President Biden called Richard Fierro on Tuesday to thank him for immobilising the gunman who killed five people at an LGBT club in Colorado Springs late Saturday, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying Fierro may have saved “dozens” of lives.
Fierro, an Army veteran who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tackled Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, after he entered the bar and fired an AR-15-style rifle.
“The courageous actions of Richard Fierro and Thomas James and others we are still learning about stopped the gunman before he could kill others,” Jean-Pierre said at the daily White House press briefing.
“Richard and Thomas are heroes and we are so grateful for their quick action and there are no words that can bring comfort to those who are grieving, but we stand with the community of Colorado Springs and the LGBTQI+ community.”
“The president just moments ago spoke to Richard and his wife Jess,” said Jean-Pierre, the first openly gay person to hold the role of press secretary.
“He offered his condolences to them and also his support and talked through what it’s like to grieve — as you know, the president, that is something he’s able to do very personally — and thanked him for his bravery and again for his just instinct to act and the ability — by him doing that saving maybe dozens of lives,” she said.
Fierro told the New York Times that he grabbed the shooter from behind and took him to the ground after he began shooting at attendees of a drag show.
When Aldrich reached for a pistol, “I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over,” Fierro told the Times.
Fierro, 45, was attending his first-ever drag show with his wife, his daughter and his daughter’s longtime boyfriend Raymond Vance, 22. Vance was one of the five people killed in the shooting.
“While we don’t know yet for certain the motive of this attack, hate has no place in this country and neither do military-style assault rifles, which is why we will continue to push for an assault weapons ban,” Jean-Pierre also said at the briefing.
Thomas James’s role in confronting the shooter is less well-known. He was identified by Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez as also tackling Aldrich to the ground. In addition to the two men, Fierro said a performer in heels kicked the suspect after he was on the ground.