A second man who helped end the deadly mass shooting in Colorado this month broke his silence Sunday, describing his actions as standing up for “family” at the LGBTQ+ nightclub and beyond.
“I just wanted to save the family I found,” US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James said in a statement issued from his hospital bed. “If I had my way, I would protect everyone I could from the senseless acts of hate in the world, but I’m just one person.”
James is recovering from gunshot wounds sustained November 19 at Club Q in Colorado Springs, where 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich allegedly killed five and wounded 16 others with what police described as a clone of the Colt AR-15, a semi-automatic long gun initially. developed for the battlefield.
The defendant has been booked on suspicion of murder and hate-motivated violence, according to police and prosecutors. Formal charges were expected to be filed soon.
Aldrich’s lawyers have not formally responded to the allegations, elaborated on his possible defense arguments, or responded to inquiries seeking his side of the story. They said in court documents that Aldrich identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them.
James, who has been stabilized at Centura Health’s Penrose Hospital, subdued the suspect, helped disarm him and held him with authorities along with Colorado Springs resident and decorated Army veteran Richard Fierro, 45, according to Fierro and the authorities.
Fierro has said the other person who helped detain the suspect was initially knocked down or fell to the ground amid high-powered gunfire, but soon got up, helped secure the rifle and began kicking the suspect.
The Army veteran said he secured the other weapon the suspect was alleged to have possessed: a handgun.
Stock photos showed the suspect beaten and bruised, apparently as part of his detention by civilians at the scene.
Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrián Vásquez, speaking at a news conference a day after the attack, described Fierro and James as “the two heroes who intervened within Club Q.”
Although Fierro has been able to speak to the media and describe James’ actions as well as his own, the enlisted sailor, an information systems technician, has not been able to speak because he is still recovering.
Penrose Hospital said in a statement that it would not give interviews.
Fierro, a two-time Bronze Star winner who helps his wife run Atrevida Beer Co., was at Club Q that night celebrating a birthday with her, her daughter and friends of the daughter’s.
She said she went into action to protect those relatives and loved ones, “my family,” and would later learn that her daughter’s boyfriend was killed in the attack.
James said much the same thing in his statement on Sunday, but his definition of family seemed to be more inclusive.
“Fortunately, we are a family and the family takes care of each other,” he said. “We’ve come a long way from Stonewall. Bullies aren’t invincible.”
He continued, “I tell young people to be brave. Your family is out there. You are loved and valued. So when you come out of the closet, come out swinging.”