A second man who helped put an end to the deadly mass shooting in Colorado this month broke his silence Sunday, describing his actions as a defense of “family” at the LGBTQ+ nightclub and beyond.
“I simply wanted to save the family I found,” U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James said in a statement issued from his hospital bed. “If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world, but I am only one person.”
James is recovering from gunshot injuries suffered Nov. 19 at Club Q in Colorado Springs, where Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, allegedly killed five and injured 16 others with what police described as a clone of the Colt AR-15, a semiautomatic long gun initially developed for the battlefield.
The defendant has been booked on suspicion of murder and bias-motivated violence, according to police and prosecutors. Formal charges were expected to be filed soon.
Attorneys for Aldrich have not formally responded to the allegations, elaborated on their possible defense arguments, or responded to inquiries seeking his side of the story. They did say in court documents that Aldrich identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronouns they/them.
James, who has been stabilized at Centura Health’s Penrose Hospital, subdued the suspect, helped to disarm him, and held him for authorities alongside Colorado Springs resident and decorated Army veteran Richard Fierro, 45, according to Fierro and authorities.
Fierro has said that the other person who helped stop the suspect was initially felled or hit the ground amid high-power gunfire, but that he soon got up, helped to secure the rifle, and started kicking the suspect.
The Army veteran said he secured the other weapon allegedly possessed by the suspect — a handgun.
Booking photos showed the suspect battered and bruised, ostensibly as part of his detention by civilians at the venue.
Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez, speaking at a news conference a day after the attack, described Fierro and James as “the two heroes who intervened inside of Club Q.”
Although Fierro has been able to speak to media and describe James’ actions as well as his own, the enlisted sailor, an information systems technician, has been unable to speak because he’s still recovering.
Penrose Hospital said in a statement he would not be giving interviews.
Fierro, a two-time Bronze Star recipient who helps his wife run Atrevida Beer Co., was at Club Q that night celebrating a birthday with her, their daughter, and friends of the daughter.
He said he went into action to protect those relatives and loved ones — “my family” — and he would later learn his daughter’s boyfriend was killed in the attack.
James said nearly the same thing in his statement on Sunday, but his definition of family seemed to be more inclusive.
“Thankfully, we are family, and family looks after one another,” he said. “We came a long way from Stonewall. Bullies aren’t invincible.”
He continued, “To the youth I say be brave. Your family is out there. You are loved and valued. So when you come out of the closet, come out swinging.”