e,v,n,t,s){if(f.fbq)return;n=f.fbq=function() {n.callMethod? n.callMethod.apply(n,arguments):n.queue.push(arguments)} ;if(!f._fbq)f._fbq=n; n.push=n;n.loaded=!0;n.version='2.0';n.queue=[];t=b.createElement(e);t.async=!0; t.src=v;s=b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window, document,'script',''); fbq('consent', consent); fbq('init', '813236348753005'); fbq('track', "PageView");


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button