Richard Fierro, the Army veteran who tackled and disarmed the shooter inside LGBTQ Club Q in Colorado Springs, is currently receiving a torrent of hate and harassment from far-right extremists.
The far-right has is calling Fierro a “groomer” and a “f*ggot,” while questioning his sexuality for being at the Club Q drag show. Others even questioned the veracity of his entire story, according to an investigation conducted by VICE News and researchers at Advance Democracy Inc, a nonprofit that tracks online extremism.
Far-right troll Jack Pososbiec was one of the first people to do this. “Are we just not supposed to talk about the US Army Major taking his family down to the local drag club for a night out?” Pososbiec asked followers on multiple platforms Tuesday morning, including on Truth Social where he has 960,000 followers and on Telegram, where he has over a million.
“Heroes don't take their kids to drag shows,” one of Posobiec’s followers wrote on Telegram in response.
Others joined in: “So a married man, His Wife, Daughter and her boyfriend all go to Gay bar together? I’m gonna call bullshit on this,” a user on far-right Christian platform Gab wrote on Tuesday.
“If it’s not bullshit he’s helping to molest children and he’s all for it,” another Gab user wrote in response, adding: “F*ggot dad in closet.”
The attacks on Fierro are just one part of a concerted and consistent response from right wing influencers and conservative media outlets to diminish and question the horrific killing of five people inside LGBTQ nightclub Club Q on Saturday night. Figures like Posobiec, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and anti-trans troll Matt Walsh have been doubling down on attacks against the LGBTQ community for years, increasing these attacks in regularity and toxicity in recent months, with accusations that members of the LGBTQ community are sexualizing or “grooming” children. Trans activists have warned that violent responses would be imminent, to little avail.
Fierro was in Club Q on Saturday night with his wife, daughter, and his daughter’s boyfriend. They were there to see one of his daughter’s friends perform in a drag show at the Colorado Springs venue that has been described as one of few safe spaces for the LGBTQ community in the city.
Fierro was sitting at a table joking with a friend when he saw a flash of gunfire and instinct kicked in.
“I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into combat mode,” Fierro, a veteran with 15 years of experience and four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, told the New York Times this week. “I just know I have to kill this guy before he kills us.”
Fierro tackled the gunman, disarmed him and beat him with the shooter’s own gun before pinning him on the ground with help from others until the police arrived. Before Fierro disarmed the shooter, the gunman killed five people at the club, including his daughter’s boyfriend. Without Fierro’s actions, police have said the death toll from the attack would have been much higher.
But for far-right trolls on platforms like Truth Social, Gettr, Parler, Gab, and Telegram, Fierro’s actions should not be met with praise, but with vitriol and anger.
On The Donald, a rabidly pro-Trump message board frequented by violent extremists, every thread about Fierro’s actions included questions about what he was even there in the first place.
On a hugely popular QAnon channel on Telegram, Fierro’s presence at Club Q instantly raised suggestions that the entire incident was a false flag. “Whole thing sounds like a staged event,” one channel member wrote under a post that had been read almost 70,000 times.
On Gettr, there were similar reactions to posts about Fierro’s heroics: “So a gay libtard shot up a bunch of gays and a gay ex Soldier helped take him down, there’s more to this, something smells fishy.”
Another Gettr user wrote in the same thread: “Gay men dressing up like women and mocking women is misogyny. Anyone who supports this is a misogynist. This man is not a hero. He just hates women.”
There were many on these platforms who praised Fierro’s actions, but after years of conditioning from figures like Posobiec, Carlson, and Walsh, as well as Republican lawmakers, most people on these far-right platforms were inclined to attack anyone that had anything to do with a drag show immediately.
Though the motives of the Club Q shooting suspect are unknown, he is facing possible hate crime charges. And for months, members of the LGBTQ community as well as organizations who provide care for the trans community have been targeted with far-right disinformation campaigns which in many cases have turned into real world violence and threats..
Last month, protesters in Eugene, Oregon, threw hand grenades and rocks outside a pub that was hosting a drag queen storytelling event. Other attacks against the LGBTQ and trans community have been on the rise as well: The Boston Children’s hospital was targeted with bomb threats after far-right figures posted about the hospital’s gender affirming care online and wrongly accused healthcare providers of “mutilating” children. In September, a pride center was vandalized in Florida.