5 killed by gunman at Colorado gay nightclub



COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A 22-year-old gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring 18 before being overpowered by “heroic” patrons and arrested by police. police who were on the scene within minutes, authorities said Sunday.

Two firearms, including a “long rifle”, were found at Club Q after Saturday night’s shooting, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said.

Investigators were still determining a motive and the attack was being investigated to see if it should be prosecuted as a hate crime, El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen said.

Police identified the shooter as Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was in custody and being treated for his injuries. A man of the same name and age was arrested in 2021 after his mother reported that he threatened her with “a pipe bomb, several weapons and ammunition”, according to authorities.

Police did not confirm if it was the same person, saying they were investigating whether the suspect had previously been arrested.

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.

“At least two heroic people” confronted the shooter and stopped the shot, Vasquez said, adding, “We owe them a great debt of thanks.”

Of the 18 people injured, some were in critical condition and at least two had been treated and released, officials said, adding that some were injured while trying to flee.

The shooting brought back memories of the 2016 massacre at gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people. And it happened in a state that has seen several notorious mass shootings, 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 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.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has been briefed on the shooting, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said. The FBI said it was helping, but said the police department was investigating.

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. Yet it happens far too often,” he said. “We must challenge the inequalities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hatred.

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”.

“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured and traumatized in this horrific shooting. I have spoken with Mayor (John) Suthers and made it clear that every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs,” Polis said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone affected by this tragedy as we mourn.”

Ryan Johnson, who lives near Club Q and was there last month, said it’s one of only two nightspots for the conservative-leaning LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs. “It’s a bit of a pride fixture,” said the 26-year-old, describing it as a mid-sized club.

When he returned home early on Sunday, he saw police cars rushing through the streets.

“It’s just crazy, you hear about it and you don’t think it’s going to happen, and then it happens,” Johnson said. “You come to Colorado and you feel safer than other parts of the country, and then it happens.”

Robert Nichols, 35, said he frantically searched for a friend on Sunday who told him she would be at the club and did not return her calls. He said it led to “anxiety-inducing” hours before he saw the friend’s car outside her house and decided she was fine.

Although the motive was not yet clear, nor the gender identity of the victims, the incident came as anti-gay rhetoric intensified by extremists. In a statement, Club Q called the shooting a hate attack.

“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community,” the club said on its Facebook page. He said his prayers were with the victims and families, adding: ‘We thank the quick reactions of the heroic customers who subdued the shooter and put an end to this hateful attack.’

The CEO of a national LGBTQ rights organization, Kevin Jennings of Lambda Legal, responded by advocating for tougher gun restrictions.

“The toxic mix of American bigotry and absurdly easy access to guns means that such occurrences are all too common and that LGBTQ+ people, BIPOC communities, the Jewish community and other vulnerable populations are paying over and over again. the price of our political leaders’ failure to act,” he said. said in a statement. “We must come together to demand meaningful action before another tragedy strikes our country.”

The shooting took place during Transgender Awareness Week and hours before Sunday’s International Transgender Remembrance Day, when events around the world are held to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence. The Colorado Springs shoot was sure to bring a special resonance to these events.

Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that offers a “Drag Diva Drag Show” on Saturdays, according to its website. In addition to the drag show, Club Q’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” preceding a birthday dance party, with a Sunday “brunch for all ages”.

Colorado Springs is a city of about 480,000 people located about 112 miles south of Denver that is home to the US Air Force Academy, as well as Focus on the Family, a major evangelical Christian ministry.

In November 2015, three people were killed and eight injured at a family planning clinic in the city when authorities said a man opened fire because he wanted to wage “war” on the clinic because she performed abortions.

In June, 31 members of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front were arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and charged with conspiring to riot at a Pride event. Experts have warned that extremist groups could see anti-gay rhetoric as a call to action.

The previous month, a fundamentalist pastor in Idaho told his small congregation in Boise that gays, lesbians and transgender people should be executed by the government, which aligned with similar sermons by a fundamentalist pastor. from Texas.

There have been 523 massacres since 2006, resulting in 2,727 deaths as of Nov. 19, according to the Associated Press/USA Today database on US massacres.

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