© Reuters. A police officer holds up masking tape in his car as he responds to a mass shooting at the Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S., November 20, 2022. REUTERS/ Kevin Mohatt
By Kevin Mohatt and Keith Coffman
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) – A gunman killed at least five people and wounded 25 others inside an LGBTQ nightspot in Colorado Springs late on Saturday before being stopped by “strong” clubgoers, officials said on Sunday.
Police identified the suspect as Anderson Lee Aldrich, a 22-year-old man, and said he used a “long gun.” He was taken into police custody after the shooting and is being treated for his injuries, according to officials.
Most of the injured are in critical condition and are being treated at nearby hospitals, officials said.
Club Q, a longtime local strip mall that many describe as a local LGBTQ safe haven, called the incident “hateful” in a Facebook (NASDAQ:) statement. Authorities say they are investigating whether the attack was motivated by hate. The FBI said it is working with its partners to determine whether the federal response was appropriate.
Several firearms were found at the scene, including the gun, Colorado Springs Police Department Chief Adrian Vasquez told a news conference Sunday. The police were making sure that the weapons were owned.
“Club Q is a safe place for our LGBTQ citizens,” he said. “I am very sad and heartbroken.”
Joshua Thurman choked up as he told reporters Sunday that he was dancing in a club when he heard gunshots. He fled to a closet and locked himself in with others, praying for his life and thinking about his loved ones.
“It’s supposed to be our safe place. The community shouldn’t have to go through things like this to get together,” Thurman told local media, adding that another friend was killed in the shooting.
In a speech condemning the violence, President Joe Biden said Americans will not tolerate hate.
“We must eliminate the injustices that lead to violence against LGBTQI+ people,” Biden said in his speech.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who in 2018 became the country’s first gay man to be elected governor, called the shooting a “senseless crime.”
“I feel the same pit in my stomach that many of you feel these days, sadly, that you are famous,” Polis said in a video that appeared at a church service.
Police say the first call about the shooting came in around midnight, and that the suspect was apprehended within minutes thanks to the quick response of police and the bravery of other deputies.
A spokesman for the city of Colorado Springs said authorities are aware of a 2021 bomb threat involving a person with a suspected name and date of birth, but have not confirmed it.
Footage from the aftermath of the shooting showed emergency vehicles flashing across the street in front of the mall.
By 4 a.m. local time (1100 GMT), police had cordoned off the area around the club, located in the northeast suburb of Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city with a population of more than 480,000.
The Rocky Mountain state has a history of many violent incidents, including the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School and the 2012 riot inside a movie theater in the Denver area.
ANXIETY IN THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY
The Club Q shooting was similar to the Pulse club massacre in 2016 when a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, before being killed by police. At the time, it was the worst mass shooting in recent US history until a gunman killed 60 people at a music festival in Las Vegas in 2017.
The shooting in Colorado Springs came as LGBTQ groups and allies around the world prepared to celebrate Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday, an annual observance honoring victims of transphobic violence.
Anxiety in many LGBTQ communities in the United States has risen amid divisive politics and after numerous threats and violent incidents targeting LGBTQ people and events in recent months.