A 22-year-old gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five and injuring more than two dozen before being subdued by ‘heroic’ patrons and arrested by police who were on the scene. the scene within minutes, authorities said. Sunday.
At a Sunday morning news conference, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez identified the suspect as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was being treated for injuries.
Describing the nightclub, Club Q, as “a safe haven for our LGBTQ citizens,” Vasquez said the suspect began shooting at patrons immediately after entering the venue. As he moved further inside, at least two people confronted him and fought him, preventing him from firing. The suspect used a “long rifle” and authorities found at least one other firearm when they arrived at the scene, according to the police chief.
City officials said a total of 25 people were injured. Of those 25, at least seven were in critical condition, authorities said. Some were injured trying to flee, and it was unclear whether all of the victims were shot, a police spokesman said.
Investigators were still determining a motive and the attack was being investigated to see if it should be prosecuted as a hate crime, El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen said. Charges against the suspect “will likely include first degree murder”, he said.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said in a statement on Sunday that “one or more patrons heroically intervened to subdue the suspect, and we commend those who did so because their actions saved lives.”
A man who was in the club said CBS News Colorado that he heard four or five muffled gunshots which he initially took to be part of the music.
“I heard another round of gunshots ring out and saw the muzzle flash when I looked to my left and ran to the locker room,” Joshua Thurman told CBS News Colorado. . “Immediately I locked the door and turned off all the lights.”
Thurman said they could hear “everything”.
“So I heard a total of three rounds of gunfire,” Thurman said. “We heard the attacker being beaten by people who were inside Club Q. I don’t know if they were employees or customers. We saw bodies. It was horrible.”
Bartender Michael Anderson told CBS Colorado Springs affiliate KKTV it started out as a ‘normal night’ and when he heard three shots he saw the ‘outline of a gun’ in the hands of the suspect.
“I got out and a few feet away saw someone lying on the floor and the door to the dance floor – the patio was a glass door, all that glass had been smashed,” Anderson said. “It was all over the floor. And I saw someone I knew laying there in that broken glass, having been shot in the neck. And I went over to them and they weren’t too, too vocally reactive, so I wasn’t I don’t know what to do My first thought for me, what I can’t help but think of, are the images from the evening of bodies, blood, glass shattered, carnage in the wreckage and seeing a safe place turned into a war zone.”
The violence is the sixth massacre this month and comes a year when the nation was rocked by the deaths of 21 people in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
In response to the shooting, President Biden again called on elected officials to take action to end gun violence and reiterated the need to ban assault weapons. He also lamented that the shooting joins other violent attacks on the LGBTQ community, including the 2016 attack on Pulse Disco in Orlando, Florida, and against transgender women.
“Places that are meant to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence. Yet this happens far too often,” he said in a statement. “We must challenge the inequalities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who was in COVID-19 isolation, called the shooting “horrific, sickening and devastating” in a statementand said “every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs.”
“We are eternally grateful to the brave individuals who blocked the shooter, likely saving lives in the process, and to the first responders who responded quickly to this horrific shooting,” Polis said.
Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that offers a “Drag Diva Drag Show” on Saturdays, according to its website. In addition to the drag show, Club Q’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” preceding a birthday dance party, with an “all-ages brunch” on Sunday.
Drag events have become the focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests in recent months as opponents, including politicians, have proposed banning children from such events and falsely claim they are used to to “prepare” the children.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has been briefed on the shooting, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said. The FBI said it was helping, but said the police department was investigating.
Although the motive was not yet clear, nor the gender identity of the victims, the incident came as anti-gay rhetoric intensified by extremists. In a statement, Club Q called the shooting a hate attack.
“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community,” the club said. job on his Facebook page. He said his prayers were with the victims and families, adding: ‘We thank the quick reactions of the heroic customers who subdued the shooter and put an end to this hateful attack.’
The CEO of a national LGBTQ rights organization, Kevin Jennings of Lambda Legal, responded by advocating for tougher gun restrictions.
“The toxic mix of American bigotry and absurdly easy access to guns means that such events are all too common and that LGBTQ+ people, BIPOC communities, the Jewish community and other vulnerable populations pay again and again. the price of our political leaders’ failure to act,” he said. said in a statement. “We must come together to demand meaningful action before another tragedy strikes our nation.”
The shooting took place during Transgender Awareness Week and hours before Sunday’s International Transgender Remembrance Day, when events around the world are held to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence. The Colorado Springs shoot was sure to bring a special resonance to these events.
Colorado Springs is a city of about 480,000 about 70 miles south of Denver that is home to the US Air Force Academy, as well as Focus on the Family, a major evangelical Christian ministry.
In November 2015, three people were killed and eight injured at a family planning clinic in the city when authorities said a man opened fire to wage “war” on the clinic because she performed abortions.
The motive for Saturday’s shooting was not immediately known, but it was reminiscent of the Pulse nightclub massacre which killed 49 people. And it happened in a state that has seen several notorious mass shootings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, at a suburban Denver movie theater in 2012, and at a Boulder supermarket last year.
In June, 31 members of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front were arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and charged with conspiring to riot at a Pride event. Experts have warned that extremist groups could see anti-gay rhetoric as a call to action.
The previous month, a fundamentalist pastor in Idaho told his small congregation in Boise that gays, lesbians and transgender people should be executed by the government, which aligned with similar sermons by a fundamentalist pastor. from Texas.
There have been 523 massacres since 2006, resulting in 2,727 deaths as of Nov. 19, according to the Associated Press/USA Today database on US massacres.