(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) — Five people were killed and dozens others were injured in a mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado, officials said.
The suspect, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, allegedly began shooting with a long rifle as soon as he walked into Club Q in Colorado Springs late Saturday night, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said.
At least two people, whom authorities described as heroes, then confronted Aldrich and fought with him, which saved more lives, police said.
The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.
Bartender Michael Anderson told ABC News he heard pops, and when he looked up he saw “the shadow of a grown man wielding a rifle.”
The first 911 call came in at 11:56 p.m. Saturday and an officer was dispatched to the scene seconds later, Lt. Pamela Castro, spokesperson for the Colorado Springs Police Department, told reporters. The first officer arrived at midnight, and the suspect was detained by 12:02 a.m., Castro said.
At least two guns, including a long gun, were recovered from the scene, police said.
In addition to the five victims who were killed, at least 25 people were injured, according to Colorado Springs city officials.
Aldrich was injured and remains in the hospital, police said. His release will be determined by medical personnel, Castro said.
He’s facing five counts of murder and five counts of bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury.
The owner of Club Q, Nic Grzecka, told ABC News that they didn’t recognize the suspect and had never seen him inside their business.
Active shooter protocol was also activated, Grzecka said, which is something Club Q has had in place since the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.
Club Q hosts a weekly drag show and live DJ on Saturday nights, according to its website. The club described the shooting as a “hate attack,” saying it was “devastated by the senseless attack on our community.”
The club is a safe haven for the LGBTQ community, Vasquez said, adding that he is saddened and heartbroken by the attack that took place there.
Aldrich was arrested in a June 2021 bomb threat incident after the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was alerted that he was in possession of a homemade bomb, law enforcement officers briefed on the investigation told ABC News.
He was charged with two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping, but no explosives were found in his home, Colorado Springs radio station KRDO reported.
Colorado’s red flag law, which went into effect in 2020, allows relatives, household members and law enforcement to ask a judge to order the seizure of a gun owner’s weapons if that owner is believed to be a risk to themself or others.
It is unclear whether the law would have stopped the suspect from targeting the club, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder told ABC News.
Elder did not recall the circumstances surrounding Aldrich’s 2021 arrest, he said.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis tweeted that he is “devastated.”
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured and traumatized in this terrible shooting,” he said.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with all the victims and their families and friends,” the club said in a statement posted on Facebook. “We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”
The shooting unfolded on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that “the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years,” drawing comparisons to the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.
“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,” Biden said. “We must drive out the inequities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”
Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper tweeted that the LGBTQ community needs to be protected from “this hate.”
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet tweeted that he was “sending strength to those who were injured, the survivors, and Colorado’s LGBTQ community.”
“As we seek justice for this unimaginable act, we must do more to protect the LGBTQ community and stand firm against discrimination and hate in every form,” Bennett said.
“Our hearts are broken for the victims of the horrific tragedy in Colorado Springs, and their loved ones,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement Sunday. “This unspeakable attack has robbed countless people of their friends and family and an entire community’s sense of safety. You can draw a straight line from the false and vile rhetoric about LGBTQ people spread by extremists and amplified across social media, to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, to the dozens of attacks on our community like this one.”
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