A Veteran of the United States Army Entered ‘Combat Mode’ in Order to Take Out the Gunman at Club Q.
Richard M. Fierro, a veteran who served for 15 years, was at the nightclub in Colorado Springs with his family when the shooter opened fire. Richard M. Fierro was killed in the attack. “I just knew I had to take him down,” he said. “It was my only option.”
On Saturday, Richard M. Fierro was at a table in Club Q with his wife, daughter, and some friends watching a drag show. Suddenly, a flash of gunfire ripped across the nightclub, and instincts that had been honed during four combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan immediately kicked in. Richard M. Fierro was able to take cover and protect his loved ones in the midst of the chaos. Fight back and protect your people, he counseled himself, he told himself.
Mr. Fierro, 45, spent 15 years as an Army officer and left as a major in 2013, according to military records. In an interview on Monday at his house, where his wife and daughter were still recovering from injuries, he described charging through the chaos at the club, tackling the gunman, and beating him bloody with the gunman’s own gun. He also said that he did this while his wife and daughter were still recovering from their wounds.
Mr. Fierro was standing in his driveway when he spoke these words as he shook his head and said, “I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into combat mode.” An American flag was flapping lazily in the bitterly cold air. “I just know that I need to kill this guy before he kills us all,” the speaker said.
During the short-lived rampage that took place at the club, the authorities arrested 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich and charged him with the murders of five people. They also say that 18 other people were injured during the incident. On Sunday, officials stated that the number of fatalities could have been much higher if the customers of the bar had not intervened to stop the shooter.
Mr. Fierro, according to Mayor John Suthers, “saved a lot of lives” in the course of his career. The mayor reported that he had a conversation with Mr. Fierro and was impressed by the latter’s modesty. “I have never come across a person who engaged in such heroic actions and was so modest about it,” said the man.
It was supposed to be a fun night out for the whole family — the war veteran and his wife, Jess, along with their daughter Kassandra, her longtime boyfriend Raymond Green Vance, and two friends of the family were going to watch one of his daughter’s friends perform a drag act. However, the night turned out to be a disaster.
Mr. Fierro was really enjoying himself at the drag show he went to for the very first time. After serving in the military for 15 years, he was now enjoying his time as a civilian and as a father, and he was at the concert to see one of his daughter’s old high school friends perform.
When he was describing the evening, he said something along the lines of, “These kids want to live that way, want to have a good time, have at it.” “I’m happy about it because that was what I fought for, so they can do whatever the hell they want,” she said. “I’m happy about it because that is what I fought for.”
Mr. Fierro was working on improving his social skills in order to go out more. While serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, he had been the target of gunfire, witnessed the destruction caused by roadside bombs, and seen friends die. He was honored with the Bronze Star on two separate occasions.
The wars were both in the past and in the present at the same time. There were some things that he was never going to forget. After returning home, it took him some time before he could relax around large groups of people. It was impossible for him not to be watchful. When he went to restaurants, he would always sit against the wall with his back to the entrance. No matter how hard he tried to kick back and relax, there was always a part of him that was braced for an assault, like an itch that couldn’t be scratched.
He had a poor track record of trustworthiness and was easily enraged. His wife and daughter had been put through the ringer as a result. He was putting some effort into it. In addition to the medication, there were sessions with a mental health professional. He got rid of any and all firearms that were in the home. In order to differentiate himself from his time spent in the military, he let his hair grow long and developed a long, white goatee.
He and his wife owned and operated a prosperous local brewery known as Atrevida Beer Co., and he enjoyed a cordial relationship with his daughter and the man she had been dating for many years. But he also came to terms with the fact that war would follow him wherever he went.
However, while he was at Club Q that evening, he did not in the least think about the war. The ladies were getting their groove on. He was kidding around with his companions. After that, shooting started up again.
There was a rapid succession of flashes near the entrance, along with the reassuring sound of gunfire from close range. It was embarrassingly obvious to Mr. Fierro. He fell to the ground without any prior consideration, dragging his friend down with him. The bar was riddled with bullet holes, and patrons’ bottles and glasses were shattered as a result. People let out screams. Mr. Fierro looked up and saw a figure that was as large as a bear, easily weighing more than 300 pounds, and carrying a rifle that was very similar to the one he had carried in Iraq. The figure was wearing body armor. The shooter was making his way through the bar in the direction of a door that led to a patio where a large number of people had taken refuge.
