A 22-year-old gunman entered an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., shortly before midnight Saturday and immediately opened fire, killing at least five people and injuring 25 others before patrons confronted him and stopped him, police said Sunday.
The suspect in the Q Club 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.
At least two people inside the club confronted and tackled the gunman, preventing further violence, Vasquez said. “We owe them a big debt of gratitude,” he said.
Joshua Thurman told CNN affiliate KOAA that he was at the club dancing when he heard gunshots and saw a muzzle flash.
“I thought it was music, so I kept dancing,” he said. “Then I heard another series of shots and the client and I ran into the changing room, sat down on the floor, locked the door and immediately called the police.
Thurman said he heard more gunshots, people crying and windows being broken. When he came out, he said, he saw bodies, glass and blood lying on the ground.
The violence lasted only 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 taken into custody at 12:02 a.m., police said. A total of 39 patrol units responded, according to police, and Fire Capt. Mike Smaldino said 11 emergency vehicles responded to the scene.
Officials initially said 18 people were injured, but later revised that number to 25. Several are in critical condition with gunshot wounds, but the exact number is unclear, officials said.
The suspect is being treated at a hospital, police added. The officers did not fire at him, police 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 haven for our LGBTQ citizens,” Vasquez said. “Every citizen has the right to feel safe and secure in our city, to walk around our beautiful city without fear of being harmed or mistreated.”
In a statement on social media, Club Q said it was “devastated by the senseless attack on our community” and thanked “the swift response of our heroic customers who subdued the attacker and stopped this hateful attack.”
Club Q announced earlier in the day that Saturday night at 9 p.m. there will be a punk and alternative performance, and at 11 a.m. – dance party. On Sunday, the club also planned to host a brunch and drag show in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance. . The club’s website now says it will be closed until further notice.
The shooting came as the calendar turned to Sunday for Transgender Day of Remembrance, a reminder of 2016. attack at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which a gunman who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people and injured at least 53.
Colorado has seen some of the worst mass shootings in US history, including the 1999 the Columbine High School shooting and the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora. in Colorado Springs in 2015. in November there was a mass shooting at Planned Parenthood that left three people dead, and last year six were killed at a birthday party.
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, not including the shooter, are shot, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
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 home to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group that argues that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are sins. .
Club Q was opened in 2002. and was until now 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 declared last year. Although the club has recently started offering a more subdued ‘dinner and show’ atmosphere until 10pm, it’s still known as a place where queer young adults can go and dance.
in 2020 July. In an interview with Colorado Springs Indy Club Q owner Nic Grzecka explained why he and his business partner opened the company.
“The whole idea of this place (Club Q) is to have a safe place — to have a permanent place in the city,” Grzecka said.
He and his business partner looked at other successful LGBTQ spaces and noticed a common theme: “They were gay as hell,” Grzecka said. “They had go-go dancers, drag queens and bartenders in jockstraps. We knew we had to be gay (to survive).
The venue also hosts events for people of all ages, including brunch and a planned upcoming Thanksgiving event.
Joseph Sheldon told CNN affiliate KRDO that he visited the club Saturday night to drop off a friend about 10 minutes before the gunman opened fire.
“It’s a bar I’ve been to a few times in my life since I turned 18. A lot of people in the bar are friends, they’re family, a lot of people I’ve become close to. He said.
“Whether it’s a hate crime or not, it’s hard to understand that this is happening, that this happened in my community, that this happened in a place that I went to and felt safe, that it happened where I’d been in 10 minutes, I would have been right in the middle of it.
Lifelong Colorado Springs resident Tiana Nicole Dykes called Club Q “a second home full of select family.”
“I’m there every other week, if not every week. This space means the world to me. Energy, people, message. It’s a wonderful place that didn’t deserve this tragedy,” Dykes told CNN on Sunday. “Something like a mass shooting in an LGBT+ safe space is incredibly damaging. There is disrespect, disbelief and just complete shock. No one ever thinks this will happen to them, and sometimes it does.
Tim Curran, copy editor for CNN’s Early Start, frequents 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.
A man with the same name and age as the shooting suspect was arrested last June for making a bomb threat, law enforcement said in a statement at the time.
Asked at a news conference Sunday if it was the same person, officials said they had to follow protocol before releasing any information about previous cases.
Based on 2021 in June Anderson Lee Aldrich was arrested that month on charges of criminal endangerment and first-degree kidnapping, according to a news release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
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, and he was taken into custody as he walked out the front door. Officers found no 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, issued a statement Sunday calling the attack “horrific, saddening and devastating” and offering state resources to local law enforcement.
“We are eternally grateful for the brave individuals who stopped the gunman, who likely saved lives, and for the first responders who quickly responded to this horrific shooting,” he said. “We mourn with our LGTBQ community and everyone in Colorado affected by this tragedy.”
Colorado’s two U.S. senators, both Democrats, expressed condolences in statements and said more needs to be done for the LGBTQ community.
“We need to protect LGBTQ lives from this hate,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper.
“As we seek justice for this unthinkable act, we must do more to protect the LGBTQ community and stand strong against all forms of discrimination and hatred.” Senator Michael Bennett said.
President Joe Biden also issued a statement saying he was praying for the victims and their families.
“While the motive for this attack is not yet clear, we 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 country, and threats of violence are on the rise,” Biden said in a written statement.