Brave sailor who helped disarm Club Q shooter honoured by Navy: ‘An unassuming hero’

Information Technician 2nd Class Thomas James wears a Naval uniform as a medal is pinned to his chest in a ceremony honouring his brave actions on the night of the Club Q shooting in November 2022

The US Navy has honoured sailor Thomas James with the Navy and Marine Corps Medal – the highest non-combat decoration – for his bravery in disarming the Club Q shooter in 2022. 

James was one of the brave people who helped disarm the shooter during the deadly mass shooting at Club Q – a popular LGBTQ+ nightclub – in Colorado Springs, Colorado on 19 November 2022. The attack killed five people and wounded 17. 

The Information Technician 2nd Class helped subdue the shooter, Anderson Lee Aldrich, within minutes of the deadly attack. James confronted the assailant, grabbing the barrel of Aldrich’s high-powered rifle and sustaining a gunshot wound to his abdomen and burns to his hands.

A Navy press release described James as an “unassuming hero” who acted “without consideration of personal harm and safety”.

During a ceremony on Thursday (5 October), Rear Admiral Scott Robertston – director of Plans, Policy and Strategy for North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command – presented James with the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroic actions that night. 

“I myself can only hope that I would channel the courage in our Navy core values like he did,” Robertson said.

You may like to watch

“But, we don’t have to wait for a crisis to apply core values. We can and should apply them every day. That’s what I am taking away from the lessons you taught us all.”

“Thank you. I am humbled,” James responded. 

Robertson recalled asking James why he lept into action during the Club Q shooting. He said the sailor replied that he “wanted to buy time for [his] friends” and “wanted to protect [his] community”. 

During the horrific attack, the fourth-generation veteran managed to push a rifle out of reach while other Club Q attendees subdued and disarmed the shooter

A pride flag reading "Equality" and hundreds of items adorn the closed entrance to Club Q. The Club Q shooting memorial continues growing one week after a mass shooter took five lives and injured 18 others on Nov. 19 at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs.
People paid tribute to the lives lost and those injured at the deadly 2022 Club Q shooting in Colorado Spring, Colorado. (Getty)

While recovering from his injuries in November, Thomas James released a statement about his brave deeds on the night of the Club Q shooting. He described how he sprung into action that night in November because he wanted to “save the family [he] 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.

“Thankfully, we are family, and family looks after one another. We came a long way from Stonewall. Bullies aren’t invincible.

“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 19 November, and those who are still recovering from their injuries.

“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.”

In June, Anderson Lee Aldrich was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for the Club Q massacre.

Judge Michael McHenry also sentenced Aldrich to an additional 2,208 years in prison for the attempted murder charges. Aldrich also received a four-year sentence for bias-motivated charges, which are akin to hate crime charges in other states.

Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a hate crime is urged to call the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit the True Vision website. In an emergency, always dial 999.