Editor's note: The Club Q shooting suspect identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, according to court documents filed by their defense attorneys. This article has been updated to reflect the proper pronouns.
DENVER — One of two men hailed by police as a hero for stopping the Club Q shooter opened up for the first time since late Saturday night’s shooting in Colorado Springs.
Richard Fierro and another man, identified by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers as Thomas James, who is a sailor in the US Navy, subdued the 22-year-old suspect before they killed or harmed any more people. The suspect is in custody.
The shooting left five people dead and 19 people injured. Of the 19 hurt, 17 had at least one gunshot wound. James is stable in the hospital.
Fierro, a former Army major and an Iraqi war veteran, was celebrating a birthday with his wife, daughter and his daughter’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, 22, when the suspect came into the club shooting.
“I don't know what the hell he was shooting at. I smelled the cordite (ammunition explosive). I saw the flash. I dove, pushed my buddy down. I fell back behind [bar seating],” Fierro explained.
He said moments later, there was a lull in the shooting and noticed the suspect was making his way toward the patio, where his wife and others had escaped to. That’s when he acted.
“I grabbed [the shooter] by the back of his little cheap ass armor thing and pulled him down,” Fierro said.
He said the suspect, while subdued, was going for their pistol. At that point, another man, presumably James, jumped in to help Fierro.
“I grabbed the pistol from him. and then I told the guy, ‘Move the AR!’ The kid in front of me, because he was at his head, I said, ‘Move the AR. Get the AR away from him.’ And the kid did it,” Fierro said. “Then I started whaling on this dude. And I'm on top of him. I'm a big dude, man, this guy was bigger. And I just kept whaling on him. And I told the kid in front of me, ‘Kick him in his head! Keep kicking him in his head!’”
“I tried to finish him," he said.
When a performer who was there for the drag show ran by, Fierro told them to kick the gunman. The performer stuffed a high-heeled shoe in the attacker's face, Fierro said.
“I love them,” Fierro said of the city's LGBTQ community. “I have nothing but love.”
Fierro and James pinned the shooter down until officers arrived minutes later. Fierro was briefly handcuffed and sat in a police car as law enforcement tried to calm the chaos.
The suspect was arrested on 10 counts, including first-degree murder and bias-motivated crime, according to court records. They have not been formally charged and are being held without bond. Authorities have not confirmed a motive for the shooting.
Fierro spoke during a press briefing in front of his Colorado Springs home Monday evening. His daughter, mourning the loss of her long-time boyfriend, was too distraught to talk. Vance was among the five victims who didn't make it out of Club Q Saturday night.
"Raymond was part of our family since my daughter was in high school. I went to his football games. I sat with his mom. I sat with his little brother. They are great people," he said.
Fierro served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and said he’s dealt with violence. That’s what he signed up for. “Nobody in that club asked to do this,” he said, but everyone “is going to have to live with it now.”
Fierro came off as humble during the 30-minute press conference, reluctant to wear the "hero" label.
"I'm not a hero. I'm just some dude," he said. "Everybody find their heroes this Thanksgiving at the dinner table. You know, mom and dad or aunt and uncle or whoever you want."
He praised a Club Q patron, Joshua Thurman, for saving his daughter's life.
"The guy Joshua, who was dancing with my daughter and my wife and Joanne, he grabbed my daughter, and they went and hid. He saved my daughter's life, man. I couldn't ask for anything more," Fierro said.
Thurman talked to Denver7 Sunday about what he experienced that night. He thought, at first, the gunshots were part of the music he was dancing to.
“I thought it was the music, so I kept dancing. Then I heard another set of shots and then me and a customer ran to the dressing room, got on the ground and locked the doors, and called the police immediately,” Thurman said.
Mayor Suthers said during a press conference Monday that he had the chance to talk with Fierro earlier in the day.
“I have never encountered a person who engaged in such heroic actions that was so humble about it,” Suthers said. “He simply said to me, ‘I was trying to protect my family.’”
During the same press conference, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez identified the victims as:
- Kelly Loving, 40 (she/her)
- Daniel Aston, 28 (he/him)
- Derrick Rump, 38 (he/him)
- Ashley Paugh, 35 (she/her)
- Raymond Green Vance, 22 (he/him)
Click here to read more about these victims and how their friends and family will remember them.
The suspect was arrested last year and accused of making bomb and weapons threats against their mother. However, criminal charges were not filed, Denver7 Investigates has confirmed.
Fierro said he doesn't remember if the gunman responded as he yelled and struggled to subdue them, but he has thought about their next interaction.
“I’m gonna see that guy in court,” Fierro said. “And that guy’s gonna see who did him.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report