A 22-year-old gunman walked into an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, just before midnight Saturday and immediately opened fire, killing at least five people and wounding 25 others, before patrons confronted him and stopped him, police said Sunday.
The suspect in the Club Q shooting has been identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich, according to Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez. He used a long rifle in the shooting, and two firearms were found at the scene, Vasquez said.
Vasquez said at least two people inside the club confronted and fought the gunman and prevented further violence. “We owe them a big debt of thanks,” he said.
Police said they were investigating whether the attack was a hate crime and noted Club Q’s ties to the LGBTQ community.
“Club Q is a safe place for our LGBTQ citizens,” Vasquez said. “Every citizen has the right to feel safe and secure in our city, to go about our beautiful city without fear of harm or mistreatment.”
In a statement on social media, Club Q said it was “devastated by the senseless attack on our community” and thanked “the quick reaction of heroic patrons who subdued the gunman and ended this hateful attack.”
Club Q posted earlier in the day that its Saturday night lineup would feature a punk and alternative show at 9 pm followed by a dance party at 11. The club also planned to hold a drag brunch and a train show at Sunday for Transgender Day of Remembrance. . The club’s website now says it will be closed until further notice.
The shooting occurred as the calendar turned to Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance and recalled the 2016 attack at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which a gunman who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people and wounded at least 53 others.
Colorado has been the site of some of the most heinous shootings in US history, including the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School and the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora. Colorado Springs was the site of a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood in November 2015 that left three people dead and at a birthday party last year that left six people dead.
According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 600 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, defined as an incident in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.
Joshua Thurman told CNN affiliate KOAA he was inside the club dancing when he heard gunshots and saw a muzzle flash.
“I thought it was the music, so I kept dancing,” she said. “Then I heard another round of shots, and then me and a customer ran into the dressing room, got on the floor and locked the doors and called the police immediately.”
Thurman said he heard the sounds of more gunshots, people screaming and windows breaking. When he came out, he saw bodies lying on the ground, broken glass and blood, he said.
The violence lasted a few minutes. Police received multiple 911 calls beginning at 11:56 p.m., officers were dispatched at 11:57 p.m., an officer arrived at midnight and the suspect was arrested at 12:02 a.m., police said. A total of 39 patrol officers responded, police said, and Fire Department Capt. Mike Smaldino said 11 ambulances went to the scene.
Authorities initially said 18 people were injured but later adjusted that total to 25. Among those, several were in critical condition with gunshot wounds, though the exact number was unclear, officials said.
The suspect is being treated at a hospital, police added. The officers did not fire on him, police said.
Joseph Sheldon told CNN affiliate KRDO he visited the club Saturday night to drop off a friend about 10 minutes before the gunman opened fire.
“This is a bar I’ve been to many times in my life since I turned 18. A lot of these people in the bar are friends, they’re family, a lot of them are people I’ve become close to,” he said. say
“Whether it’s a hate crime or not, it’s hard to see what’s going on, that this happened in my community, that this happened in a place that I went to and felt safe, that this was reached a place that if I had stayed 10 minutes more, I would have been right in the middle of it.”
Colorado Springs, the state’s second most populous city with just under 500,000 residents, is home to a number of military bases and is the headquarters for Focus on the Family, the conservative Christian group that advocates homosexuality and marriage. same sex is sin.
Club Q opened in 2002 and was, until recently, the only LGBTQ club in the city.
“Proudly queer Club Q has stood as a bastion of the LGBTQ community where others have fallen,” 5280 magazine reported in a story last year. “It’s where LGBTQ people go for train performances, dance parties, and drinks, and supports the community with event sponsorships, pride celebrations, charity drives, and more. While the club has recently shifted to offering more of a low-key ‘dinner and a show’ vibe before 10pm, it’s still known as the place for queer young adults to go dancing.”
In a July 2020 interview with the Colorado Springs Indy, Club Q owner Nic Grzecka explained why he and his business partner opened the establishment.
“The whole idea of this place (Club Q) is to have a safe place – to find a permanent one in the city,” Grzecka said.
He and his business partner visited other successful LGBTQ spaces and noted a common theme: “They were gay as hell,” Grzecka told the outlet. “They had go-go dancers and drag queens and bartenders in jockstraps. We knew we had to be gay as hell (to survive).
The venue also hosts events for people of all ages, including brunch and an upcoming Thanksgiving event.
Tiana Nicole Dykes, a lifelong resident of Colorado Springs, called Club Q “a second home that families choose.”
“I’m here every week if not every week. This space means the world to me. The energy, the people, the message. It’s an amazing place that didn’t deserve this tragedy,” Dykes told CNN on Sunday. “Something like a mass shooting in an LGBT+ safe space is damaging beyond belief. There are feelings of disrespect, disbelief, and just pure shock. No one ever thinks it’s going to happen to them, and sometimes it do this.”
Tim Curran, a copy editor for CNN’s “Early Start,” is a regular at Club Q with his boyfriend when he visits his family in Colorado Springs.
“It’s a very warm, welcoming space, definitely a big step for diversity in the Springs,” Curran told CNN.
Jewels Parks, who has been in the Colorado drag scene for more than a year and performs under the drag name Dezzy Dazzles, said Club Q was a community, a family and a space where the cruelty of the outside world was not welcome.
“Club Q, along with all the other LGBTQIA+ bars, represents a safe space for a community that has felt safe and rejected for most of their lives,” Parks told CNN. “In a world that can be so dark and so angry, there’s only one place that feels like home. We can relax, forget our problems with work, family, society. Because of Club Q, we can make friends that become family and be accepted for who we are.”
“The LGBTQIA+ community is already subjected to a lot of bigotry and hatred. Removing a safe place and losing members of our community is another kind of hurt, Parks added.
A man with the same name and age as the shooting suspect was arrested in June of last year in connection with a bomb threat, according to a law enforcement statement at the time.
Asked at a press conference Sunday if it was the same person, officials said they had to follow protocol before releasing any information about previous cases.
According to a June 2021 news release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, an Anderson Lee Aldrich was arrested this month on charges of criminal threats and first-degree kidnapping.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report from the man’s mother that he had “threatened to harm her with a homemade bomb, multiple guns, and ammunition,” according to the statement. Deputies called the suspect, and he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” the statement said, leading to the evacuation of a nearby home.
Several hours after the initial call to police, the sheriff’s crisis negotiation unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the home, and he was arrested after he came out the front door. Authorities did not find any explosives in the home.
It was not immediately clear how the case was resolved.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat and the nation’s first openly gay governor, released a statement Sunday calling the attack “horrific, sickening and devastating” and offering state resources to local law enforcement.
“We are eternally grateful for the brave people who stopped the gunman and likely saved lives in the process and for the first responders who responded so quickly to this horrific shooting,” he said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and all those affected by this tragedy as we mourn together.”
Colorado’s two US senators, both Democrats, gave condolences in statement and said they should do more for the LGBTQ community.
“We must protect LGBTQ lives from this hate,” Senator John Hickenlooper said.
“As we seek justice for this unimaginable act, we must do more to protect the LGBTQ community and stand firm against discrimination and hatred in all forms,” Senator Michael Bennett said.
President Joe Biden also made a statement to say that he is praying for the victims and their families.
“While no motive for this attack is yet clear, we do know that the LGBTQI+ community has experienced horrific hate violence in recent years. Gun violence continues to have a devastating and particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation and threats of violence are on the rise ,” Biden said in the written statement.