On Saturday, Richard M. Fierro watched a drag act at a table in Bar Q with his wife, daughter, and friends when a rapid burst of gunfire swept through the club. Immediately, instincts honed over four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan came to the fore. Protect your people, he urged himself, and fight back.
Mr Fierro, 45, who spent 15 years as an Army officer and left as a major in 2013, according to military records, described charging through the chaos at the club, tackling the gunman, and beating him bloody with the gunman’s gun in an interview on Monday at his home, where his wife and daughter were still recovering from injuries.
Mr Fierro said, shaking his head, “I don’t know exactly what I did. I just went into fighting mode.” He was standing on his driveway, an American flag drooping in the frigid air. “I just know I have to kill him before he kills us,” the speaker said.
The authorities are detaining the 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich on suspicion of killing five people and injuring 18 others during a brief rampage at the club. According to officials, the death toll might have been worse if the bargoers hadn’t stopped the shooter.
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Mayor John Suthers praised Mr Fierro, saying that “he saved many lives.” The mayor claimed that after speaking with Mr Fierro, he was impressed by his humility. “I have never met someone who performed such great deeds and was so modest about it.” The battle veteran and his wife, Jess, went to see one of his daughter’s friends perform a drag act with their daughter, Kassandra, her long-term boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, and two family friends.
Mr Fierro enjoyed himself at the drag show because it was his first time. He had been in the Army for 15 years, and now that he was a civilian and a parent, he enjoyed seeing one of his daughter’s old high school pals perform. As he detailed the night, he remarked, “These kids want to live that life, want to have a good time, have at it. They can do whatever they want, which I campaigned for, so I’m delighted about that.
Mr Fierro was working on improving his ability to socialise. He had experienced a shooting, witnessed his platoon’s trucks being destroyed by roadside explosives, and lost pals in Iraq and Afghanistan. He received the Bronze Star twice.
The wars were both in the past and ongoing today. He would never forget some things. The crowds made him anxious for a long time after returning home. He was forced to exercise caution. He sat against the wall with his back to the door in restaurants. Despite his best efforts, some of him were always poised for assault, like an itch that wouldn’t go away.
He was too frequently suspicious and easily irritated. His daughter and wife had it the worst. He was engaged in it. Both medicine and psychological counselling were provided. He removed all the firearms from the residence. He acquired a long, white beard and long hair to distinguish himself from his days as a soldier.
He had a cordial relationship with his daughter and her longstanding boyfriend, and he and his wife managed a prosperous neighbourhood brewery named Atrevida Beer Co. He acknowledged that the battle would always be with him. But he was not at least contemplating war that evening at Club Q. The females were twirling. He was making jokes with his pals. Then the gunfire began.
There were staccato flashes and the sound of small-arms fire by the front entrance. Too well did Mr Fierro know it? He dropped to the ground without stopping, dragging his friend down. Shots rained down on the bar, shattering glasses and breaking bottles. Screams were heard. Looking up, Mr Fierro observed a man carrying a rifle that looked much like the one he had used in Iraq and weighed more than 300 pounds quickly.
The man was wearing body armour. The assailant was making his way through the bar toward a door that opened onto a terrace where many people had already run. A platoon leader’s long-suppressed instincts suddenly sprang back to life. He dashed across the room, leapt on the shooter, and pulled him to the ground by the handle on the back of his armour.
“Did he have a gun at the time? Was he going to fire? I’m not sure, Mr Fierro replied. “I had to kill him. I knew it. The two fell to the floor in a heap. A few feet away, the shooter’s military-style weapon clanged. Mr Fierro prepared to attack when he noticed the shooter approaching with a gun in his other hand. Mr Fierro claimed, “I just started striking him in the head repeatedly and snatched the revolver out of his hand.
Mr Fierro began barking commands while he held the man down and struck him in the head with the pistol. He shouted at another club patron, ordering him to take the rifle and kick the shooter in the face while using a stream of expletives. Mr Fierro claimed that while a drag performer was walking by, he gave her the order to stamp the assailant with her high heels. Mr Fierro contended that he continued to scream expletives and beat the gunman with the pistol throughout.
What gave him the courage to act despite all of his fear? He claimed to be clueless. Perhaps now that something resembling war had arrived in his community, those old instincts of conflict that had troubled him for so long at home now had a place.
“In combat, very little happens for the majority of the time, but that mad minute, that mad minute, is when you are tested. It becomes a habit,” he remarked. “I have no idea how I managed to get the firearm away from that gentleman. Even though I’m just a fat old vet, I realised I had to take action.
A few minutes later, when police showed up, the shooter was no longer struggling, according to Mr Fierro. According to Mr Fierro, he was afraid he had killed him. The blood was all over Mr Fierro. He stood up and began hurriedly stumbling in the pitch black in search of his loved ones. He saw his friends lying on the ground. One had sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the arm and chest. Another had received a leg shot.
Mr Fiero claimed that as additional police arrived, he began shouting as though he were back in battle. Casualties. Casualties. I need a doctor right away. The shooter was down, and the area was clear, but others still needed assistance, he yelled to the cops. He claimed to have borrowed tourniquets from a rookie cop and applied them to his bleeding companions. He claimed he made an effort to speak quietly to them while working and assure them that everything would be fine.
As he was going to approach his wife and daughter, who were standing at the room’s edge, he was tackled. Uncertain of his threat level, officers racing into the chaotic scene noticed a man with a revolver covered in blood. He was handcuffed and kept in the back of the police car for what felt like an eternity. According to him, he yelled and begged to be released so he could see his family.
He was eventually set free. He went to the hospital with his wife and daughter, who only received minor wounds. His friends were there at the time and are still in far worse shape. Everybody was still alive. But the boyfriend of his daughter was nowhere to be located. They had lost him in confusion. They circled well-known streets to find him and drove back to the club searching for him. However, nothing was there.
His mother called the family late on Sunday. The shooting had claimed his life. He claimed that when Mr Fierro heard, he sobbed while holding his daughter. He cried, in part because of what he anticipated. The relatives of the deceased and the victims of the shootings had now experienced war, just like he had. Like him and like many of his wartime comrades, they would struggle. They would be caught between the desire to forget and the need always to remember, would suffer from unwarranted vigilance, would lash out in wrath, and would never be able to scratch the itch of terror.
He replied, “My small girl screamed, and I was crying with her.” “Look, I’ve been through this before, and down range, when this happens, you just get out on the next patrol,” I said as I was driving home from the hospital. Get it out of your head, please. You treated it in this manner. You treated it by working harder. You eventually return safely home. The lack of a subsequent patrol worries me, though. Curing it is more complicated. Your home is already there.