(NewsNation) — Two men have been hailed as heroes following the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs that left five people dead.
The men, Army veteran Rich Fierro and Navy officer Thomas James, subdued the gunman until authorities arrived on the scene following the shooting on Nov. 19.
James, who is still recovering after he managed to help disarm the gunman, said he simply wanted to save the family he had found.
“Thankfully, we are a family and a family looks after one another,” James said.
When the gunman opened fire at the LGBTQ club, Fierro’s long suppressed instincts as a platoon leader surged back to life. He raced across the room and pinned the gunman down with help from James, who quickly moved the rifle from arms reach.
Fierro said he then grabbed the gunman’s pistol and started repeatedly hitting him with it in an effort to eliminate the threat. Fierro explained that those moments “felt like forever,” even though officers arrived in just minutes.
For both Fierro and James, saving their friends and family served as motivation for confronting the alleged gunman, who authorities identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich.
“I was trying to protect my family. At that point, the family was everybody in that room,” Fierro said in an interview with NewsNation. “Nobody wants to see anyone get hurt.”
“There are some things you don’t think about, you just do,” Fierro added. “I think many parents have the same reaction regardless of whether it’s this kind of threat (…) Parents go into action.”
Fierro served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He says he left the Army to not have to go into combat mode anymore but says his training came in handy during the shooting.
“I saw Thomas kind of slowing down while he was kicking the assailant, and that’s when I saw this trans woman running by and I yelled, ‘Hey, kick him in the face. Kick him in the face.’ And she proceeded to kick that dude in the face. So, you know, it’s a team effort. I got into the mode. I was guiding folks. I’m telling people to call 911, while I’m still swinging on this guy (…) I start doing first aid on my best friend and her husband, and I’ve got police officers and I’m telling them to put on tourniquets and telling them to use urgency, we got casualties. It’s what I’m trained for, and it’s not that I want to ever do that in the States, but I kind of left the Army to not have to do this stuff. And it came back in handy.”
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said Fierro and James kept the Club Q tragedy from being even worse, calling their actions “heroic.”
“I have never encountered a person who had engaged in such heroic actions that was so humble about it,” Suthers said of Fierro.
Still, Fierro insists he’s not a hero.
“Everybody in that room was a hero. Whether they were taking cover, whether they were grabbing a friend. Joshua grabbed my daughter and took her to the back, that’s my hero. The folks that were in the patio that pull my wife down to safety, those are my heroes. Folks that can flip the table or helped a person that was injured or shot, those are my heroes. The folks that did not make it out of there, those are my heroes,” Fierro said.
Fierro said he loves his small community and hopes the focus will stay on the victims identified by investigators as Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Green Vance.
Those who feel called to help the victims of the shooting have been encouraged by Colorado Springs officials to donate to the Colorado Healing Fund.