COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A decorated Army veteran who confronted the shooter who killed five people at a Colorado Springs gay club said he wanted to protect the tight-knit community inside the room.
Richard Fierro, 45, was at Club Q celebrating a birthday with his wife, daughter and friends when he found himself one of two people who subdued the attacker armed with an AR-15 style rifle and carrying a bulletproof vest.
“I just know that I went into mode and I needed to save my family, and my family at the time was everyone in that room,” he said at a news conference outside his home on Monday.
“That’s what they trained me for. I saw it and went looking for it… I tried to save people and it didn’t work for five. There are five people who are not home right now.”
“I didn’t ask for this,” she said, adding that she was there to see her daughter’s prom date perform. “I’m not a hero, I’m just a guy,” she said.
Fierro served in the military for 15 years, touring in Iraq and Afghanistan, before leaving as a major.
Authorities identified Fierro and Thomas James Monday as the customers who detained the gunman after he opened fire just before midnight.
“I have never come across a person who has 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 just told 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 further tragedy.
“My husband shot down the gunman,” she said. “My husband took the guns out of his hands and took the gun 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 shots and everyone broke up and started running,” he said. “It was absolute chaos.”
Her husband yelled at someone to call the police, she said.
At that moment, another man who had fallen to the ground got up and began kicking the gunman. Fierro injured his hands, knees and ankles stopping the shooter, his wife said.
When the shots erupted, Jessica Fierro headed for a patio, she said.
“I was zoned, I was in a daze, 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 hate or hate crimes.
Joe Aldaz, a family friend, had not heard of Fierro’s actions until Monday afternoon, but said such bravery would come naturally for the veteran.
“I know Rich Fierro,” Aldaz said. “That wouldn’t surprise me if he jumps into that kind of heroism.”
Aldaz is the president of the Colorado Springs Hispanic Chamber and said Jessica and Richard Fierro are members. the couple owns daring beer., which opened in January 2018.
A Bronze Star Medal winner, Fierro served as a field artillery officer in the Army from June 1999 to November 2013, holding the rank of Major at the end of the service, the Army said.
In addition to the Bronze Star, which is awarded to service members who have “distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious service or achievement,” he also received several other commendation and achievement medals.
According to a biography on the San Diego State University website, Fierro graduated as an AROTC Distinguished Military Graduate in 1999. He spent the next 15 years in the Army serving in various capacities, including platoon leader, battery commander, officer battalion operations officer, brigade planning officer and corps fire-fighting 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.