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," 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, is accused of killing five people and injuring 16 others with what police described as a clone of the Colt AR-15, a semi-automatic long gun initially developed for the battlefield.
Aldrich has been booked on suspicion of murder and bias-motivated violence, police and prosecutors say. Formal charges are expected 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 said 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 disarm them and held them for authorities alongside decorated Army veteran Richard Fierro, 45, of Colorado Springs, Fierro and authorities said.
Fierro has said that the other person who helped stop the suspect initially was 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.
Fierro said he secured the other weapon the suspect is alleged to have had — 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 described Fierro and James at a news conference the day after the attack as "the two heroes who intervened inside of Club Q."
Although Fierro has been able to speak to the media and describe James' actions as well as his own, James, an information systems technician, has been unable to speak because he is still recovering.
Penrose Hospital said in a statement that 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 their daughter.
He said that he went into action to protect those relatives and loved ones — "my family" — and that he would later learn his daughter's boyfriend was killed.
James said nearly the same thing in his statement 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."