Editor's note: The number of people injured in this mass shooting changed and this story now reflects updated information as provided by the Colorado Springs Police Department at 12:47 p.m. Monday.
Editor's note: The Club Q shooting suspect identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, according to court documents filed by their defense attorneys. This article has been updated to reflect the proper pronouns.
A 22-year-old is in police custody after at least five people killed and 19 others were injured in a mass shooting at a LGBTQ+ club in Colorado Springs late Saturday night.
The first call about the shooting at Club Q came into dispatch three seconds before 11:57 a.m. Saturday, according to Lt. Pamela Castro, a spokesperson for the Colorado Springs Police Department. The first officer was dispatched at 11:57 p.m., she said, and the first officer arrived at the club at midnight.
The suspect, identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was taken into custody at 12:02 a.m., according to Castro, and is being treated for injuries at a local hospital.
There are also questions about Aldrich’s past that the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has yet to comment on. Last year, they were arrested after making bomb and weapons threats toward their mother in the Lorson Ranch neighborhood. Charges were not filed in that case. The State Court Administrator’s Office said just before noon Sunday that it did not have any “public records” tied to Aldrich in Colorado.
CSPD said in a press release Monday that 17 of the 19 injured people had at least one gunshot wound.
Club Q, in a post on its Facebook page, as well as Colorado Springs officials, said patrons of the bar fought and subdued the attacker before officers arrived.
Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said the suspect immediately began shooting upon entering the club and two “heroic” people fought with him and were able to stop him from killing and hurting others.
“We owe them a great debt,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez said investigators found at least two firearms at the scene and that Aldrich used a long rifle in the shooting, though he did not specify the make or model. He said officers were working to obtain several search warrants but the large and complex scene would be time consuming to comb through.
In an interview with CNN, a bartender at Club Q said he witnessed the heroic actions of the two people credited with stopping the carnage inside the nightclub.
"I saw what I believe was probably the gunman lying on the ground, getting beat up and kicked and yelled at by two very brave people who I still don't the identity of those two people," said Michael Anderson, bartender at Club Q. "I hope I can find out (their identities) one day because I truly believe those two people saved my life."
Multiple victims were taken to three area hospitals by ambulance and police cars, Colorado Springs Fire Department Chief Randy Royal said. One of the people who died was pronounced at one of the hospitals:
- Seven patients were taken to Penrose
- Ten were taken to Memorial Central
- Two were taken to Memorial North
Lieutenant Castro said some people were injured trying to flee, and warned the number of people injured in the shooting could change in the following days.
Several of those injured in the shooting remained in critical condition Sunday morning, according to two hospital chief medical officers who spoke at an 8 a.m. news conference.
On its Facebook page, Club Q posted called the shooting a hate attack and said people at the club subdued the perpetrator:
Club Q is 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.’"
Matthew Haynes, the co-owner of Club Q, said he was still in shock. He said he learned about the shooting from an employee who called him after they had called police when the first shots were fired.
Haynes said he has worked previously with local law enforcement and the FBI on responses to potential scenarios like the shooting in the wake of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
“This has been the biggest nightmare since Pulse in Orlando. And this is — every time the phone rings and you’re not there, every time you heard a weird noise inside the bar — it’s what’s on your mind.”
Haynes said none of the club’s employees or regulars recognized Aldrich and that they could not find any transactions they had ever made there.
The co-owner said he believed that “this was a community of target for him, but not specific people."
The club features a “Drag Diva Drag Show” on Saturday nights, according to its website, which the club also advertised on its Facebook page along with a Sunday brunch.
Witnesses describe shooting inside Club Q
Joshua Thurman said he was at the club when the shooting happened and that his friend had been killed.
“I was on the dance floor dancing when I heard four to five shots. I thought it was the music, so I kept dancing. Then I heard another set of shots, and then me and a customer ran to the dressing room, got on the ground and locked the doors and called the police immediately. “
As he and others were on the ground in the dressing room and on the phone with police, he heard more shots and people screaming. He said thoughts of his family and friends raced through his mind as he wondered whether he would survive the night.
“'I hope I make it out alive,'” he said he told himself. “[I was thinking of] my mom, my friends, my loved ones.”
He said as him and the customer were on the ground, they continued to hear more shots before they heard people yelling that someone had tackled the shooter.
Thurman said the community is devastated that one of the only LGBTQ havens in the city was attacked. He said he's been going to the club since 2010. Sunday also marks the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
“As a Black kid, it’s taboo to be gay. So, coming here, this is one of the first places that I felt accepted to be who I am. It’s supposed to be our safe place. A community shouldn’t have to go through something like this for us to come together,” Thurman said. “This is the only LGBTQIA+ place in the entire city of Colorado Springs. What are we supposed to do? Where are we supposed to go? How are we supposed to feel safe in our environment when it just got shot up? This is our home. This is our space. We come here to enjoy ourselves, and this happens?”
Denver7 also spoke to Greg Charter, a former employee at the bar who is mourning the loss of his friends and former co-workers.
"Unapologetic. This is who I am and you can adjust or not. That’s the kind of person he was, very strong and proud," Charter said of his friend, Daniel Davis Aston, who is among the victims of the deadly shooting. "It’s just devastating to know that he, too, passed because of this event."
