Colorado Springs shooting at LGBTQ club leaves 5 dead and shatters safe haven provided by the venue



CNN

Lily Forsell remembers being drawn into the dance floor scene at Club Q when she was out celebrating her 18th birthday on a Saturday night, with dozens of people laughing, singing and dancing as they always do after an evening of drag shows.

Less than an hour later, that dance floor became the scene of a violent attack.

A safe LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs, Colo., was torn apart by a gunman who entered a nightclub and opened fire near midnight, killing at least 5 people and injuring 25 others, police said.

According to Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez, police rushed to the scene after receiving several 911 calls starting at 11:56 p.m. They arrived at the scene to find that at least two people had beaten the gunman and prevented further violence.

The victims were taken to several local hospitals, Vasquez said. Nineteen of the 25 people injured were shot, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told CNN on Sunday.

A 22-year-old man was in custody and was being treated at a hospital on Sunday, police said, noting that officers did not fire on the suspect. Investigators are still working to determine a motive, including whether the shooting was a hate crime, Vasquez said.

The brutal attack came on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, which commemorates the lives of transgender people lost to violence and hatred and commemorates the 2016 The Pulse massacre in Orlando, in which a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub.

Daniel Aston

Although police have not identified any victims, Daniel Aston’s parents told the Denver Post that their son was killed by a bartender at Club Q on Saturday. Jeff and Sabrina Aston said their son moved to Colorado Springs two years ago to be closer to them and took a job at a club just minutes from their home.

The shooting devastated regulars like Cole Danielson, who worked as the King of Club Q when he first moved to Colorado Springs. Just last month, he and his wife celebrated their wedding.

“This space is really the only place in Colorado Springs where the LGBTQ+ community can come together and be themselves,” he told CNN.

“Our safety as queer people in Colorado Springs is now in question,” Danielson added. “I’m afraid to be myself as a trans man in this community.”

Leia-jhene Seals hugs RJ Lewis during vigil for victims of Club Q shooting.

Lifelong Colorado Springs resident Tiana Nicole Dykes called Club Q “a second home full of select family.”

“This space means the world to me. Energy, people, message. It’s a wonderful place that didn’t deserve this tragedy,” said Dykes, who has close friends who were seriously injured and killed in the shooting. Dykes says the shock of the attack only gets worse over time.

Antonio Taylor, a drag queen and Colorado Springs resident, said Club Q and its welcoming community helped them feel ready to come out.

“It was one of those places where I didn’t have to worry about how I looked or people hating me for who I am,” they said, adding: “It made me sick to my stomach because I knew I was safe. was made unsafe’.

Taylor was due to perform at the club’s musical brunch on Sunday, but the attack forced Club Q to close its doors indefinitely.

Jewels Parks, who has been on the Colorado drag scene for over a year, often performs at Club Q under her drag name Dezzy Dazzles, and considers it a place where the cruelty of the outside world was not welcome.

“Club Q, like all LGBTQIA+ bars, is a safe space for a community that has felt unsafe and marginalized for most of its life,” Parks told CNN.

“To have a safe place taken away from us and to lose members of the community is a completely different kind of harm,” Parks said. “Right now we need to love each other a little more and be kind to each other.”

The suspected gunman, identified by police as Anderson Lee Aldrich, used a long rifle in the attack, Vasquez said. Two firearms were recovered at the scene, the chief said.

Although he opened fire immediately after entering the club, Vasquez said, the shooting lasted only a few minutes as bystanders subdued him.

“At least two heroic people in the club confronted and tackled the suspect and were able to stop him,” Vasquez said. “We owe them a big debt of gratitude.”

Police said Sunday they are looking into the suspect’s story as part of their investigation.

in 2021 in June Aldrich was arrested in connection with a bomb threat that sparked a dispute at his mother’s home, according to a statement from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the time and his mother’s former landlord. Colorado Springs is located in El Paso County.

Two law enforcement sources confirmed that the suspect in the nightclub and the bomb threat were the same person by name and date of birth.

During 2021 incident, sheriff’s deputies responded to a report from the man’s mother that he “threatened to harm her with a homemade bomb, multiple guns and ammunition,” according to the report. Deputies called the suspect and he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” the report said, forcing them to evacuate nearby homes.

Hours after the initial call to police, the Sheriff’s Crisis Negotiation Unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the home he was in and he was taken into custody as he walked out the front door. Officers found no explosives in the home.

CNN’s attempts to reach Aldrich’s mother for comment were unsuccessful.

It was not immediately clear how the bomb threat case was resolved, but the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that the district attorney’s office said no formal charges had been filed in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Aldrich also called the Gazette to have an earlier story about the 2021 incident removed from the website, the newspaper reported. “There is absolutely nothing there, the case has been closed and I am asking you to remove or update the story,” Aldrich said in a voicemail, according to the Gazette.

Until recently, Club Q was the only LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs and always had a “good energy,” patron Shenika Mosley of 14 years told CNN. But after the shooting, Mosley thinks, “We’ll never be able to do this again.”

LGBTQ advocacy groups, politicians and communities that have experienced similar attacks rushed to support those fighting the brutal attack.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, a major LGBTQ media advocacy organization, called the attack “unspeakable” and said the organization “stands in solidarity with Colorado’s LGBTQ community.”

People gather at a makeshift memorial outside Club Q nightclub on Sunday.

A vigil was held Sunday at Pulse’s makeshift memorial in Florida “to stand together for the families of victims, survivors, first responders and the LGBTQIA+ community in Colorado Springs,” Pulse Orlando announced on Instagram.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay governor, condemned the shooting and ordered flags at half-staff at all state buildings for five days to honor the five victims of the attack. The Pride flag will fly at the state capitol for the same amount of time, he said.

Speaking to CNN’s Jim Acosta on Sunday, Polis emphasized how deeply the shooting affects the city’s intimate LGBTQ community, saying, “Everybody knew (the Q Club). I knew it, I knew this place. It’s just shocking.”

“I know we will bounce back. We show love to each other. We show how we treat each other,” the governor said.



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