A gunman opened fire at an LGBTQ nightclub late Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing five people and injuring 25 others before he was stopped by “heroic” patrons, authorities said.
Local police identified the gunman as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, who was arrested within minutes of police arriving at Club Q. Club patrons who intervened, preventing further injuries and likely loss of life, were called “heroic” by Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez.
“We owe them a great debt of thanks,” Vasquez added.
The gunman was stopped by a person who took a handgun from him and hit him with it, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The New York Times. The person who hit the gunman was holding him down when police arrived at the scene.
Of the 25 injured, at least seven were in critical condition and some were hurt trying to flee from the incident, authorities said. Some were hurt trying to flee, and it was unclear if all of them were shot, a police spokesperson said. Suthers said there was “reason to hope” all of those hospitalized would recover.
With the Club Q shooting, 2022 has already surpassed 2019 for the most mass killings with firearms in a year in the U.S. at 34, according to the AP/USA TODAY/Northeastern University database.
Here’s what we know about the deadly nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs.
WHEN WILL IT STOP?: LGBTQ community, Pulse survivors react to Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs
Violence lasted just minutes
According to the Associated Press, authorities were called to Club Q, a cherished safe spot for the LGBTQ community in the conservative-leaning city, at 11:57 p.m. Saturday with a report of a shooting, and the first officer arrived at midnight.
Joshua Thurman, 34, said he was in the club with about two dozen other people and was dancing when the shots began. He ran with another person to a dressing room where someone already was hiding. They locked the door, turned off the lights and got on the floor but could hear the violence unfolding, including the gunman getting beaten up, he added.
“I could have lost my life — over what? What was the purpose?” he said as tears ran down his cheeks. “We were just enjoying ourselves. We weren’t out harming anyone. We were in our space, our community, our home, enjoying ourselves like everybody else does.”
Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 located 70 miles south of Denver, is home to the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Olympic Training Center, as well as Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry that lobbies against LGBTQ rights.
The group condemned the shooting and said it “exposes the evil and wickedness inside the human heart.”
‘WE ALL FEEL SHOCK AND GRIEF’:Colorado Springs community mourns Club Q shooting victims
Authorities believe Aldrich, who is currently in custody and being treated for injuries, acted alone.
A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon in the attack, but a handgun and additional ammunition magazines also were recovered. The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
In an interview with 9News, a television station in Denver, Colorado, Vasquez said the suspect’s mother is not cooperating with law enforcement and the suspect was injured when two club patrons confronted him.
Already questions were being raised about why authorities didn’t seek to take Aldrich’s guns away from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported he threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.
Though authorities at the time said no explosives were found, gun control advocates are asking why police didn’t try to trigger Colorado’s “red flag” law, which would have allowed authorities to seize the weapons his mother says he had.
Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric intensifies
Drag events have recently been a key focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests. Opponents, including politicians, have proposed banning children from attending drag events and have falsely claimed that they’re used to “groom” children.
In June this year, 31 members of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front were arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and charged with conspiracy to riot at a Pride event.
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.”
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured, and traumatized in this horrific shooting. I have spoken with Mayor (John) Suthers and clarified that every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs,” Polis said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn.”
On Sunday, Polis ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff for five days on all public buildings statewide starting Monday to honor and remember the five victims. A Pride flag will also be flying at the state capitol for the next five days.
TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE: LGBTQ community honors at least 32 trans people killed in 2022
Another US mass shooting
The United States has seen a number of high-profile shootings this year, including two massacres in Buffalo, New York, where 10 Black people were killed, and Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed in May.
Saturday’s shooting is the sixth mass killing this month and brought back memories of the 2016 shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead and 53 injured. The attack at the Pulse nightclub was the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Colorado has experienced several mass killings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a Boulder supermarket last year.
PULSE NIGHTCLUB ATTACK: ‘Keep dancing Orlando’: Five years later, Pulse nightclub shooting survivors seek to embody strength of LGBTQ community
Contributing: Susan Miller, Cady Stanton, Jorge L. Ortiz and Rick Jervis, USA TODAY; Sarah Ann Dueñas, USA TODAY NETWORK; Tracy Harmon, Pueblo Chieftain; Erin Udell, Coloradoan; The Associated Press