‘Heroic’ Colorado gay bar patrons credited with arresting gunman

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A 22-year-old gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle inside a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring 25 before being overpowered by patrons.” heroic” and arrested by police who arrived within minutes, authorities said on Sunday.

The suspect in Saturday night’s shooting at Club Q used an AR-15 type semi-automatic weapon, a law enforcement official said. A handgun and additional ammunition magazines were also recovered, according to the official, who could not publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The attack ended when a patron grabbed a handgun from the suspect and hit him with it, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The Associated Press. The person who hit the shooter had him restrained when police arrived, Suthers said.

“If this individual hadn’t intervened, it could have been exponentially more tragic,” Suthers said.

On its Facebook page, the club called it a “hateful attack”. Investigators were still determining a motive and whether to prosecute it as a hate crime, El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen said. Charges against the suspect will likely include first-degree murder, he said.

Police identified the suspected shooter as Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was in custody and being treated for his injuries.

Aldrich was arrested in 2021 after his mother reported he threatened her with a pipe bomb and other weapons, authorities said. They declined to give details of this arrest. No explosives were found, authorities said at the time, and The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that prosecutors had not filed any charges and the records had been sealed.

Tyrice Kelley, center right, a performer at Club Q, is comforted during a service held Sunday at All Souls Unitarian Church in Colorado Springs. (Parker Seibold, The Gazette via AP)

Of the 25 injured, 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.

Suthers said there was “reason to hope” that everyone in hospital would recover.

The shooting brought back memories of the 2016 massacre at gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people. Colorado has seen several mass shootings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, at a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a supermarket in Boulder last year.

It was the sixth massacre this month and came in a year when the nation was rocked by the deaths of 21 people in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Authorities were called to Club Q at 11:57 p.m. Saturday with a report of a shooting, and the first officer arrived at midnight.

Joshua Thurman said he was in the club with about two dozen other people and was dancing when the gunfire started. He first thought it was part of the music, until he heard another gunshot and said he saw the flash of a gun barrel.

Thurman, 34, said he ran with another person into a locker room where someone was already hiding. They locked the door, turned off the lights and got down but could hear the violence unfolding, including the shooter being beaten up, he added.

“I could have lost my life – for what? What was the goal? he said as tears streamed down his cheeks. “We were just having fun. We weren’t hurting anyone. We were in our space, our community, our home, having fun like everyone else.

Detectives were also looking into whether anyone had helped Aldrich before the attack, police chief Adrian Vasquez said. He said patrons who responded to the attack were “heroic” and owed a debt of gratitude for preventing further deaths.

Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that features a Saturday drag show, according to its website. Club Q’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” preceding a birthday dance party, with a drag brunch for all ages on Sunday.

Suthers noted that the club had been operating for 21 years and had reported no threats before Saturday’s attack.

Shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado

Elijah Newcomb of Colorado Springs lays flowers Sunday near a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where a shooting occurred late Saturday night. (Geneva Heffernan, Associated Press)

Drag events have recently become the focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests as opponents, including politicians, have proposed banning children from them, falsely claiming they are being used for ” prepare” the children.

Attorney General Merrick Garland was notified of the shooting and the FBI assisted police in the investigation.

To support a hate crime charge against Aldrich, prosecutors would have to prove he was motivated by the victims’ real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. So far, the suspect has not cooperated in interviews with investigators and has yet to give them a clear insight into the motivation for the attack, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Joe Biden said that while the motive for the shooting was still unclear, “we know the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hateful violence in recent years.”

“Places that are meant to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence,” he said. “We cannot and must not tolerate hatred.”

Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected governor in 2018, called the shooting “sickening”.

“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those who are lost, hurt and traumatized,” Polis said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and all those affected by this tragedy as we mourn.”

A makeshift memorial sprung up near the club on Sunday, complete with flowers, a stuffed animal and candles and a sign reading ‘Love Rather Than Hate’ next to a rainbow-colored heart. in sky.

Seth Stang was buying flowers for the memorial when he was told two of the dead were his friends. The 34-year-old transgender man said it was like “a bucket of hot water pouring over you. …I’m just tired of running out of places where we can safely exist.

Ryan Johnson, who lives near the club and was there last month, said it’s one of only two nightspots for the LGBTQ community in conservative-leaning Colorado Springs. “It’s sort of the place of pride,” the 26-year-old said of the club, which is tucked away behind other businesses including a bowling alley and a sandwich shop.

Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 people located 112 miles south of Denver, is home to the US Air Force Academy, the US Olympic Training Center, as well as Focus on the Family, a major evangelical Christian ministry that lobbies against LGBTQ rights. The group condemned the shooting and said it “exposed the evil and wickedness inside the human heart”.

In November 2015, three people were killed and eight injured at a family planning clinic in the city when authorities said a gunman targeted the clinic for performing abortions.

“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community,” the club said on Facebook. “We thank the quick reactions of the heroic customers who subdued the shooter and put an end to this heinous attack.”

The CEO of a national LGBTQ rights organization, Kevin Jennings of Lambda Legal, has advocated for tougher gun restrictions.

“The toxic mix of American bigotry and absurdly easy access to guns means that such occurrences are all too common and that LGBTQ+ people, BIPOC communities, the Jewish community and other vulnerable populations are paying over and over again. the price of our political leaders’ failure to act,” he said. said in a statement.

The shooting took place during Transgender Awareness Week and just at the start of International Transgender Remembrance Day on Sunday, when events around the world are held to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence .

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.

Since 2006, there have been 523 mass killings and 2,727 deaths as of November 19, according to the Associated Press/USA Today database of mass killings in the United States.

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