A US Navy member who helped subdue the alleged gunman in the deadly Colorado LGBTQ nightclub attack spoke out for the first time about his heroics, saying he “simply wanted to save the family that I found.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James was photographed in his bed at the Centura Penrose Hospital, where he is listed in stable condition with undisclosed injuries.
James was hailed as a hero along with Army veteran Richard Fierro, 45, for fearlessly confronting accused gunman Anderson Lee Aldrich during the rampage at Club Q in Colorado Springs.
“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 said in a statement released by the hospital.
“Thankfully, we are family, and family looks after one another. We came a long way from Stonewall. Bullies aren’t invincible,” he said, referring to the Greenwich Village bar that was the site of 1969 riots that helped launch the gay rights movement.
“I want to support everyone who has known the pain and loss that have been all too common these past few years. My thoughts are with those we lost on Nov. 19, and those who are still recovering from their injuries,” James continued.
He ended his statement by urging young members of the LGBTQ community to be brave.
“Your family is out there. You are loved and valued. So when you come out of the closet, come out swinging,” he said.
Fierro has said he wrestled the rifle away with the help of James, who moved the gun out of Aldrich’s reach. A third person, a trans woman whose identity has not been revealed, stomped on the suspect’s head with her high heels.
Five people, including Fierro’s daughter’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, 22, were killed and 17 others wounded in the massacre.
Aldrich, who identifies as non-binary, was ordered held without bond at their first court appearance Wednesday. Formal charges have not yet been filed in the shooting.
On Sunday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he would support increasing licensing requirements for semi-automatic weapons, improving mental health services and better use of red flag laws that allow courts to remove guns from people who may be a danger to themselves or others.
Polis, the first openly gay man elected governor in the US, also urged the toning down of anti-LGBTQ political rhetoric.
“We know that when people are saying incendiary things, somebody who’s not well-balanced can hear those things, and think that what they’re doing is heroic when it’s actually a horrific crime that kills innocent people,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”