Aston is the first victim who has been identified in the deadly shooting. The 28-year-old was working as a bartender late Saturday night when the gunman opened fire inside the club.
Leia-jheme was performing at Club Q just before the shooting. She was leaving the club when she heard shots coming from inside the building. She said Club Q was a place where LGBTQ people felt safe.
“People were panic-screaming, running out of the club. I knew it was from inside,” she said. “For a lot of people, like myself, we don’t have a family. So, LGBT people really need somewhere that is a safe space and Club Q gave that to us."
Club Q is pointing people toward donating to Colorado Gives and the Colorado Healing Fund, and designating the donation to the "Club Q Tragedy" in the dropdown menu.
GoFundMe says it has verified two fundraisers so far: One to help the families of those killed and injured, organized by Good Judy Garage in Denver, and the other to help families of the victims and people who were injured, organized by Greg Resha, a former Club Q employee.
The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office is working with local police, sheriff’s deputies, and the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on the investigation. The suspect was treated for injuries after being taken into custody, Lieutenant Castro said.
“The Denver FBI Field Office, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, National Security Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado are aware of the situation regarding the shooting in Colorado Springs at Club Q, and we will review all available facts of the incident to determine what federal response is warranted. The FBI is providing assistance to the Colorado Springs Police Department,” the bureau said in a statement.
Investigators said they would treat the investigation as one potentially involving a hate crime but said early Sunday the motive for the shooting was not yet clear. Fourth Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said the shooting appears to have been carried out by one person but investigators are still looking into whether anyone else was connected. Officials said they could not comment regarding any prior contact with Aldrich.
Thirty-nine Colorado Springs patrol officers responded to the scene, Castro said, as well as numerous first responders from nearby municipalities.
Data compiled by the Crowd Counting Consortium shows there has been a sharp increase this year in attacks on the LGBTQ+ community fueled by right-wing actors.
Officials said news of the shooting at the popular Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclubs was shocking and saddening.
“This club is not a problem. It is a safe haven for members of our community,” Castro said. “So, we are all shocked and saddened to hear this occurred last night.”
'We are devastated': Officials react to deadly mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs
Following news of the massacre, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, the first openly gay governor in the U.S., called the shooting at Club Q “horrific, sickening and devastating.”
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured, and traumatized in this horrific shooting. I have spoken with Mayor Suthers and made it clear that every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs,” Polis said. “We are eternally grateful for the brave individuals who blocked the gunman, likely saving lives in the process and for the first responders who responded swiftly to this horrific shooting. Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn together.”
He ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Monday morning until sunset on Nov. 26.
Other local, state and federal officials, including the president of the United States, reacted to the deadly shooting in Colorado Springs.
President Joe Biden said he and First Lady Jill Biden were praying for the families of those killed and injured in what the president called a “senseless attack.”
“While no motive in this attack is yet clear, we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years. Gun violence continues to have a devastating and particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation and threats of violence are increasing,” President Biden said. “Places that are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence. Yet it happens far too often. We must drive out the inequities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”
“Today, yet another community in America has been torn apart by gun violence. More families left with an empty chair at the table and hole in their lives that cannot be filled. When will we decide we’ve had enough?” Biden added.
U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan for the District of Colorado also issued the following statement on Monday: “On behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice, we offer our deepest condolences to the victims and their families, and our sorrow for the tragedy that has unfolded here. We will work closely with District Attorney Michael Allen, with local law enforcement, Mayor Suthers, and the Colorado Springs community to ensure the person who did this is brought to justice."
Vasquez, the city's chief of police, expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and witnesses and said the department would work tirelessly to ensure there is justice. He said every person has the right to express themselves without fear and without being harmed.
“Club Q is a safe haven for our LGBTQ+ citizens. Every citizen has the right to be safe and secure in our city; to go about our beautiful city without fear of being harmed or treated poorly," Vasquez said. "I am so terribly saddened and heartbroken.”
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers asked for patience as detectives investigate what he called “a horrible crime.” He said he had spoken with Gov. Polis, who is in quarantine with COVID-19, and with U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, who all sent condolences of their own and said they were ready to help.
“We are a strong community that has shown resilience in the face of hate and violence in the past, and we will do that again," Suthers said. "As a community, we will provide for the victims and witnesses of this horrific event and law enforcement will pursue this case with the zealousness that the case deserves.”
In an interview with Denver7 Monday morning, Suthers said the shooting inside Club Q "has the trappings of a hate crime, there's no question about it.”
The Fourth Judicial District Attorney said there was no place in the world for members of the LGBTQ community to be maligned and harassed.
"This is a tragic day for our community. Every person, regardless of who they are, have the right to be secure from fear and physical harm, and actions taken to strike fear in specific communities will not be tolerated," Allen said. "This is particularly true for communities that have been maligned, harassed, and targeted by persons or groups intending to intimidate, and cause harm to members of those communities."
Community vigils were being held at the All Souls Unitarian Church Sunday. One scheduled for noon Sunday was already at capacity, so church officials said they would hold another after the first was over.
Colorado Springs police are asking anyone with more information about the incident, or who may have video, to call the nonemergency line at 719-444-7000.