When 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 ducked to avoid any potential incoming fire, 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 on Monday outside his home in Colorado Springs, where an American flag hung from the porch.
Fierro is one of two people police are crediting with saving lives by subduing a 22-year-old man armed with multiple firearms, including an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle, who went on a shooting rampage on Saturday night at Club Q, a well-known gathering place for the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado Springs. Five people were killed and at least 17 wounded.
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. That suddenly changed when the shots rang out and Kassy’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, was fatally shot.
Speaking to reporters at his home on Monday, Fierro teared up as he recalled Raymond smiling and dancing before the shooting started.
Fierro said he saw the shooter’s body armor and the crowd that had fled to the club’s patio. Fierro grasped the body armor and yanked the shooter down while yelling at another patron, Thomas James, to move the rifle out of reach.
As the shooter was pinned under a barrage of punches from Fierro and kicks to the head from James, he tried to reach for his pistol. Fierro grabbed it and used it as a bludgeon.
When another club-goer ran by in heels, Fierro told her to kick the gunman. She stuffed her high-heeled shoe in the attacker’s face, Fierro said.
Del Lusional, a drag queen who performed at Club Q on Saturday night, said on Twitter that the patron who intervened with her heel was a transgender woman.
“I love them,” Fierro said of the city’s LGBTQ+ community. “I have nothing but love.”
Fierro served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan as a field artillery officer and left the Army as a major in 2013, an army spokesperson said.
Fierro and James, about whom little was known as of Monday evening, pinned the shooter down until officers arrived minutes later.
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.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday that Joe Biden had spoken with the Fierros.
“He offered his condolences to them and also his support and talked through what it’s like to grieve,” Jean-Pierre said, adding that Biden thanked Fierro for his instinct to act and save lives.