The instincts of a platoon leader that had been repressed for a long time suddenly burst back into life. He quickly raced across the room, grabbed the gunman by a handle located on the back of his body armor, yanked him to the ground, and jumped on top of him.
When you asked, “Was he firing at the time? Was he about to pull the trigger? Mr. Fierro responded, “I have no idea.” “I had no choice but to take him out,” she said.
Both individuals ended up on the ground. The clattering sound of the gunman’s military-style rifle could be heard just beyond his grasp. Mr. Fierro started to go for it, but then saw the gunman come up with a pistol in the other hand. After that, he decided not to go for it.
Mr. Fierro explained what happened next by saying, “I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over again.”
Mr. Fierro began barking orders as he held the man down and slammed the pistol down on the man’s head while at the same time holding the man down. In a string of expletives, he yelled at another patron of the club to grab the rifle, after which he instructed the patron to begin kicking the gunman in the face. He then continued to yell expletives. When a drag dancer who was passing by saw what was happening, Mr. Fierro said he yelled at her to use her high heels to stomp on the attacker. According to Mr. Fierro, the assailant continued to yell profanities at the shooter while beating him with the pistol the entire time.
What was it that allowed him to completely disregard his fear and take action? He stated that he had no idea whatsoever. Probably those old war instincts, which had been a burden on him for such a long time at home, all of a sudden had a place for them now that something resembling war had come to his hometown.
“During combat, the vast majority of the time, nothing happens. However, there is always that one minute, that one minute, in which you are put to the test. It becomes second nature,” he explained. “I have absolutely no idea how I was able to take the weapon away from that individual. I’m just a guy, and I’m a chubby old veteran, but I was aware that something needed to be done.”
Mr. Fierro reported that by the time the police arrived a few minutes later, the gunman was no longer putting up a fight. Mr. Fierro stated that he was afraid that he had already taken his life.
The blood had splattered all over Mr. Fierro. He got to his feet and began groping around in the shadows, looking for his family as he did so. He saw some of his friends lying on the ground. The chest and arm of one of the victims had been shot multiple times. Another victim had been hit in the leg by a bullet.
Mr. Fierro stated that as more police arrived, he began shouting as if he were back in the middle of a battle. Casualties. Casualties. I need a medical professional right now. He yelled at the police that the scene was clear, that the shooter was down, but that people still needed assistance. He claimed that he had taken tourniquets from a young police officer and applied them to his friends who were bleeding. He stated that he made an effort to speak to them in a soothing tone while he worked, assuring them that everything would be fine.
When he saw his wife and daughter standing on the edge of the room, he turned to go over to them but was tackled instead.
When officers arrived at the chaotic scene, they saw a man covered in blood and holding a handgun, but they were unsure whether or not he posed a threat. They handcuffed him and then placed him in the trunk of a police car, where he remained for what seemed to be more than an hour. He claimed that he screamed and begged to be released so that he could be with his family. He wanted to see them so badly.
In the end, he was allowed to go free. He accompanied his wife and daughter, both of whom had suffered only minor injuries, to the hospital. His friends were there, and some of them are still there, despite the fact that their conditions are much more critical. They were all still breathing. However, the boyfriend of his daughter could not be located anywhere. They were unable to locate him in the mayhem. They drove back to the club and continued their search for him there, circling familiar streets in the hope of discovering him on his way home on foot. However, there was nothing there.
The family received a phone call from his mother late on Sunday night. He had been killed in the exchange of gunfire.
After hearing the news, Mr. Fierro is quoted as saying that he sobbed while holding his daughter.
He cried, in part, because he was afraid of what was going to happen next. It was now the turn of the families of the deceased, the people who were shot, to experience war, just as he had. They would face the same challenges that he and many of his other comrades in arms had faced. They would suffer from the ache of misplaced vigilance, they would lash out in anger, they would never be able to scratch the itch of fear, and they would be torn apart by the conflicting desires to forget and always remember.
“She screamed and I was crying with her,” he said, referring to his young daughter. While I was driving them back to their house from the hospital, I gave them the following advice: “Look, I’ve been through this before, and down range, when this happens, you just get out on the next patrol. You have to stop thinking about it and move on.’ You overcame the problem by doing so. You found the solution by working harder. In the end, you make it home without incident. However, I am concerned that there will not be a subsequent patrol. It is more difficult to treat. You have arrived at your destination.”