When Army veteran Rich Fierro realized a gunman was spraying bullets inside the clubhouse where he had gathered with his friends and family, his military training instincts immediately kicked in. manifested.

He ducked first to avoid any potential incoming fire, then 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 anyone get hurt. I tried to bring everyone back,” he said Monday outside his Colorado Springs home, where an American flag hung on the porch.

Fierro is one of two people police credit with saving lives by subduing a 22-year-old man armed with multiple firearms, including an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, who went on a 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 injured.

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 nicest nights the group had. 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 wept as he remembered Raymond smiling and dancing before the shooting began.

Fierro could smell the ammo cordite, saw the flashes, and dove, pushing his friend down before falling backwards.

Looking up from the ground, Fierro saw the shooter’s body armor and the crowd that had fled to the club terrace. Moving towards the attacker, Fierro grabbed the body armor, pulled the shooter down while yelling at another customer, Thomas James, to move the rifle out of reach.

James is a U.S. Navy information systems technician stationed at the Defense Intelligence Agency base in Colorado Springs, according to a biography released by the Navy. The Navy statement on Tuesday said James was in stable condition, without giving details of the nature of his injuries.

As the shooter was pinned down by 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 club.

“I tried to finish it,” he said.

When a club goer switched to heels, Fierro told him to kick the shooter. 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 boss who stepped in with her heel was a transgender woman.

“I love them,” Fierro said of the city’s LGBTQ community. “I only have love.”

Fierro has completed three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan as a field artillery officer and left the army as a major in 2013, an army spokesman said.

He noted that he had faced violence. That’s why he signed up. “No one at this club asked to do that,” he said, but everyone “is going to have to live with that now.”

Fierro and James restrained the shooter until officers arrived minutes later. Fierro was briefly handcuffed and seated in a police cruiser as law enforcement tried to quell the chaos.

“I have never met a person who has taken such heroic action and been so humbled about it,” Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said of Fierro on Monday. “He just said to me, ‘I was trying to protect my family. ‘”

The suspect, who was carrying multiple firearms and extra rounds of ammunition, faces murder and hate crime charges.

Fierro’s wife, Jess, said via Facebook that her husband injured his right side and injured his hands, knees and ankle. “He was covered in blood,” she wrote on the page for their brewery, Atrevida Beer Co.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that President Joe Biden had spoken with the Fierros. “He offered them his condolences as well as his support and explained what it is to grieve,” Jean-Pierre said, adding that Biden thanked Fierro for his instinct to act and save lives.

Although her actions saved lives, Fierro said the deaths — including her daughter’s boyfriend, Vance — were a tragedy both personally and for the wider community. The self-proclaimed “dude from San Diego” who said he was from an immigrant family pushed back against the idea that he was a hero and asked to stay focused on those whose lives were lost.

“There are five people I couldn’t help. And one of them was my family,” he said, as his brother laid a comforting hand on his shoulder.

Fierro said he couldn’t remember if the shooter responded as he screamed and struggled to subdue him, but he thought about their next interaction.

“I’m going to see this guy in court,” Fierro said. “And this guy is going to see who did it.”

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