COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Richard Fierro, a decorated Army veteran, was one of two people who tackled and subdued the gunman inside a gay nightclub Saturday night in Colorado Springs, ending a rampage that killed at least five people and injured 19 others, his wife said Monday.
In an interview at her home Monday afternoon, Jessica Fierro described her husband’s heroic efforts to prevent greater tragedy.
“My husband took the gunman down,” she said of the suspect who had an AR-15 style rifle and wore a flak vest. “My husband knocked the guns out of his hands and took the pistol and literally started hitting the guy with it.”
Jessica Fierro, 45, said she was at Club Q with her husband, their daughter and friends to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
“We were having a great time, we were all on the dance floor and from one minute to the next you just heard gunshots and everyone was separated and just started running,” she said. “It was absolute chaos.”
Richard Fierro, 45, an Army veteran who completed four tours between Iraq and Afghanistan, yelled for someone to call the police, she said.
At the time, another man who had fallen to the ground, got up and started kicking the gunman. Richard Fierro injured his hands, knees and ankles in apprehending the shooter, his wife said.
As gunfire erupted, Jessica made her way to a patio area, she said.
“I was zoned, I was dazed, 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.
Authorities on Monday identified Richard Fierro and Thomas James as the patrons who stopped the gunman after he opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle before midnight.
“I have never encountered a person who had 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 simply said to me, ‘I was trying to protect my family.’”
At a news conference outside his home Monday night, Richard Fierro spoke about risking his life to save others.
“I didn’t ask for this,” he said, adding he was there to watch his daughter’s junior prom date perform.
But he wishes he could have saved the five people who were killed. “I feel no joy,” he said. “I just know is I got into mode and I needed to save my family,” and everybody in that room.
“I saw him and I went and got him. That’s what I was trained to do.”
“I’m not a hero I’m just some dude,” he said.
He served in the military for 15 years before leaving as a major.
The 22-year-old suspect was arrested by police who arrived within minutes, authorities said Sunday. He was charged Monday with five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of bias-motivated crime-causing bodily injury by state prosecutors.
Joe Aldaz, a family friend, had not heard of Richard Fierro’s actions as of Monday afternoon, but said such bravery would come naturally for him.
“I know Rich Fierro,” Aldaz said. “That would not surprise me that he would jump to that type of heroism.”
Aldaz is the president of the Colorado Springs Hispanic Chamber and said Jessica and Richard Fierro are members. The couple own Atrevida Beer Co., which opened in January 2018.
A Bronze Star Medal recipient, Richard Fierro served as a field artillery officer in the Army from June 1999 to November 2013, and held the rank of Major at the end of service, the Army said.
Besides the Bronze Star, which is given to service members who have “distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service,” he was also awarded several other commendation and achievement medals.
According to a biography on San Diego State University’s website, he graduated as the AROTC Distinguished Military Grad in 1999. He spent the next 15 years in the Army serving in various positions including platoon leader, battery commander, battalion operations officer, brigade plans officer and corps counter fire officer.
Richard Fierro earned his MBA from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs last year.
He said he enrolled in the MBA program at the advice of a supervisor. He said his undergraduate degree did not match his 15 years of Army operations and he “needed to wed this experience with an education to round out my professional experience to make myself more marketable.”
Additionally, the bio states, he pursued the graduate degree to learn about operating a small business, something he said neither he nor his wife were experienced in before launching their brewery.
“I am consistently looking for ways to increase my education and skill sets to make me a better leader,” he wrote. “I believe education and training provide you the perspective needed to apply better decision making in your daily work or small business activities.”
Deon J. Hampton reported from Colorado Springs, and Janelle Griffith and Melissa Chan reported from New York.