Military veteran Richard Fierro's selfless response when a gunman opened fire in a Colorado gay club is being lauded by the nation's oldest Latino civil rights organization.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, is awarding him its presidential medal and $5,000 for his actions that helped bring down the shooter who killed five people at Club Q in Colorado Springs.
"We hear so many politicians scapegoating and attacking the LGBTQ community and immigrants, and here we have true American heroes who stood up against hate and protected their family and other patrons," LULAC President Domingo Garcia said Tuesday.
NBC News reported Monday that Fierro was at Club Q with his family when the attack began. He said he did what he was trained to do as a 15-year Army veteran who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has said he's not proud of himself because there are people who were not able to go home that night.
His wife, Jessica, said he knocked the guns out of the shooter's hands and hit him with the attacker's own pistol. Authorities also identified another person, Thomas James, with helping subdue the shooter.
Raymond Green Vance, 22, the boyfriend of Kassy, the Fierros' daughter, was among the victims. Also, Jessica said that her two best friends were shot in the attack and that her daughter broke her knee running for cover.
Fierro was twice decorated with the Bronze Star — awarded to members of the military who demonstrate heroism, outstanding achievement or meritorious service while in combat not involving aerial flight.
Garcia said Fierro "exemplifies what our Latino service members do in the face of danger, even when it means putting their own lives on the line."
Some of the founders of LULAC, established in 1929, were Mexican American military veterans who, among other things, were fighting discrimination, including inequity in Latino veterans' military benefits.
Garcia said Fierro, a San Diego native, was acting against hate by being at the gay club.
“The fact that a Latino straight man is not afraid to go to a gay club and drag show and protect patrons who were subject to a vicious hate crime says he truly represents America and Christianity,” he said.
Fierro and Jessica, who live in Colorado Springs, own a brewery called Atrevida, which in Spanish means brazen.
The couple are members of the Colorado Springs Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, whose president, Joe Aldaz, said about Fierro’s actions that it “would not surprise me that he would jump to that type of heroism.”
The brewery founded by Jessica Fierro and run by the family, Atrevida Beer Co., is dedicated to a celebration of diversity. According to the beer company's website, the company motto is, "Diversity, it's on tap!", which is displayed on its marquee and its merchandise.
Along with the Hispanic Chamber, the group is part of the Pink Boots Society, which says it assists, inspires and educates women in the fermented/alcoholic beverage industry.
The brewery created a brew, dubbed Christopher Street, dedicated to the annual pride parade. The brewery has participated in the march since opening, the company website states. The brewery also has a limited brew for the Pink Boots Society, along with brews dedicated to Juneteenth and Latina civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.
“We have been challenged by consumers about the use of diversity in our motto. We respond calmly and to engage in discussion simply with the facts,” the site says.
Noted on the website is that the beers are brewed and recipes for them are created by a Latina — Jessica is the brewmaser — and that’s unique in Colorado.
The brewery’s theme was being discovered on social media with some people snagging merchandise in recognition of Fierro’s action.
'Leaped into the breach'
The nation's string of mass shootings in recent years have claimed the lives of many Latino victims.
Many of the victims of the 2016 massacre on Latin night at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, were of Puerto Rican descent. Latinos also have been killed in the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California in 2019, the El Paso massacre at a Walmart store the same year, and most recently in the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school massacre in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.
"LULAC reminds America that fear-mongering leads to these types of deadly attacks but thank God we have American heroes like Rich Fierro who stand up to danger and act to defend other people,” Garcia said in a news release.
“Rich Fierro protected his family first and without hesitation leaped into the breach to place his own body between them and those enemies who would do us harm,” he stated. “Throughout our modern history, this is the price Latino heroes have paid for our nation’s freedoms."
He said LULAC invited Fierro and his family to Washington, D.C., to receive the award or it would give it to him in a ceremony in Colorado Springs.