A gunman opened fire inside a nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, late Saturday, killing five people, wounding 17 others and shattering the sense of security at what members of the city’s LGBTQ community said was one of their few safe havens.
The five deceased victims were identified as Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump.
Police have identified the suspect as Anderson Lee Aldrich, a 22-year-old who faces five counts of first-degree murder and five-counts of a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury in connection to the shooting at Club Q, according to online court records for the El Paso County courts. Aldrich is hospitalized and will be formally charged after he is able to be transferred to jail, according to Michael Allen, the district attorney for El Paso County.
Court records show Aldrich has no bail. The docket does not reflect if Aldrich has retained an attorney.
This weekend’s attack adds to a growing list of high-profile mass shootings that have played out in Colorado, which has seen some of the most notorious in US history, including the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School. Last year in Colorado Springs, a mass shooting at a birthday party left six dead.
Here’s what we know about the fatal attack in Colorado Springs:
The shooting lasted just minutes
The shooting ended within minutes of the gunman opening fire, according to authorities.
Police received numerous 911 calls starting at 11:56 p.m., officers were dispatched at 11:57 p.m., an officer arrived at midnight and the suspect was detained at 12:02 a.m., authorities said. A total of 39 patrol officers responded, police said, and Fire Department Capt. Mike Smaldino said 11 ambulances went to the scene.
Aldrich used a long gun in the shooting and two firearms were found at the scene, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said.
The gunman appeared heavily armed and wearing a military-style flak jacket as he arrived at the club, the club’s owners told The New York Times, citing their review of surveillance footage. One of the owners, Matthew Haynes, said the gunman entered with “tremendous firepower,” the Times reported.
Joshua Thurman was inside the club dancing when he heard gunshots and saw a muzzle flash, he told CNN affiliate KOAA.
“I thought it was the music, so I kept dancing,” he said. When he heard another round of shots, Thurman said he ran to a dressing room to hide.
He heard more gunshots, people crying and windows being shattered, he said. When he came out, he saw bodies lying on the ground, broken glass and blood, Thurman said.
Authorities have credited at least two of the club’s patrons with confronting the shooter and stopping the violence. Haynes told the Times, “One customer took down the gunman and was assisted by another.”
The first customer, Haynes said, “saved dozens and dozens of lives. Stopped the man cold. Everyone else was running away, and he ran toward him.”
Richard Fierro was one of the men who stopped the gunman, authorities said.
The former Army major told the New York Times he went into combat mode, raced across the room and pulled the gunman to the floor by the handle on the back of his body armor.
“Was he shooting at the time? Was he about to shoot? I don’t know,” Fierro told the newspaper. “I just knew I had to take him down.”
The other man who heroically intervened was identified as Thomas James.
Besides the 17 wounded, one other person was hurt in the chaos and another person needed medical attention but didn’t have visible injuries, police said on social media. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers has said he expects the injured victims to survive.
Police said Sunday they didn’t shoot at the suspect, who remained in the hospital Monday. Authorities wouldn’t comment on whether the suspect has said anything about the shooting.
Police investigating whether attack was a hate crime
Police said they were investigating whether the attack was a hate crime, noting Club Q’s relationship with the LGBTQ community. The shooting came as the calendar turned to Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday.
“Club Q is a safe haven for our LGBTQ citizens, Vasquez said. “Every citizen has a right to feel safe and secure in our city, to go about our beautiful city without fear of being harmed or treated poorly.”
In a statement on social media, Club Q said it was “devastated by the senseless attack on our community” and thanked “the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”
Suspect arrested last year
Anderson Lee Aldrich was arrested in June 2021 in connection with a bomb threat that led to a standoff at a Colorado Springs home where his mother lived, according to a news release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the time, and his mother’s former landlord.
Two law enforcement sources confirmed that the suspected nightclub shooter’s date of birth and name matched a person who was arrested over a bomb threat the previous year, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis also told CNN he believed they were one and the same. “Everything I heard indicates it is the same person,” Polis said.
According to the sheriff’s office, deputies responded to a report by Aldrich’s mother that he was “threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons, and ammunition.”
Deputies called the suspect, and he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” the press release said, leading them to evacuate nearby homes.
Several hours after the initial police call, the sheriff’s crisis negotiations unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the house he was in, and he was arrested after walking out the front door. Authorities did not find any explosives in the home.
Video obtained by CNN shows Aldrich surrendering to law enforcement last year after allegedly making the bomb threat. Footage from the Ring door camera of the owner of the home shows Aldrich exiting the house with his hands up, barefoot and walking to sheriff’s deputies.
It’s not immediately clear how the case was resolved. But the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that the district attorney’s office said no formal charges were pursued in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.
Aldrich also called the Gazette to try to get an earlier story about the 2021 incident removed from the website, the newspaper reported. “There is absolutely nothing there, the case was dropped, and I’m asking you either remove or update the story,” Aldrich said in a voice message, according to the Gazette.
Attempts by CNN to reach Aldrich’s mother for comment were unsuccessful.
Two law enforcement sources told CNN records indicate that Aldrich purchased both weapons brought to the attack – an AR-style rifle and a handgun. CNN has not confirmed when those purchases were made.
His arrest in connection with the bomb threat would not have shown up in background checks because the case was never adjudicated, the charges were dropped and the records were sealed, the sources said. It’s unclear what prompted the sealing of the records.
The club was a ‘second home’ for the LGBTQ community
Club Q opened in 2002 and was, until recently, the only LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs.
The city is the state’s second-most populous with just under 500,000 residents and is home to several military bases. It is the headquarters for Focus on the Family, the conservative Christian group that says homosexuality and same-sex marriage are sins.
In a July 2020 interview with Colorado Springs Indy, Club Q owner Nic Grzecka said he and his business partner opened the club to get a “permanent” safe place in the city.
The venue also hosts events for people of all ages, including brunch and planned an upcoming Thanksgiving event.
Lifelong Colorado Springs resident Tiana Nicole Dykes called Club Q “a second home full of chosen family.”
“I’m there every other week if not every single week. This space means the world to me. The energy, the people, the message. It’s an amazing place that didn’t deserve this tragedy,” Dykes told CNN on Sunday. “Something like a mass shooting at an LGBT+ safe space is damaging beyond belief. There’s feelings of disrespect, disbelief, and just pure shock. Nobody ever thinks it’s gonna happen to them, and sometimes it does.”
What political leaders are saying
Polis, a Democrat and the nation’s first openly gay governor, issued a statement Sunday calling the attack “horrific, sickening and devastating” and offered state resources to local law enforcement.
“We are eternally grateful for the brave individuals who blocked the gunman likely saving lives in the process and for the first responders who responded swiftly to this horrific shooting,” he said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn together.”
Polis told CNN’s Jim Acosta there are only two LGTBQ bars in Colorado Springs, and Club Q was one of the main venues.
“Everyone knew it. I knew it, knew this venue. It’s just shocking. That’s still setting in for people. But I know we’re going to bounce back. We’re showing love for one another. We’re showing healing for one another,” the governor said.
President Joe Biden also issued a statement saying he was praying for the victims and their families.
“While no motive in this attack is yet clear, we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years. Gun violence continues to have a devastating and particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation and threats of violence are increasing,” Biden said in the written statement.
CNN’s Amanda Musa, Elise Hammond, Evan Perez, Casey Tolan, Alaa Elassar, Sam Fossum, Rosa Flores, Nelli Black and John Miller contributed to this report.