A 22-year-old gunman opened fire inside a gay nightclub in the US state of Colorado, killing five people and leaving 25 injured before he was dramatically subdued by “heroic” patrons in the latest mass shooting to rock the country.
Two firearms, including a “long rifle,” were found at Club Q after the shooting on Saturday night (local time), said Police Chief Adrian Vasquez.
Investigators were still determining a motive, and the attack was being investigated to see if it should be prosecuted as a hate crime, said District Attorney Michael Allen. Charges against the suspect “will likely include first-degree murder,” he added.
Joshua Thurman said he was in the club with about two dozen other people and was dancing when the shots began. He initially thought it was part of the music until he heard another shot and said he saw the flash of a gun muzzle.
Thurman, 34, said 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.”
The gunman was confronted by “at least two heroic people” who stopped the shooting, Vasquez said.
“We owe them a great debt of thanks,” he added.
Of the 25 injured, some were in critical condition. Officials said some were hurt trying to flee.
Police identified the gunman as Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was in custody and being treated for injuries.
A man with that name was arrested in 2021 after his mother reported he threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons, authorities said. They declined to elaborate on that arrest. No explosives were found, authorities said at the time.
The dark past of mass shootings in Colorado
The shooting rekindled memories of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people. Colorado has experienced several mass killings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theatre in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a Boulder supermarket last year.
It was the sixth mass killing this month and came in a year when the nation was shaken by the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that features a “Drag Diva 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 a Sunday “all ages brunch.”
“This was our only safe space in Colorado Springs. Where are we going to go?”
Take two minutes and watch this. pic.twitter.com/y6Nh6sfMRz
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) November 20, 2022
Drag events have become a focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests recently as opponents, including politicians, have proposed banning children from them, falsely claiming they’re used to “groom” children.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed on the shooting, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said. The FBI said it was assisting but said the police department was leading the investigation.
President Joe Biden said that while the motive for the shootings 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 should never be turned into places of terror and violence. Yet it happens far too often,” he said. “We must drive out the inequities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected governor in 2018, called the shooting “sickening.”
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