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.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — What he thought was going to be an enjoyable night of dancing at Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs turned into a nightmare when a gunman opened fire inside the LGBTQ club late Saturday night. Five people were killed and 19 others were injured.
Joshua Thurman was inside the club dancing when he heard gunshots and saw the muzzle flash of a long rifle allegedly being fired by 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, who is in police custody.
“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,” Thurman said.
Thurman said there was no time to think. He was reacting on instinct. While inside the dark dressing room with both entrances locked, he heard more shots and people screaming. He said thoughts of surviving, family and friends were racing through his mind.
“I hope I make it out alive,” he said he told himself. “[I was thinking of] my mom, my friends, my loved ones.”
Thurman and the others who sought shelter from the mayhem inside the dressing room were unharmed as two “heroic” people fought with the shooter and were able to stop them from killing and hurting others.
“We owe them a great debt,” Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said.
A teary-eyed and shaken Thurman said he lost a friend in the shooting and a sense of community and safety has been shattered.
“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 our home. This is our space. We come here to enjoy ourselves, and this happens?”
Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that features a “Drag Diva Drag Show” on Saturdays, according to its website. In addition to the drag show, Club Q's Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” preceding a birthday dance party, with a Sunday “all ages brunch.”
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 said the large and complex scene would be time-consuming to comb through.
The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office are 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.
Thurman, who has been going to Club Q for more than a decade, said he feels lost after his “home” seems forever broken. He said the club is one of the only spots for the LGBTQ community in conservative-leaning Colorado Springs.
“This is the only LGBTQIA+ place in the entire city of Colorado Springs," he said. "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?”
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 too 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."
Denver7 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 a gunman opened fire inside the club.
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.
President Joe Biden said that while the motive for the shootings was not yet clear, “we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years.”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected governor in 2018, called the shooting “sickening.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report