A gunman entered an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs just before midnight Saturday and immediately opened fire, leaving five people dead and 18 injured, police said Sunday.
At least two people at Club Q confronted the gunman who was using a “long rifle,” and prevented him from injuring others, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said. The suspect was taken into custody about five minutes after the police first received a 911 call, he said.
“We owe them a great debt of thanks,” Vasquez said of those who stopped the shooter.
Police identified the suspect in custody as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, and believe he acted alone. Authorities have not determined a motive for the shooting but are investigating whether it was a hate crime, according to Vasquez. The FBI is also looking into the shooting, CSPD Lt. Pamela Castro said.
Those who were injured were taken to several hospitals, and at least two people are still in critical condition as of Sunday morning, according to Dr. Bill Plath, Chief Medical Officer for Penrose Hospital.
Club Q ‘devastated by the senseless attack’
In a statement on its Facebook page, Club Q called the shooting a “hate attack” and said it was “devastated by the senseless attack on our community. Our prayers and thoughts are with all the victims and their families and friends.”
“We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack,” said the statement by Club Q, which describes itself as a dance and nightclub.
Friends and loved ones wait to hear answers
Natalee Bingham, 25, received a FaceTime call from her friend Kelly Jen as Jen entered Club Q at around 11:48 pm Saturday.
Jen, who is transgender, doesn’t go out much so she was excited to show her friend her outfit – a black top, black skirt and freshly colored red hair. She paid her cover fee and entered the club, Bingham said. She told Bingham she was going to get a drink at the bar then head outside to smoke a cigarette and she would call her friend later.
Eight minutes later, the police received their first 911 call about an active shooter in the club. Bingham hasn’t heard from her friend since and fears Jen was one of the victims in the shooting.
Bingham, who also identifies as transgender, said Club Q is a popular hangout within the LGBTQ community and is considered a “safe space” among her peers. Bingham, who lives in Denver, visited the club in the summer and said it draws patrons from both Colorado Springs and Denver.
“It’s crazy to think people still have this hate in their hearts in this day and age,” she said.
– Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
Macie Loureiro, 27, told USA TODAY her sibling, Luca Lourerio, was hosting a monthly “Drag Divas” event at Club Q on Saturday night when the shooting occurred. Loureiro said Luca was backstage just after the show when they heard gunfire and ran with other performers.
“Normally it’s a great place to just go with friends and be able to be yourself and really have everybody celebrate in that,” Macie Loureiro said.
“It’s devastating because it was an attack on a family – beautiful people who just wanted to go and have a safe place to hang out and be themselves,” she said. “We’re not going to have that anymore.”
TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE:On Transgender Day of Remembrance, LGBTQ community honors at least 32 trans people killed in 2022
Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 located about 70 miles south of Denver, has seen growing acceptance for the LGBTQ community in recent years including more LGBTQ restaurants and spaces like Club Q, according to Loureiro.
The club has been prepping for a drag brunch on Sunday, according to its Facebook page, and said it would be celebrating Transgender Day of Remembrance Sunday “with a variety of gender identities and performance styles.” The day of remembrance honors the at least 32 transgender and nonbinary people killed this year by violence and caps Transgender Awareness Week.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, the first openly gay man elected as governor in the US, thanked the heroic efforts of those who blocked the gunman during the shooting in a tweet Sunday morning.
“This is horrific, sickening, and devastating,” Polis said. “My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured and traumatized in this terrible shooting.”
PULSE NIGHTCLUB ATTACK:‘Keep dancing Orlando’: Five years later, Pulse nightclub shooting survivors seek to embody strength of LGBTQ community
In one of the worst attacks on an LGBTQ venue, a mass shooting on June 12, 2016, at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, left 49 people dead and 53 injured. The attack at the Pulse nightclub was the second deadliest mass shooting in US history.
Contributing: The Associated Press