Inside Club Q: Drag queens, dancing, tolerance shattered by gunfire. Then, heroes stepped in
It was supposed to be another night of fun, love and joy at Club Q, a popular LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo.
For a $7 cover charge, patrons could party to tunes spun by DJ T Beatz, cheer on a drag queen performance by Del Lusional, dance with old friends, make new friends, celebrate birthdays and cherish the camaraderie and safety that made Club Q feel like family.
The festivities were set to last until 2 a.m. The next day, the club had a musical drag brunch planned for Transgender Day of Remembrance.
But the warmth that made Club Q a safe haven for the LGBTQ community since it opened 20 years ago in this conservative corner of Colorado was cut short Saturday night after a shooter opened fire in the club, killing five people and injuring 18 others.
And it’s shaken the community to its core. “It’s the only place we felt safe,” said Samantha Alcock, 25, who was a regular at the club when she lived in Colorado Springs.
A suspect has been arrested in connection with the mass shooting, and authorities are considering murder and bias-motivated charges against them.
Here’s what we know:
Just before midnight, a person wearing what witnesses described as body armor and carrying what appeared to be several firearms, including a long-range rifle, entered Club Q, which was busy with people dancing, ordering drinks, celebrating birthdays and enjoying a night out.
The suspect began firing immediately after entering the club, Adrian Vasquez, chief of the Colorado Springs Police Department, said.
A gunman opened fire shortly before midnight at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five and injuring 25. A suspect was subdued and is in custody.
Several witnesses described how confusion escalated to chaos and fear. Joshua Thurman told reporters he was on the dance floor when he first heard shots but mistook it for music. He didn’t recall hearing anyone screaming for help, he said.
“But then I heard another set of shots ring out, and I turned to my left, and I saw the flash from the muzzle,” he said in an interview with NBC News.
Many patrons said they were on the dance floor or at the bar when they realized the club was under attack. Many headed for the patio. Others described dropping to the floor or hiding behind the bar as bullets shot through the club. Thurman said he and two others hid in a dressing room for performers behind the stage, where they locked the doors, dropped to the ground and shut off the lights.
Within just minutes of the suspected shooter entering the club, two patrons — Richard Fierro and Thomas James — subdued the person, authorities said.
Fierro, a U.S. Army veteran, saw a flash and fell backward, he said in an interview outside his home Monday. Then he went into “combat mode,” he said.
He made his way to the suspect, whom he described as big, pulled the suspect down by a handle on the back of their body armor and began “whaling on him.” He instructed someone nearby to push the rifle out of the suspect’s reach and for others to call 911. A transgender woman kicked at the suspect’s head with her heels.
The initial 911 call came in at 11:56 p.m., said Lt. Pamela Castro, a spokesperson for the Colorado Springs police. The first officer was dispatched within seconds, and arrived at midnight. The suspect — identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich — was detained two minutes later, she said.
At least two firearms were found at the scene, Vasquez said. Police are investigating who owned the guns and whether they were acquired legally, authorities said. Vasquez confirmed the suspect used a long rifle during the shooting.
Five people were killed and many more injured in a shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs. Here’s what we know about the dead.
Who was killed?
Authorities identified the five people killed in the attack during a news conference Monday, after family and friends had confirmed their loved ones’ deaths with The Times and other outlets:
- Kelly Loving
- Daniel Aston
- Ashley Paugh
- Derrick Rump
- Raymond Green Vance
At least 18 other people were injured in the shooting, down from an initial count of 25. All but one suffered gunshot wounds.
Ten patients are being treated at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, a spokesperson said. One person was discharged from the hospital Sunday. The spokesperson declined to comment on the patients’ status.
Three other patients are being treated at Penrose Hospital and were in stable condition, a spokesperson said.
Anderson Lee Aldrich appears to have little social media footprint. But the suspect in the Colorado Springs mass shooting appears connected to earlier arrest.
What do we know about the suspect?
Aldrich is in the hospital, authorities said. They declined to provide details on their condition or say whether they have made any statement to authorities.
The suspect is the grandchild of outgoing California Assemblyman Randy Voepel (R-Santee), an aide for the legislator told The Times on Monday. Voepel did not wish to provide comment to The Times, the aide said.
A person with the same name and age as Aldrich was involved in a June 2021 standoff with El Paso (Colo.) County sheriff’s deputies who responded to reports of a bomb threat at a home in suburban Colorado Springs. Authorities found no explosives, and the Gazette in Colorado Springs reported that prosecutors did not pursue any charges against the person. Authorities have not confirmed the two people are the same, citing Colorado law.
The Washington Post reported that public records show Aldrich legally changed their full name when they were a teenager, and that until age 15, they were known as Nicholas Brink, who lived in San Antonio.
The violence at Club Q brought LGBTQ community members and allies to the nightclub Sunday, where they erected a memorial as they tried to comfort one another and await word on the fate of friends.
What are the charges?
Prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges in the attack.
But court documents show Aldrich is being held on suspicion of five counts of murder and five counts of bias-motivated crimes causing bodily injury. Bias crimes are Colorado’s term for hate crimes, Michael Allen, the district attorney for the 4th Judicial District of Colorado, said.
Aldrich identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, according to a court filing by their public defenders on Tuesday.
They are scheduled to make an initial court appearance by video Wednesday morning, records show.
Police have “turned over custody of the Club Q suspect to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the jail,” the Colorado Springs Police Department said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Asked whether prosecutors were considering federal hate crime charges against the suspect, Cole Finegan, the U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado, cited the ongoing investigation and said his office was working closely with Allen’s office and other local authorities but that he could not comment further.
Allen said he expects the arrest warrant and probable cause affidavit will be unsealed in the coming days.
Have authorities identified a motive?
Investigators have not identified a motive for the shooting, but the investigation is being evaluated for bias and murder charges, Allen said.
Additional information is not expected to be released until next week, the Colorado Springs Police Department said Tuesday.
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