A gunman opened fire inside a nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, late Saturday, killing five people, injuring 25 others and shattering a sense of security in what members of the city’s LGBTQ community said was one of the they had few safe havens.
Police have identified the suspect as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, who faces five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of aggravated assault causing bodily harm in connection with the shooting at Club Q, according to online. court records for El Paso County courts.
Court records show Aldrich has no bond. The docket does not indicate if Aldrich retained an attorney.
This weekend’s attack adds to a growing list of high-profile mass shootings that have played out in Colorado, which has seen some of the most notorious in US history, including the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School. Last year in Colorado Springs, a mass shooting at a birthday party left six people dead.
Here’s what we know about the deadly attack in Colorado Springs:
The shooting ended within minutes of the gunman opening fire, according to authorities.
Police received several 911 calls starting at 11:56 p.m., officers were dispatched to 11:57 p.m., an officer arrived at midnight and the suspect was detained at 12:02 a.m., authorities said. A total of 39 patrol officers responded, police said, and Fire Department Capt. Mike Smaldino said 11 ambulances went to the scene.
Aldrich used a long rifle in the shooting and two firearms were found at the scene, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said.
The gunman appeared heavily armed and wearing a military flak jacket as he approached the club, the club’s owners told The New York Times, citing their review of surveillance footage. One of the owners, Matthew Haynes, said the gunman entered with “tremendous firepower,” the Times reported.
Joshua Thurman was inside the club dancing when he heard gunshots and saw a muzzle flash, he told CNN affiliate KOAA.
“I thought it was the music, so I kept dancing,” he said. When he heard another round of shots, Thurman said he ran to a dressing room to hide.
He heard more gunshots, people crying and windows being broken, he said. When he came out, he saw bodies lying on the ground, broken glass and blood, Thurman said.
Authorities have credited at least two of the club’s patrons with confronting the shooter and stopping the violence. Haynes told the Times, “One customer took down the gunman and another customer got help.”
The first customer, Haynes, said it “saved dozens and dozens of lives. The man stopped cold. Everyone else was running away from him, and he ran to him.”
Authorities initially said 18 people were injured but later adjusted that total to 25.
Nineteen of the 25 injured had gunshot wounds, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Sunday. Based on communications with medical personnel, Suthers said, he expects the injured victims to survive — and the public is “crossing our fingers” for no more deaths.
The suspect was also hospitalized, police said Sunday, adding that they did not shoot him. He remained at the hospital later Monday morning, when Vasquez, the police chief, said he had not made any statements to police, despite their efforts to interview him for the investigation.
Police said they were investigating whether the attack was a hate crime, noting Club Q’s relationship with the LGBTQ community. The shooting happened as the calendar turned to Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday.
“Club Q is a safe place for our LGBTQ citizens, Vasquez said. “Every citizen has the right to feel safe and secure in our city, to walk around our beautiful city without fear of harm or ill-treatment.”
In a statement on social media, Club Q said it was “devastated by the senseless attack on our community” and thanked the “quick reactions of brave customers who confronted and stopped the gunman this hateful attack.”
Anderson Lee Aldrich was arrested in June 2021 for a bomb threat that led to an escape at a Colorado Springs home where his mother lived, according to a news release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the time, and former his mother’s land. .
Two law enforcement sources confirmed that the date of birth and name of the suspected nightclub shooter matched someone arrested for a bomb threat the previous year, and Colorado Gov. CNN’s Jared Polis also said he believed they were the same. “Everything I’ve heard points to it being the same person,” Polis said.
According to the sheriff’s office, deputies responded to a report from Aldrich’s mother that he was “threatening to harm her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition.”
Deputies called to the suspect, and he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” the press release said, prompting them to evacuate nearby homes.
Several hours after the first police call, the sheriff’s crisis intervention unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the home he was in, and he was arrested after he walked out the front door. Authorities did not find any explosives in the home.
Video obtained by CNN shows Aldrich surrendering to law enforcement last year after allegedly making the bomb threat. Footage from Ring’s door camera shows homeowner Aldrich leaving the home with his hands up, barefoot and walking toward sheriff’s deputies.
It was not immediately clear how the case was resolved. But the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that the district attorney’s office said no formal charges were pursued in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.
Aldrich also asked the Gazette to try to remove an earlier story about the 2021 incident from the website, the newspaper reported. “There’s nothing wrong with that, the case has been dropped, and I’m asking you to remove or update the story,” Aldrich said in a voice message, according to the Gazette.
CNN’s efforts to reach Aldrich’s mother for comment were unsuccessful.
Two law enforcement sources told CNN that Aldrich bought the two weapons used in the attack — an AR-style rifle and a handgun. CNN did not confirm when those purchases were made.
His arrest in connection with the bomb threat would not show up in background checks because the case was not considered, the charges dropped and the records sealed, the sources said. It is unclear what prompted the sealing of the records.
Club Q opened in 2002 and was, until recently, the only LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs.
The city is the second most populous in the state with just under 500,000 residents and is home to several military bases. It is the headquarters of Focus on the Family, the conservative Christian group that says homosexuality and same-sex marriage are sins.
In a July 2020 interview with the Colorado Springs Indy, Club Q owner Nic Grzecka said he and his business partner opened the club to find a “permanent” safe place in the city.
The center also hosts events for people of all ages, including brunch and an upcoming Thanksgiving event.
Tiana Nicole Dykes, a lifelong resident of Colorado Springs, called Club Q “a second home full of select family.”
“I’m there every other week if not once. This space means the world to me. The energy, the people, the message. She’s a great place she didn’t deserve this tragedy,” Dykes told CNN on Sunday. “Something like a mass shooting at an LGBT+ safe space is damaging beyond belief. There is disdain, disbelief and pure shock. Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them, and sometimes it does.”
Polis, a Democrat and the nation’s first openly gay governor, issued a statement Sunday calling the attack “horrific, sickening and devastating” and offered state resources to local law enforcement.
“We are forever grateful to the brave people who stopped the gunman saving lives in the process and to the first responders who quickly responded to this horrific shooting,” he said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and all those affected by this tragedy as we mourn together.”
Polis told CNN’s Jim Acosta that there are only two LGTBQ bars in Colorado Springs, and Club Q was one of the main venues.
“Everybody knew it. I knew it, I knew the center. It’s just shocking. That’s still settling in for people. But I know we are going to bounce back. We are showing each other love. We are showing healing to each other,” said the governor.
President Joe Biden also issued a statement saying he was praying for the victims and their families.
“While no motive for this attack is yet clear, we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years. Gun violence continues to have a devastating and unique impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation and threats of violence are on the rise,” Biden said in the written statement.