Thomas James, one of the two people who confronted a shooter in a gay bar in Colorado Springs and disarmed him, said he "simply wanted to save the family I found."
James, a US Navy sailor who police said saved lives by acting to subdue the shooter at Club Q, issued his first public statement since the shooting. Five people were killed and at least 18 were injured that Saturday night.
Law enforcement officials have credited James and Richard Fierro, a US Army veteran, with taking down the shooter before police arrived, calling them "heroes" whose intervention prevented more deaths and injuries.
"Their actions clearly saved lives," Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said at the time.
"I simply wanted to save the family I found. 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 provided to BuzzFeed News on Sunday. "Thankfully, we are family, and family looks after one another. We came a long way from Stonewall. Bullies aren’t invincible."
James also offered his support to those affected by the shooting, and victims who were still nursing their wounds.
"I want to support everyone who has known the pain and loss that have been all too common these past few years," he said. "My thoughts are with those we lost on Nov. 19, and those who are still recovering from their injuries."
The shooting at Club Q comes after sustained violent rhetoric against LGBTQ people from Republican lawmakers and right-wing public figures. Club Q was a safe haven for the LGBTQ community in a city with a dominant presence of an evangelical Christian movement that has long opposed and demonized queer people.
"So many of us know each other and support each other," said Liss Smith, a communications manager for Inside Out Youth Services, a group supporting local queer young people. "There are so few spaces and so few resources that when we find those spaces and those resources, they become a lifeline. ... Colorado Springs is not always kind to our community."
Police have declined to provide specifics about what James and Fierro did that night. But in interviews with news outlets, Fierro described his Army instincts kicking in as he ran across the room and tackled the shooter.
Officials have said that James pushed the shooter's rifle out of reach as Fierro attacked the assailant with his own handgun.
James is hospitalized at Centura Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, still being treated for injuries sustained that night.
"To the youth I say be brave. Your family is out there. You are loved and valued," James said in his statement. "So when you come out of the closet, come out swinging."