Police: Gunman kills 5 at gay nightclub, subdued by patrons

Crime tape is set up near a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022...
Crime tape is set up near a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022 where a shooting occurred late Saturday night. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)(Thomas Peipert | AP)
Published: Nov. 20, 2022 at 9:55 AM MST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2022 at 11:20 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A 22-year-old gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring 18 before he was subdued by “heroic” patrons and arrested by police who were on the scene within minutes, authorities said Sunday.

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

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

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

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

Authorities were called to the 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 gunman and stopped the shooting, Vasquez said, adding: “We owe them a great debt of thanks.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed on the shooting, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said. The FBI said it was assisting but said the police department was leading the investigation.

The violence is the sixth mass killing this month and comes in a year when the nation was shaken by the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected governor in 2018, said the news was “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 clarified that every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs,” Polis said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn.”

Although a motive wasn’t yet clear, nor were the gender identities of the victims, the incident came as anti-gay rhetoric has intensified by extremists. In a statement, Club Q termed the shooting a hate attack.

“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community,” the club posted on its Facebook page. It said its prayers were with victims and families, adding: “We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”

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

Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that features 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 “all ages brunch.”

Colorado Springs is a city of about 480,000 located about 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Denver that is home to the U.S. Air Force Academy, as well as Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry.

In November 2015, three people were killed and eight wounded at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the city when authorities say a man opened fire because he wanted to wage “war” on the clinic because it performed abortions.

The shooting brought back memories of the 2016 massacre a t the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people. And it occurred in a state that has experienced several notorious mass killings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a Boulder supermarket last year.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California said on Twitter he was “sickened and horrified” by the shooting, adding: “The LGBTQ+ community is once again the target of the most terrible violence. And devastating attacks like these will only become more common if we don’t fight back. It must stop.”

Rep.-elect Eric Sorensen, who is Illinois’ first openly gay congressman, tweeted that “we must use loud voices to stand up against hate. Our country must turn down the hateful rhetoric aimed at our LGBTQ community.”

Following reports of the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the following statement.

“I’m devastated to hear about the shooting in Colorado Springs that cut five more lives tragically short. I’m thinking of their families and loved ones, and 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.”

Colorado Governor Jared Polis also released a statement following a horrific shooting in Colorado Springs that occurred late last evening.

“This is horrific, sickening, and devastating. My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured, and traumatized in this horrific shooting. I have spoken with Mayor Suthers and made it clear that every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs. We are eternally grateful for the brave individuals who blocked the gunman likely saving lives in the process and for the first responders who responded swiftly to this horrific shooting. Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn together.”

Attorney General Phil Weiser today released the following statement regarding the deadly shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs:

“Coloradans woke up this morning to news of a horrifying mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs. My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of those who were killed or injured in this tragic shooting, and to the survivors who will continue to live with the trauma. Every single LGBTQ Coloradan is entitled to respect and dignity and to live their lives free and safe from harm.

“The Department of Law stands ready to assist local law enforcement and the FBI with the investigation in any way helpful. We are still learning the facts about this shooting, but what I can say is this: our words matter. Increased hateful rhetoric and demonization, especially against the LGBTQ community and particularly transgender people, is intolerable because it can lead to senseless acts of violence. We must value and affirm our LGBTQ community members and do all we can to keep them safe in Colorado and around the country.”

Representatives-elect Stephanie Vigil and Regina English and Representative Marc Snyder: “This morning, our city is reeling. We are angry at this despicable violence targeting LGBTQ Coloradans, and heartbroken for the victims’ families and their loved ones. Club Q is a place of love and acceptance where people go to be themselves and celebrate life. To see that special place turn into a site of mass devastation is traumatizing. We will be here for the long road of recovery ahead for those who were injured in, witnessed, or responded to this violent attack. We will never stop fighting for our LGBTQ neighbors’ freedom and safety in our community, and we will do everything we can to ensure we come together and heal from the pain and sorrow our city is feeling today.”

Statement from Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, co-founder of the Colorado LGBTQ Legislative Caucus, and Majority Caucus Co-chair, Brianna Titone, Chair of the Colorado LGBTQ Legislative Caucus: “We are devastated. Club Q is a safe haven for LGBTQ Coloradans, and many of us have gone there over the years seeking solidarity and community. For that sense of safety to be shattered by this unspeakable act of violence impacts the entire LGBTQ community. On Trans Day of Remembrance, we have already been grieving the hate crimes that too often claim the lives of LGBTQ people simply because of who we are. From the acts of violence that target our community every day to the horrific shooting at the Pulse Nightclub, horrible tragedies like this have happened far too often, and they need to stop now. We must take urgent and meaningful action to reduce gun violence and prevent crimes that target and kill LGBTQ people.”

Representative for District 3 in Colorado Lauren Boebert made this statement on Twitter.
Representative for District 3 in Colorado Lauren Boebert made this statement on Twitter.(Lauren Boebert/Twitter)

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords:

“I’m devastated over last night’s attack against the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado Springs. Club Q was described as a fun and inclusive local venue, a place to escape hate, discrimination, and violence. This sense of refuge was obliterated in a hail of bullets. No one should fear for their lives because of who they are or who they love, but sadly our nation’s gun laws too frequently allow individuals motivated by hate to commit heinous acts of violence. Colorado has seen far too many acts of violence. We grieve with the LGBTQ+ and Colorado Springs communities. We must, can, and will do more to disarm hate and protect our communities from gun violence.”

Peter Gurfein, Colorado Springs resident, Giffords Gun Owner for Safety, Colorado Chapter:

“Colorado is yet again home to another senseless mass shooting, this time an horrific attack against our LGBTQ+ community. Five innocent lives were taken too soon, at least 18 more will have to live with their injuries, and the community of Colorado Springs will be forever changed and haunted by gun violence. Giffords Gun Owners for Safety condemns this attack and calls on responsible gun owners to join us in urging our leaders in Colorado and nationwide to work to end the scourge of gun violence.”

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

The previous month, a fundamentalist Idaho pastor told his small Boise congregation that gay, lesbian and transgender people should be executed by the government, which lined up with similar sermons from a Texas fundamentalist pastor.

There have been 523 mass killings since 2006 resulting in 2,727 deaths as of Nov. 19, according to The Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the U.S.