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Shooting at LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs kills 5 and destroys sense of safety

Shooting at LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs kills 5 and destroys sense of safety



CNN

What started as a joyous night of laughter and dancing turned into terror when a gunman entered an LGBTQ club and immediately opened fire.

“I looked up and I saw a silhouette of a man with a gun at the entrance of the club, maybe about 15 feet from me,” said Michael Anderson, who was bartending. The Q Club in Colorado SpringsColorado, Saturday evening.

“I ended up behind the bar and glass started flying around me.”

Within seconds, his friend and bar supervisor, Daniel Aston, was critically injured.

Four more people were killed and 25 others were injured. 2016 Impulse Massacre 49 killed in LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando

Anderson said it took some time to process the horror. When he did, he thought his life was over.

“At one point, I was afraid that I would not be able to leave this club alive. “I’ve never prayed so fervently and so quickly in my life because I was expecting and dreading this outcome,” Anderson told CNN on Monday.

“While I was praying … the shots stopped.”

Two heroic gunmen subdue Anderson and prevent an even greater tragedy.

“I saw the gunman on the ground, two very brave men punching and kicking and screaming,” Anderson said.

He said he did not know who the people were who stopped the shooting.

“But I hope one day I will know, because I believe these two people saved my life,” he said.

Police arrived at the scene around midnight and found at least two people had killed the gunman, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vazquez said.

In addition to the five killed, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers injured 25 others, including 19 who were shot.

The reason for the attack was not disclosed.

A 22-year-old suspect He remained in custody and was treated at a hospital Sunday, but was not shot by officers, police said.

Investigators are still working to determine a motive, including whether the shooting was a hate crime, Vazquez said.

A dangerous attack was imminent Transgender Day of Remembrance – commemorated the lives of trans people lost to anti-trans violence and hate.

Police have yet to identify the victims, but Daniel Aston’s parents have said Denver Post their son was killed while bartending at Club Q on Saturday.

Jeff and Sabrina Aston told the Post their son moved to Colorado Springs two years ago to be closer to them and take a job at a club minutes from their home.

Anderson, a bartender who survived the attack, said Aston was not only his boss, but a friend for years.

“He was the best supervisor anyone could ask for. He encouraged me to take the job and I wanted to be a part of the positive culture he was trying to create there,” Anderson said.

“He was a wonderful person. He was the light of my life. It’s still surreal that we’re talking about it in the past tense.”

Colorado Springs, the state’s second largest city, has a population of less than 500,000 and is home to the headquarters and military bases of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group that condemns homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Until recently, Club Q was the only LGBTQ club in town.

“This space is really the only place where the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado Springs can come together and be ourselves,” said Cole Danielson, who worked as a drag queen at Club Q.

Just last month, Danielson and his wife celebrated their wedding there.

But now, “our safety as unique people in Colorado Springs is in question,” Danielson said. “I’m afraid to be a trans person in this community.”

Tiana Nicole Dykes, a lifelong Colorado Springs resident, called Club Q “a second home full of select family.”

“This space means the world to me,” said Dykes, who had close friends killed or seriously injured in the shooting.

“Energy, people, message. It’s an amazing place that didn’t deserve this tragedy.”

Colorado Springs resident Antonio Taylor said the Club Q community helped them feel ready to go out.

“It was one of those places where I didn’t have to worry about how I looked or people hating me for who I am,” they said. “It made me sick to my stomach that it was the only place I knew I was safe. made safe”.

Taylor was set to perform at the club’s Musical Drag Brunch on Sunday. But the mass shooting forced Q Club to close indefinitely.

Jewels, who has been on the Colorado drag scene for over a year, often performs at Parks Club Q under the name Dezzy Dazzles, and considers it a space where the cruelty of the outside world is not welcome.

“Club Q, along with all the other LGBTQIA+ bars, is a safe space for a community that has felt unsafe and rejected for most of its life,” Parks told CNN.

“Taking away our safe place and losing members of our community is a different kind of harm,” Parks said. “Right now we need to love each other more and be kind to each other.”

Police identified the suspect as Anderson Lee Aldrich. He had a long gun with him at the time of the attack, and two firearms were found at the scene, Vasquez said.

Despite opening fire immediately after entering the club, the chief said the gunman’s rampage was over within minutes as witnesses captured him.

“At least two heroic individuals inside the club were able to confront the suspect, engage in a fight, and subdue the suspect,” Vazquez said. “We owe them a lot.”

Although Aldrich remains hospitalized, questions have been raised about the earlier encounter with law enforcement and whether anything could have been done to prevent bloodshed.

In June 2021, Aldrich was arrested in connection with a bomb threat that led to an altercation at his mother’s home, according to his mother’s former landlord and news release from the local El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

Two law enforcement sources confirmed that the nightclub shooting suspect and the bomb threat are the same person by name and date of birth.

In the 2021 incident, sheriff’s deputies responded to a report that a man’s mother had “threatened himself with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition.”

Deputies called for the suspect, but he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” the report said, leading them to evacuate nearby homes.

Hours after the initial police call, the sheriff’s crisis negotiation unit was able to get Aldrich out of the home where he was staying, and he was arrested after he walked out the front door. Authorities did not find any explosives in the house.

CNN’s attempts to reach Aldrich’s mother for comment were unsuccessful.

It was not immediately clear how the bomb threat case was resolved, however Colorado Springs Gazette The district attorney’s office said no formal charges have been filed in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Aldrich also called the newspaper and tried to remove an earlier story about the 2021 event from its website, the paper said. “Absolutely nothing, case closed, I’m asking you to delete or update the story,” Aldrich said in the voicemail, according to the Gazette.

In 2019, Colorado passed a controversial red flag law that allows family members, a roommate or law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearms if they are deemed dangerous.

When asked why the red flag law was not invoked in Aldrich’s case, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said it was “too early to make any determinations” in the case.

“We’re working hard to educate and raise awareness about the red flag law,” Weiser said.

“I don’t have enough information to know what the officers knew,” he said. “What we can do is make sure we take this as a call to action to better educate ourselves about this law to make sure law enforcement understands it and can use it to protect lives.”

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