It was to be another night of fun, love and joy at Club Q, a popular LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
For a nominal fee of $7, Guests could party to music by DJ T Beatz, cheer on a Del Lusional drag queen performance, dance with old friends, make new friends, celebrate birthdays and appreciate the camaraderie and safety that has made Club Q a family feel.
The celebrations were supposed to last until 2 a.m. The next day, the club had planned a musical drag brunch for Transgender Memorial Day.
But the warmth that has made Club Q a safe haven for the LGBTQ community in this conservative corner of Colorado since it opened 20 years ago was cut short Saturday night after a gunman opened fire at the club, killing five people and 18 others injured.
And it shook the community to the core. “It’s the only place we’ve felt safe,” said Samantha Alcock, 25, who was a regular at the club while living in Colorado Springs.
A suspect has been arrested in connection with the mass shooting and authorities are considering murder and biased charges against him.
Here’s what we know:
Just before midnight, a man who witnesses said was wearing body armor and appeared to be carrying multiple firearms, including a long-range rifle, entered Club Q, where people were dancing, ordering drinks, celebrating birthdays and enjoying a night out.
The suspect began firing immediately after entering the club, Colorado Springs Police Department Chief Adrian Vasquez, said.
Several witnesses described how confusion escalated to chaos and fear. Joshua Thurman told reporters he was on the dance floor when he first heard gunfire but mistook it for music. He couldn’t remember hearing anyone yell for help, he said.
“But then I heard another set of shots, turned left and saw the flash coming out of the muzzle,” he said in an interview with NBC News.
Many guests said they were on the dance floor or at the bar when they realized the club was under attack. Many went to the terrace. Others described falling to the ground or hiding behind the bar as bullets shot through the club. Thurman said he and two others went into an artists’ dressing room backstage, where they locked the doors, dropped to the ground and turned off the lights.
Within minutes of the alleged shooter entering the club, two patrons – Richard Fierro and Thomas James – overpowered him, authorities said.
Fierro, a US Army veteran, saw a flash and fell backwards. he said in an interview outside his home on Monday. Then he went into “fight mode,” he said.
He made his way to the suspect, who he described as large, pulled him down by a handle on the back of his body armor and began “catching whales on him.” He instructed someone nearby to move the rifle out of the suspect’s reach and call another 911. A Transgender woman kicked man’s head with their heels.
The first 911 call came in at 11:56 p.m., Lt. Pamela Castro, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Springs Police Department. The first officer was dispatched within seconds and arrived at midnight. The suspect – identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich – was arrested two minutes later, she said.
At least two guns were found at the scene, Vasquez said. Police are investigating who owned the guns and whether they were legally acquired, authorities said. Vasquez Approved The suspect used a long rifle during the shooting.
Who was killed?
authorities identified the five People killed in the attack during a news conference on Monday after family and friends confirmed their loved ones’ deaths to The Times and other media:
- Kelly loving
- Daniel Aston
- Ashley Paugh
- Derrick Hull
- Raymond Green Vance
At least 18 other people were injured in the shooting, out of an initial number of 25. All but one sustained gunshot wounds.
Ten patients are being treated at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, a spokesman said. One person was discharged from hospital on Sunday. The spokesman declined to comment on the patients’ status.
Three other patients are being treated at Penrose Hospital and are in stable condition, a spokesman said.
What do we know about the suspect?
Aldrich is in the hospital, authorities said. They declined to give details of his condition or if he had made a statement to the authorities.
He is the grandson of outgoing California Rep. Randy Voepel (R-Santee), an adviser to the legislature, the Times told Monday. Voepel declined to comment to The Times, the adviser said.
A man of the same name and age when Aldrich was locked in a June 2021 standoff with El Paso (Colo.) County Sheriff’s Deputies responding to reports of a bomb threat at a home in suburban Colorado Springs. Authorities found no explosives, and the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that prosecutors had not filed any charges against the man. Authorities, citing Colorado law, have not confirmed that the two men are the same.
The Washington Post reported that public records show that Aldrich legally changed his full name when he was a teenager and that until the age of 15 he was known as Nicholas Brink, who lived in San Antonio.
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Prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges for the attack.
However, court documents show Aldrich is being held on suspicion of five counts of murder and five counts of biased crimes involving assault. Prejudice crimes are Colorado’s term for hate crimes, said Michael Allen, the district attorney for Colorado’s 4th judiciary circuit.
When asked if prosecutors were considering federal hate crime charges against the suspect, Cole Finegan, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, cited the ongoing investigation and said his office is working closely with Allen’s office and other local authorities but do not comment further.
Allen said he expects the warrant and probable cause affidavit to be unsealed in the coming days.
Have the authorities identified a motive?
Investigators have not identified a motive for the shooting, but the investigation is being reviewed for bias and murder allegations, Allen said.
More information is not expected to be released by the Colorado Springs Police Department until next week said Tuesday.