A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15 type semi-automatic weapon in the attack, but a handgun and additional ammunition magazines were also recovered. The official could not publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Club Q on its Facebook page thanked the “swift reactions of heroic customers who subdued the shooter and put an end to this heinous attack”. Investigators were still determining a 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.
Already, questions were being raised about why authorities had not sought to take Aldrich’s guns away from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported that he had threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons. Although 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 allegedly allowed authorities to seize the guns her mother says she has. Nor are there any public record prosecutors who have ever moved forward with kidnapping and threatening charges against Aldrich.
Of the 25 injured at Club Q, at least seven were in critical condition, authorities said. Some were injured trying to flee, and it was unclear whether they had all been shot, a police spokesman said. Suthers said there was “reason to hope” that everyone in hospital would recover.
The shooting brought back memories of the 2016 massacre at gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people. Colorado has seen several mass shootings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, at a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a supermarket in Boulder last year.
It was the sixth massacre this month and came in a year when the nation was rocked by the deaths of 21 people in a school shooting 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 in the club with about two dozen other people and was dancing when the gunfire started. He first thought it was part of the music, until he heard another gunshot and said he saw the flash of a gun barrel.
Thurman, 34, said he ran with another person into a locker room where someone was already hiding. They locked the door, turned off the lights and got down but could hear the violence unfolding, including the shooter being beaten up, he added.
“I could have lost my life – for what? What was the goal? he said as tears streamed down his cheeks. “We were just having fun. We weren’t hurting anyone. We were in our space, our community, our home, having fun like everyone else.
Detectives were examining whether anyone had helped the suspect before the attack, police chief Adrian Vasquez said. He said customers who responded to the attack were “heroic” and prevented further deaths.
Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that features a Saturday drag show, according to its website. Club Q’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” preceding a birthday dance party, with a drag brunch for all ages on Sunday.
Drag events have recently become the focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests as opponents, including politicians, have proposed banning children from them, falsely claiming they are being used for ” prepare” the children.
To support a hate crime charge against Aldrich, prosecutors would have to prove he was motivated by the victims’ real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. So far, the suspect has not cooperated in interviews with investigators and has yet to give them a clear insight into the motivation for the attack, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
President Joe Biden said that while the motive for the shooting was still unclear, “we know the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hateful violence in recent years.”
“Places that are meant to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence,” he said. “We cannot and must not tolerate hatred.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay man to be elected US governor in 2018, called the shooting “disgusting”.
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those who are lost, hurt and traumatized,” Polis said.
A makeshift memorial sprung up near the club on Sunday, complete with flowers, a stuffed animal, candles and a sign reading ‘Love Rather Than Hate’ next to a rainbow-colored heart. in sky.
Seth Stang was buying flowers for the memorial when he was told two of the dead were his friends. The 34-year-old transgender man said it was like “a bucket of hot water pouring over you. … I’m just 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’s one of only two nightclubs for the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs. “It’s a bit of pride,” the 26-year-old said of the club.
Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 people located 112 miles south of Denver, is home to the US Air Force Academy, the US Olympic Training Center, as well as Focus on the Family, a major evangelical Christian ministry that lobbies against LGBTQ rights. The group condemned the shooting and said it “exposed the evil and wickedness inside the human heart”.
In November 2015, three people were killed and eight injured at a family planning clinic in the city when authorities said a gunman targeted the clinic for performing abortions.
The shooting took place during Transgender Awareness Week and just at the start of International Transgender Remembrance Day on Sunday, when events around the world are held to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence .
Since 2006, there have been 523 mass killings and 2,727 deaths as of November 19, according to the Associated Press/USA Today database of mass killings in the United States.
Bedayn is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.
Associated Press reporters Colleen Slevin in Denver, Michael Balsamo in Washington, Jamie Stengle in Dallas, Jeff McMillan in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana contributed.
Thomas Peipert and Jesse Bedayn, The Associated Press