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.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — As gunshots erupted in Club Q and Anthony hid in a corner of the LGBTQ+ haven on Saturday night, his thoughts raced to his spouse and if he would ever get to hug him again.
Anthony, a survivor who was injured in the shooting, is still receiving care at Centura Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs. On Tuesday afternoon, supported by his spouse Jeremy, Anthony described the home he had found at the Colorado Springs club and the horror that plagued the space over the weekend, stealing the lives of his two close friends.
Anthony and Jeremy requested to only be identified by their first names.
When asked why he wanted to speak to media and answer their questions, Anthony said through teary eyes that he wanted to share his story to "get the love out there" in the wake of the mass shooting, which ended with five dead and 19 injured.
“We are united," he said. "We’re here. We are who we are. We all have hearts. We all love and care, just like every one of you."
Anthony and Jeremy, who have been together for 14 years, have spent the last five and a half years living in Colorado Springs. As they held hands at the hospital, they described meeting at Charlie's Nightclub in Denver, where Jeremy worked. An initial introduction led to more conversations, which grew into something more and they started dating.
"And that was it," Anthony said.
Despite receiving ridicule about their small expressions of affection — holding hands down the street, or a little kiss — in public spaces around Colorado Springs, Anthony found a home within the walls of Club Q. It was a safe haven and space for him and others in the LGBTQ+ community.
A mass shooting at the club was the least of his worries, Anthony said. He always had a lot of hope in what the club represented.
On Saturday evening, he went out alone while Jeremy stayed at home.
“Everybody was having fun, music was playing, everybody was talking and laughing. Just like always," Anthony remembered.
“I was welcomed into Q by a bunch of people," he continued. "I knew I had a home. I had a safe place. And they made sure that everybody knew that — it was a safe place.”
That was something he said his mother worried about — her son being gay and not having anywhere to go.
Just before midnight, Anthony was standing near the front of the building, close to the door, among a crowd of people. Then he heard gunshots coming from about 20 feet away.
"I don’t know what happened. I just hid after that," he said.
He recalled fearfully crawling into a corner to hide. And then all was quiet.
"I don’t know how quick or where they took the gunman down," he said.
A couple minutes passed before help arrived.
“As I was lying there in the club, I didn’t know if I would ever get to hug him again," Anthony said of Jeremy. "I didn’t know how extensive my wounds were. I didn’t know what had happened to me. And all I did is I called him and told him, ‘There was a shooting, I’ve been involved, I’m OK.’"
Jeremy rushed to the hospital.
“The initial thought was, ‘I just need to get to him. He needs to be OK,'" Jeremy said.
When emergency responders arrived at the club, medical personnel helped walk Anthony outside and into an ambulance. He was then whisked away to a hospital.
"And I went to the hospital and (Jeremy) was there," Anthony said.
Staff later told Anthony he had pieces of shrapnel in his body.
While the hospital told Anthony that he may be able to leave on Thursday, the healing process has only begun. And their lives are forever changed.
Jeremy said he has already started to feel on edge. When he walks from the hospital to a nearby gas station, he looks at nearby cars and buildings a little closer.
"It changes my reality even though I wasn’t there," he said.
Going out to bars is something he will not feel safe doing in the future, Jeremy added. Anthony said he will feel uncomfortable going anywhere for a long time. He doesn't feel safe around strangers anymore.
“The most important thing about all of this and all the hatred in the world is standing together, standing united, and fighting for what you believe," Jeremy said. "If you love somebody, you have the right to hold their hand. You have the right to kiss them in public if you want to. I think the more we do that as individuals and recognize that we’re all human beings and we all stand together — that’s really where the focus should be and less on who it’s with."
As they start the recovery process, they are also mourning those lost in the shooting.
Anthony said he was friends with Derrick Rump and Daniel Aston, who were both killed.
“I lost two of my dear friends in the shooting and being in here (the hospital), I could not go to any vigils," he said.
When asked what he would say to the shooter, he paused before answering.
“I would probably say, ‘Why don’t you meet somebody and get to know their true heart before passing judgment?’ Because he really did harm a lot of pure, true hearts that I don’t know will be the same," he said.
"It’s sad that it gets to someone’s head like that, and it pushes them to where they want to feel like they need to take it out on somebody, and they just choose one race, one gender, one stereotype — I guess you would say — to go after," he added.
It happened in Orlando, Florida at the Pulse nightclub in 2016, Jeremy said. But it wasn't something he was concerned about every day.
"It’s not something you go about your daily life having to worry about," he said. "And so, now, that has completely shifted that aspect.”
As hospital discharge looms, Anthony is counting his blessings every day.
“We may be broken and down right now, but we will be strong again," he said.
Five people were killed and 19 people were injured in the shooting, which began just before midnight on Saturday at the gay club. The victims were identified on Monday as:
- Kelly Loving, 40 (she/her)
- Daniel Aston, 28 (he/him)
- Derrick Rump, 38 (he/him)
- Ashley Paugh, 35 (she/her)
- Raymond Green Vance, 22 (he/him)
Two people — Thomas James, a sailor in the US Navy, and Richard Fierro, a former Army major and an Iraqi war veteran — were responsible for stopping the suspect, according to Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez.
The 22-year-old suspect was arrested on 10 counts, including first-degree murder and bias-motivated crime, according to court records. They have not been formally charged. They were arrested for investigation of five counts of first-degree murder after deliberation and five counts of bias-motivated crime — causing bodily injury.