Massacre at a Colorado LGBT nightclub: the attacker was stopped by a heroic assistant

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Five people were killed at the Q Club. Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, is in custody and is being treated for his injuries

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Massacre at Colorado LGBT nightclub: attacker was apprehended by heroic attendee

Vigil after the massacre in Colorado (AP)

As bullets tore through a Colorado Springs LGBT+ nightclub, killing five people and injuring many more, a heroic patron who had been partying moments before rushed into action, seizing a gun from the suspect, hitting him with her and restraining him until the police arrived minutes later.

He was one of two clients credited by police and municipal authorities for apprehending the gunman and limiting the bloodshed in Saturday night's shooting at Club Q. The violence spilled over into the cozy confines of an entertainment venue that has long been a prized safe haven for the LGBTQ community in the conservative-leaning city.

Had that individual not intervened, this could have been exponentially more tragic,” said the mayor of Colorado Springs, John Suthers, to The Associated Press.

Police identified the suspected shooter as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, who is in custody and is being treated for his injuries.

A A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-type semi-automatic weapon in the attack, but a handgun and other ammunition magazines were also recovered, so the massacre could have been much worse. The official was unable to discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Massacre at a Colorado LGBT nightclub: the attacker was arrested for a heroic assistant

Tyrice Kelley, center right, an artist with Club Q, is comforted during a church service at All Souls Unitarian Church after the shooting (Parker Seibold/The Gazette via AP)

The Club Q thanked him on his Facebook page for the “quick reactions from the heroic customers who subdued the gunman and put an end to this hateful attack”. Investigators were still determining the motive and whether to prosecute it as a hate crime, El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen said. Charges against the suspect will likely include first-degree murder, he said.

He was already questioning why authorities didn't try to take Aldrich's guns back in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported that he he had threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons. Although authorities said at the time that no explosives were found, gun control advocates wonder why police didn't try to trigger Colorado's “red flag” law, which would have allowed authorities to seize gunswhich her mother says she had. There is also no record of prosecutors filing kidnapping and threatening charges against Aldrich.

Of the 25 injured at Club Q, at least seven were in critical condition, according to the authorities. Some were injured trying to flee, and it was not clear if all were shot, a police spokesman said. Suthers said there was “reason to hope” that all those hospitalized would recover.

The shooting revived memories of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people died. Colorado has seen several mass murders, including at Columbine High School in 1999, at a suburban Denver movie theater in 2012, and at a Boulder supermarket last year.

It was the sixth mass murder this month and came in a year that saw the nation rocked by the death of 21 people in a shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas.

Authorities were called to Club Q at 11:57 p.m. Saturday with a report of a shooting, and the first officer arrived at midnight.

Joshua Thurman said he was at the club with about two dozen people and was dancing when the shots started. He at first thought he was part of the music, until he heard another shot and said he saw the muzzle flash of a gun.

Thurman, 34, said she ran with another person into a dressing room where someone was already hiding. They locked the door, turned off the lights and got down on the ground, but could hear the violence unfold, including the beating the gunman received, he added.

“I could have lost my life, for what? What was the goal?” he said as tears ran down his cheeks. “We were just enjoying ourselves. We weren't hurting anyone. We were in our space, in our community, in our house, enjoying ourselves like everyone else does”.

Massacre at a Colorado LGBT nightclub: the attacker was stopped by a heroic assistant

Artist Ryan Cassata named him after Daniel Davis Aston, bartender murdered at Club Q (AP)

Detectives were looking to see if anyone had helped the suspect before the attack, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said. He said customers who intervened during the attack were “heroic” and prevented more deaths.

Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that hosts a drag show on Saturdays, according to its website. Club Q's Facebook page said planned entertainment included an “alternative punk show” preceding a birthday dance party, with an all-ages Sunday drag brunch.

Drag events have recently become the focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests, as opponents, including politicians, have called for a ban on drag access to children, falsely claiming that they are used to “groom” children.

To substantiate a hate crime charge against Aldrich, prosecutors would have to show that he was motivated by the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims. So far, the suspect has not cooperated in interviews with investigators and has not yet given them a clear idea of ​​the motivation for the attack, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Joe Bidensaid that although the motive for the shooting was not yet clear, “we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years.”

“Places that They are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration, they should never become places of terror and violence,” he said. “We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay man to be elected US governor in 2018, called the shooting sick. “My heart breaks for the family and friends of the lost, injured and traumatized,” Polis said.

A makeshift memorial went up near the club Sunday, complete with flowers, an animal stuffed animal, candles, and a sign reading “Love Over Hate” along with a rainbow-colored heart.

Colorado LGBT nightclub massacre: Shooter stopped by heroic attendant

(Reuters)

Seth Stang was buying flowers for memorial when they told him that two of the dead were his friends. This 34-year-old transgender man said it was like having “a bucket of hot water poured on him”. “I'm tired of running out of places where we can safely exist.”

Ryan Johnson, who lives near the club and was there last month, said it was one of only two LGBTQ-friendly nightspots in Colorado Springs. “It's kind of a place of pride,” the 26-year-old said of the club.

Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 located 112 kilometers south of Denver, is home to the US Air Force Academy and the US Olympic Training Center, as well as Focus on la Familia, a leading evangelical Christian ministry that lobbies against LGBTQ rights. The group condemned the shooting, saying it “exposes the evil and wickedness within the human heart.”

In November 2015, three people were killed and eight injured at a Planned clinic Parenthood in town when authorities say a gunman targeted the clinic because it performed abortions.

The shooting occurred during Transgender Awareness Week and just at the start of International Day of Transgender Memorial Sunday, when rallies are held around the world to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence.

Since 2006, there have been 523 mass murders and 2,727 deaths through Nov. 19, according to The Associated Press/USA Today database of mass murders in the United States.

(With information from AP)

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