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

Vigil after the massacre in Colorado (AP) (Scott Strazzante /)

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

He was one of two clients credited by police and municipal authorities for apprehended the gunman and limited the bloodshed in the Saturday night shooting at Club Q. The violence breached 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.,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The Associated Press.

Police identified the alleged shooter as Anderson-Lee Aldrich22, who is in custody and is being treated for his injuries.

A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15 type semi-automatic weapon in the attack, but also recovered a pistol and other ammunition magazines, 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.

Tyrice Kelley, center right, an artist with Club Q, is comforted during a church service at All Souls Unitarian Church following the deadly shooting at the gay club, in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sunday, November 20, 2022. (Parker Seibold/The Gazette via AP)
Tyrice Kelley, center right, an artist with Club Q, is comforted during a religious service at All Souls Unitarian Church after the shooting (Parker Seibold/The Gazette via AP) (Parker Seibold/)

Club Q thanked on its Facebook page for the “quick reactions from heroic patrons who subdued the gunman and put an end to this hate 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 the authorities did not try to take the weapons from Aldrich in 2021when it was arrested after his mother denounced that he had threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons. Although authorities said then that no explosives were found, gun control advocates wonder why. Police did not attempt to activate Colorado’s “red flag” law, which would have allowed authorities to seize the weapons which her mother says she had. There is also no record that prosecutors have filed kidnapping charges and threats 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 deaths 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 that he was at the club with about two dozen people and that I was dancing when the shots started. At first she thought it was part of the music, until she 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 receivedhe added.

“He could have lost his life, for what? What was the goal?” she said as tears ran down her 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.”.

Musician Ryan Cassata reads the name of 28-year-old victim Daniel Davis Aston, a bartender killed at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the Transgender Day of Remembrance event in West Hollywood, Calif., Sunday night, Nov. 20 , 2022. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
The artist Ryan Cassata named him after Daniel Davis Aston, bartender murdered at Club Q (AP) (Damian Dovarganes /)

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 a “punk and alternative show” preceding a birthday dance party, with an all-ages Sunday drag brunch.

The drag events have recently become the focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protestsas opponents of them, including politicians, have proposed banning 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 Biden He said 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 are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration must 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 sprang up near the club on Sunday, complete with flowers, a stuffed animal, candles and a sign reading “Love Over Hate” next to a rainbow-colored heart.

(Reuters) (KEVIN MOHATT /)

Seth Stang was buying flowers for the memorial when he was told 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 Parenthood clinic in the city when authorities say a gunman targeted the clinic because it was performing abortions.

The shooting occurred during Transgender Awareness Week and just at the start of Sunday’s International Transgender Day of Remembrance, 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 as of November 19, according to The Associated Press/USA Today database on mass murders in the United States.

(With information from AP)

Keep reading:

Shooting at a Colorado nightclub: at least 5 dead and 18 injured

Being a woman in Qatar