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Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub owner thanks Army veteran who helped stop shootings: 'Can't wait to give you a big hug'

The owner of the Colorado Springs, Colo., LGBTQ nightclub where five people were killed and 17 others injured in a mass shooting over the weekend has not yet been able to thank in person a U.S. Army veteran who helped subdue the gunman.

But in a joint remote interview on CNN Tuesday, Nic Grzecka, the co-owner of Club Q, publicly praised Richard Fierro, who is being hailed as a hero for his actions during Saturday night’s rampage.

"Richard, thank you," Grzecka said. "You were a big part of saving many more lives and stopping this from being worse than it already was. We applaud you. I can't wait to give you a big hug."

Grzecka called Fierro "an angel to many people in this community" for risking his own life to disarm the shooter.

Richard Fierro speaks to reporters outside his home.
Richard Fierro talks to reporters outside his home in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Monday. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Fierro was at the club with his daughter, her boyfriend and several other friends to see a drag show and celebrate a birthday when police say the gunman, identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, opened fire. Fierro, who served 15 years in the military including four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, said his combat instincts kicked in.

“I wasn't thinking," he told reporters Monday night. "I just ran over there, got him."

Fierro was able to disarm Aldrich and pin him down. "I gotta kill this guy,” he recalled thinking. “He's going to kill my kid, he's gonna kill my wife."

Another patron, identified by police as Thomas James, helped Fierro hold the gunman down until police arrived. "I just kept whaling on him, and I told the dude in front of me, 'Kick him in his head,'" Fierro said.

Victims of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs: (clockwise from top left) Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance,  Derrick Rump, Kelly Loving and Ashley Paugh. (Courtesy of Jeff Aston via AP, Colorado Springs Police Dept. via AP, via Facebook,  Colorado Springs Police Dept. via AP, via Facebook, Colorado Springs Police Dept.)
Victims of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs, clockwise from top left: Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Derrick Rump, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh. (Courtesy of Jeff Aston via AP, Colorado Springs Police Dept. via AP, via Facebook, Colorado Springs Police Dept. via AP, Colorado Springs Police Dept.)

Police identified those killed as Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Ashley Paugh, Kelly Loving and Raymond Green Vance, the boyfriend of Fierro’s daughter. "He ended up killing my daughter's boyfriend," Fierro said.

Aldrich is facing five murder and hate-crime charges, court records show.

Police said 17 others were also shot in the bar. Club Q has been described as a sanctuary for LGBTQ people in the community.

Matthew Haynes and Nic Grzecka, who is wearing a black T-shirt with rainbow stripes across the back in a room with overhead spotlights.
Club Q co-owners Matthew Haynes, left, and Nic Grzecka at a news conference in Colorado Springs on Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

At a news conference on Monday night, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adam Vasquez hailed Fierro for both his actions and his humility.

“I have never encountered a person who had engaged in such heroic actions who was so humble about it,” Vasquez said. “He simply said to me, ‘I was trying to protect my family.’”