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Shooting in Colorado | Army veteran switched to ‘combat mode’ to disarm shooter

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(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) Richard M. Fierro was seated at Club Q with his wife, daughter and friends on Saturday, watching a drag show, when the unexpected flash of gunfire went off in the nightclub. His instinct, the fruit of four deployments as an army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, immediately kicked in. He said to himself, “Defend yourself. »

During an interview at his home, where his wife and daughter were still recovering from their injuries, Mr. Fierro, 45 – who left the army in 2013 as a major, according to military records – described rushing into the chaos of the nightclub, attacking the shooter and beating him with his own weapon.

“I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into combat mode,” Fierro said, shaking his head. “I just know I have to kill this guy before he kills us. »

Authorities are holding Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, charged with killing 5 people, and say 18 others were injured in a carnage at the bar that lasted just minutes. The toll could have been much higher, authorities said on Sunday, had bar patrons not caught the shooter.

Mr. Fierro’s description of what happened at Club Q closely matches accounts from police, city officials and nightclub owners, who viewed security footage of the massacre. When shown a photo of Mr Fierro on Monday, Nic Grzecka, one of the bar owners, said he looked like the man who overpowered the shooter.

“I don’t even know his name,” Mr. Grzecka said. I would really like to meet him. »


PHOTO DANIEL BRENNER, NEW YORK TIMES

The Q Club in Colorado Springs

When the shooting started, Mr. Fierro said he threw himself on the ground, dragging a friend with him. As the bullets fired, he saw the shooter move through the bar towards a door leading to a terrace where dozens of patrons had fled. Mr. Fierro, who served in the military for 15 years, ran across the room, grabbed the shooter by a handle on the back of his body armor, threw him to the ground and jumped on him.

“Was he shooting at that time? Was he about to shoot? I don’t know, Mr. Fierro said. I just knew I had to shoot him down. »

The shooter, who Richard M. Fierro estimates weighs more than 300 pounds, sprawled on the ground, his military-style rifle landing just out of reach. Mr. Fierro started to walk towards the rifle, but he saw that the shooter also had a pistol.

“I took the gun from the shooter and started hitting him on the head, over and over again,” Fierro said.

As the fight continued, he yelled at the other bar patrons to help him. A man grabbed the gun and pulled it to safety. A drag queen stomped on the shooter with her high heels. All the while, Mr. Fierro continued to punch the shooter in the head as the two men shouted obscenities at each other.

When police arrived minutes later, the shooter was no longer struggling, said Mr. Fierro, who feared he had killed him. The shooting suspect was taken into custody and remained hospitalized Monday afternoon.

Mr. Fierro explained that he was covered in blood when the police arrived, who tackled him to the ground and handcuffed him. He said he was held in a police car for over an hour, and screamed and begged to be released so he could see what had happened to his family.

Mr Fierro, who owns a local brewery, said that during deployments in the army he had been shot at and seen roadside bombs shredding the trucks in his platoon. His record indicates that he was twice awarded the Bronze Star. The combat experiences still haunt him, he says, and the psychological and physical consequences of deployments are the reason he left the military.

He says he never thought he would have to deal with this kind of violence at home.

“I was done with the war,” he said.

This article was originally published in the New York Times.



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