At least five people were killed and 25 wounded after a 22-year-old gunman entered an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., just before midnight Saturday and opened fire, police said Sunday, before patrons confronted him and stopped over him.
The suspect in the Club Q shooting has been identified as Anderson Lee Aldridge, according to Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vazquez. Vasquez said he used a long rifle in the shooting and found two firearms at the scene.
Vasquez said at least two people inside the club confronted and wrestled the gunman, preventing further violence. “We are very grateful to them,” he said.
Joshua Thurman told CNN affiliate KOAA he was dancing in the club when he heard gunshots and saw the muzzle flash.
“I thought it was music, so I kept dancing,” he said. “Then I heard another set of gunshots and then a customer and I ran to the changing room, got on the ground and locked the door and called the police immediately.”
Thurman said he heard more gunfire, people crying and windows being smashed. When he came out, he saw dead bodies, broken glass and blood on the ground, he said.
The violence lasted only a few minutes. Police said officers began receiving numerous 911 calls 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. A total of 39 patrol officers responded, police said, and Fire Chief Mike Smaldino said 11 ambulances were called to the scene.
Authorities initially said 18 people were injured, but later revised the total to 25. Several of them were in critical condition with gunshot wounds, officials said, but the exact number was unclear.
Police added that the suspect is being treated in hospital. Officers did not shoot him, police said.
Police said they were investigating whether the attack was a hate crime and were aware of 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 move around our beautiful city without fear of being harmed or treated poorly.”
In a statement on social media, Club Q said it was “shocked by the senseless attack on our community” and thanked “heroic customers for their swift response to subdue the shooter and put an end to this hate attack”.
Club Q announced earlier in the day that its Saturday night lineup will feature a punk and alternative show at 9pm, followed by dance at 11pm. The club is also planning a Transgender Day of Remembrance drag brunch and drag show on Sunday. The club’s website now says it will be closed until further notice.
The shooting came as the Sunday calendar shifted to transgender remembrance, reminiscent of the 2016 attack on an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which a gunman pledging allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people and left at least 53 more Injuried.
Colorado has been home to some of the most heinous mass shootings in U.S. history, including the 1999 Columbine High School shooting and the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting. Colorado Springs was the site of the Planned Parenthood mass shooting in November 2015 that killed three people, and a birthday party last year that killed six.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 600 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, defined as incidents in which at least four people besides the shooter are shot.
Colorado Springs, the state’s second-most populous city with fewer than 500,000 residents, is home to many military bases and the headquarters of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group that considers homosexuality and same-sex marriage a sin.
Club Q opened in 2002 and until recently was the only LGBTQ club in the city.
“Proud queer club Q has become a bastion for the LGBTQ community where others have fallen,” 5280 magazine reported in a report last year. “It’s a place for drag shows, dances and drinks for the LGBTQ crowd, and it supports the community through event sponsorships, pride festivities, charity events and more. Although the club has recently switched to offering a more low-key ‘dinner and show’ until 10pm vibe, but it’s still known as a place where queer young people go to dance.”
In a July 2020 interview with Colorado Springs Indy, Club Q owner Nic Grzecka explained why he and his business partner opened the hotel.
“The whole idea of this place (Club Q) is to have a safe place – to find a permanent place in the city,” Grzecka said.
He and his business partners visited other successful LGBTQ spaces and noticed a common theme: “They’re gay as hell,” Grzecka told the outlet. “They had rave dancers in leggings, drag queens and bartenders. We knew we had to be gay as hell (to survive).”
The venue also hosts events for all ages, including brunch and planning an upcoming Thanksgiving event.
Joseph Shelton told CNN affiliate KRDO that he went to the club to drop off a friend Saturday night, about 10 minutes before the gunman opened fire.
“It’s a pub I’ve been to many times in my life since I was 18. A lot of the people in the pub are friends, they’re family, a lot of the people I’ve become close to,” he said.
“Whether it’s a hate crime or not, it’s hard to see that this is happening, it’s happening in my neighborhood, it’s happening in places where I’ve been and felt safe, it’s happening if I’m in 10 more minutes, I’m in the middle .”
Lifelong Colorado Springs resident Tiana Nicole Dykes calls Club Q “a second home filled with select families.”
“I go every other week, if not every week. This space means the world to me. Energy, people, information. It’s an amazing place and this tragedy shouldn’t have happened,” Dykes Zhou day told CNN. “The destructive power of a mass shooting in an LGBT+ safe space is unbelievable. There’s disrespect, disbelief, and sheer shock. Nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them, and sometimes it does.”
Tim Curran, a copy editor for CNN’s “Early Rising,” was a regular at Club Q when he and his boyfriend were visiting family in Colorado Springs.
“It’s a really warm, welcoming space and definitely a big step up for diversity in Springs,” Curran told CNN.
Last June, a man of the same name and age as the shooter was arrested for bomb threats, according to a statement from law enforcement at the time.
Asked at a news conference on Sunday whether it was the same person, officials said they had to follow protocol before releasing any information about the previous case.
Anderson Lee Aldrich was arrested that month on felony threats and first-degree kidnapping charges, according to a June 2021 news release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s deputies responded to the man’s mother’s report that he “threatened to inflict harm on her with homemade bombs, multiple weapons and ammunition,” the release said. Deputies called the suspect, who “refusal to comply with an order to turn himself in,” the news release said, causing them to evacuate a nearby home.
Hours after the initial call, the sheriff’s crisis negotiation team managed to get Aldridge out of the house, and he was arrested after walking out the front door. Authorities did not find any explosives at the home.
It was not immediately clear how the case was resolved.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat and the first openly gay U.S. governor, issued a statement Sunday calling the attack “terrible, disgusting and devastating” and appealing to local law enforcement. Department provides state resources.
“We are forever grateful to the brave individuals who stopped the shooter, potentially saving a life in the process, and to the first responders who quickly responded to this horrific shooting,” he said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and All those affected by this tragedy stand together as we mourn.”
The two U.S. senators from Colorado, both Democrats, condolences in statement And said more should be done for the LGBTQ community.
“We must protect LGBTQ lives from this hate,” said Senator John Hickenlooper.
“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 its forms,” Senator Michael Bennett said.
President Biden also issued a statement saying he was praying for the victims and their families.
“While the motive for this attack is unclear, we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years. Gun violence continues to have a devastating and disproportionate impact on our nation’s LGBTQI+ community, and the threat of violence is increasing,” Biden said. said in a written statement.