A 22-year-old gunman entered an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, just before midnight Saturday and immediately opened fire, killing at least five people and injuring 25 others, after patrons confronted him and stopped him, police said Sunday.
According to Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez, the suspect in the shooting at Club Q has been identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich. Vasquez said he used a long rifle in the shooting and two guns were found at the scene.
At least two people inside the club confronted and fought the gunman and prevented further violence, Vasquez said. “We owe them a huge debt of gratitude,” he said.
Joshua Thurman told CNN affiliate KOAA that he was dancing inside the club when he heard gunshots and saw a muzzle flash.
“I thought it was music, so I kept dancing,” she said. “Then I heard another shot, and then me and the customer ran into the dressing room, got on the floor and locked the doors and immediately called the police.”
The violence lasted only a few minutes. Police said they received 911 calls from 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 p.m., police said. A total of 39 patrol officers responded, police said, and 11 ambulances went to the scene, Fire Department Capt. Mike Smaldino said.
Officials initially said 18 people were injured but later adjusted that to 25. Among them, several are in critical condition with gunshot wounds, though the exact number is unclear, officials said.
Police said the suspect is being treated at a hospital. The officers did not fire at him, police said.
Police said they are 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 visit our beautiful city without fear of harm or mistreatment.”
In a statement on social media, Club Q said it was “devastated by this senseless attack on our community” and “grateful for the quick responses of heroic customers who subdued the gunman and ended this hateful attack.”
Club Q’s Saturday night lineup includes a punk and alternative show at 9pm, followed by a dance party at 11pm. The club plans to host a drag brunch and drag show on Sunday, which is Transgender Day of Remembrance. . The club’s website now says it will be closed until further notice.
The shooting comes as the calendar turns to Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance and recalls the 2016 attack on 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 mass shootings in US history, including the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School and the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora. Colorado Springs was the site of a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood in November 2015 that left three dead, and six more at a birthday party last year.
Colorado Springs, the state’s second most populous city with just under 500,000 residents, is home to several military bases and the headquarters of a conservative Christian group focused on the family that says homosexuality and same-sex marriage are sins.
Club Q opened in 2002 and until recently was the only LGBTQ club in the city.
“Proudly queer club Q stands as a bastion of the LGBTQ community where others have fallen,” 5280 magazine reported in a story last year. “LGBTQ people go for drag shows, dance parties and drinks, and it supports the community with event sponsorships, pride celebrations, charity drives and more. Although the club has recently moved to offer more low-key ‘dinner and show’ vibes before 10pm, it’s still the place for eccentric young adults to go and get their dance on.
In a July 2020 interview with Colorado Springs Indy, Club Q owner Nick Grjeka 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 have a permanent place in the city,” Grjeka said.
He and his business partner toured other successful LGBTQ venues and noticed 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 hosts events for people of all ages, including brunch, and has an upcoming Thanksgiving event planned.
Joseph Sheldon told CNN affiliate KRDO that he visited the club to drop off a friend about 10 minutes before the gunman opened fire Saturday night.
“This is a bar I’ve been to many times in my life since I was 18. A lot of people in this bar are friends, they’re family, a lot of people I’m close to,” he said.
“Whether it’s a hate crime or not, it’s hard to see this happening, it happened in my community, it happened where I went and it was safe, I was still 10 minutes where it happened, I was right in the middle of it.
Lifelong Colorado Springs resident Tiana Nicole Dykes called Club Q “a second home filled with a chosen family.”
“I’m there 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 doesn’t deserve this tragedy,” Dykes told CNN on Sunday. “Something like a mass shooting in an LGBT+ safe space hurts beyond belief. Disrespect, mistrust and just There are feelings of pure shock. No one thinks this will happen to them and sometimes it does.
Tim Curran, 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 place, definitely a big step for diversity in the Springs,” Curran told CNN.
A man of the same name and age was arrested in June of last year in connection with the bomb threat, according to a law enforcement statement at the time.
Asked at a news conference Sunday if he was the same person, officials said protocol must be followed before releasing any information about previous cases.
According to a June 2021 news release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson Lee Aldrich was arrested that month on charges of criminal threatening and first-degree kidnapping.
According to the release, sheriff’s deputies responded to a report from the man’s mother that he was “threatening to harm himself with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition.” Deputies called the suspect over, and he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” the release said, causing him to evacuate nearby homes.
Several hours after the initial police call, the sheriff’s crisis negotiation unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the home and he was arrested after walking out the front door. No explosives were found in the house.
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 agencies.
“We are eternally grateful to the brave individuals who restrained the gunman, potentially saving lives in the process, and to the first responders who quickly responded to this horrific shooting,” he said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone affected by this tragedy as we grieve together.”
Colorado’s two US senators, both Democrats, Condolences in statements And said more should be done for the LGBTQ community.
“We need to protect LGBTQ lives from this hate,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper said.
“As we seek justice for this unthinkable act, we must do more to protect the LGBTQ community and stand firm against discrimination and hate in all its forms.” Sen. Michael Bennett said.
President Joe Biden issued a statement saying he was praying for the victims and their families.
“While any motive for this attack is still unclear, we do know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years. Gun violence is having a devastating and specific impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation, and threats of violence are on the rise,” Biden said in a written statement.