Richard M. Fierro said he was at a table in Club Q with his wife, daughter and friends on Saturday, watching a drag show, when the sudden flash of gunfire ripped across the nightclub. His instincts from four combat deployments as an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan instantly kicked in. Fight back, he told himself.
Fierro, who rose to the rank of major and earned numerous military awards including the Combat Action Badge and two Bronze Star Medals during his service, said he had only ever been shot at from afar before—but this time, he could smell the cordite.
When the shooting started, Fierro said, he hit the floor, pulling a friend down with him. As bullets sprayed, he saw the gunman move through the bar toward a door leading to a patio where dozens of bar patrons had fled. Fierro said he raced across the room, grabbed the gunman by a handle on the back of his body armor, pulled him to the floor and jumped on top of him.
“I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over,” Fierro told the Times, describing a scuffle in which he found himself atop the 300-something pound gunman, who had momentarily lost his grip on his rifle. “I just know I have to kill this guy before he kills us.”
The gunman was sprawled onto the floor, his military-style rifle landing just out of reach. Fierro started to go for the rifle, but then saw that the gunman had a pistol as well.
“I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over,” Fierro said.
As the fight continued, he said, he yelled for others to help him. A man grabbed the rifle and moved it away to safety. A drag dancer stomped on the gunman with her high heels. The whole time, Fierro said, he kept pummeling the shooter’s head while the two men screamed obscenities at each other.
When police arrived a few minutes later, the gunman was no longer struggling, Fierro said, and he feared that he had killed him. The suspect in the shooting was taken into custody and remained hospitalized on Monday afternoon.