Iraq war veteran stopped Colorado springs nightclub shooter

Anderson Lee Aldrich is suspected shooter at Club Q in Colorado

The memorial for victims of Saturday's fatal shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado. AP
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A US army veteran who served four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan used his military training to tackle a gunman who killed at least five people in a Colorado gay bar.

Retired major Richard Fierro, of Colorado Springs, told The New York Times that his instincts kicked in when he heard gunfire at Club Q on Saturday.

Mr Fierro, 45, was at the club with family and friends when the shooting started.

“I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into combat mode,” he told the Times. “I just know I have to kill this guy before he kills us.”

Mr Fierro, who retired from the military in 2013, said he ran through chaos at the club, then beat the attacker with his own gun until the assailant was subdued and covered in blood.

“I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over,” Mr Fierro said.

The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, faces five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury, court records show.

A law enforcement official told AP that the suspect used an AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon in Saturday night’s attack, but a handgun and more ammunition magazines were also recovered.

Club Q on its Facebook page thanked the “quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack".

Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community. Our prays and thoughts are with all the victims and...

Posted by Club Q Colorado Springs on Sunday, November 20, 2022

Mr Fierro said that other club-goers helped him, with one man grabbing the attacker's gun and moving it to safety. A dancer used high heels to stamp on the attacker's head.

Mr Fierro said he feared he had killed the attacker, who was still in hospital on Monday.

Questions were being raised about why authorities did not try to take the suspect's guns away from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported he threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.

Although authorities at the time said no explosives were found, gun control advocates are asking why police did not try to use Colorado’s “red flag” law, which would have allowed them to seize the weapons his mother says he had.

There was also no public record that prosecutors ever proceeded with felony kidnapping and menacing charges against Mr Aldrich.

Of the 25 injured at Club Q, at least seven were in critical condition, authorities said.

Some were hurt trying to flee, and it was unclear if all of them were shot, police said.

The shooting rekindled memories of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were killed.

Colorado has had several mass killings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a cinema in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a Boulder supermarket last year.

Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that features a drag show on Saturdays, its website shows.

Club Q’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” before a birthday dance party, with a Sunday all-ages drag brunch.

Drag events have become a focus of anti-LGBTQ speech and protests recently as opponents, including politicians, have proposed banning children from them, falsely claiming they are used to “groom” children.

A hate-crime charge against Mr Aldrich requires proving he was motivated by the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

A makeshift memorial sprang up on Sunday near the club, with flowers, a stuffed animal, candles and a sign saying “Love over hate” next to a rainbow-coloured heart.

Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 people 110 kilometres south of Denver, is home to the US Air Force Academy and the US Olympic Training Centre, and Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry that lobbies against LGBTQ rights.

The group condemned the shooting and said it “exposes the evil and wickedness inside the human heart".

A makeshift memorial is set up near Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado. AP
Updated: November 22, 2022, 5:43 AM