As bullets tore through a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and wounding many more, one patron of the Colorado gay club shooting, who had been partying moments before rushed into action, grabbing a handgun from the suspect, hitting him with it and pinning him down until police arrived just minutes later.
That customer was one of at least two whom police and city officials credit with stopping the gunman and limiting the bloodshed in Saturday night’s shooting at Club Q. The violence pierced the cozy confines of an entertainment venue that has long been a cherished safe spot for the LGBTQ community in the conservative-leaning city.
“Had that individual not intervened this could have been exponentially more tragic,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The Associated Press.
“It’s an incredible act of heroism,” the mayor said Monday on NBC’s “Today.”
Police identified the suspected gunman as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was in custody and being treated for injuries.
A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon in the attack, but a handgun and additional ammunition magazines also were recovered. The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Club Q on its Facebook page thanked the “quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.” Investigators were still determining a motive and whether to prosecute it as a hate crime, said El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen. Charges against the suspect will likely include first-degree murder, he said.
Already questions were being raised about why authorities didn’t seek to take Aldrich’s guns away from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported he threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.
Though 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 would have allowed authorities to seize the weapons his mother says he had. There is also no public record prosecutors ever moved forward with felony kidnapping and menacing charges against Aldrich.
The mayor said on “Today” that the district attorney would file motions in court Monday to allow law enforcement to talk more about any criminal history “that this individual might have had.”
Of the 25 injured at Club Q, at least seven were in critical condition, authorities said. Some were hurt trying to flee, and it was unclear if all of them were shot, a police spokesperson said. Suthers told the AP there was “reason to hope” all of those hospitalized would recover.
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 theater 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.
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 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 being subdued, 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.”
Detectives were examining whether anyone helped the suspect before the attack, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said. He said patrons who intervened during the attack were “heroic” and prevented more deaths.
Our prayers and condolences go out to the family and friends of the victims of this horrific Colorado gay club shooting tragedy.
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