• A 22-year-old gunman armed with a rifle opened fire on patrons at Club Q late Saturday night.
• 5 people were killed. Seventeen people were wounded, and one other suffered a non-firearm injury.
• Police received the first call about an active shooter around 11:56 p.m. Saturday. The shooter was in custody by 12:02 a.m.
• At least two patrons attacked and fought with the shooter. One patron took a handgun from the shooter and pistol whipped him.
• The gunman is in custody and has been identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, of Colorado Springs.
• A man by the same name was arrested in June 2021 on felony menacing and kidnapping charges, but the case was later dismissed.
COLORADO SPRINGS — A 22-year-old gunman walked into an LGBTQ night club in Colorado Springs late Saturday and opened fire on dancing patrons, killing at least five people and wounding 17 others before he was stopped by two clubgoers. One of the patrons wrested a handgun from the attacker and then pistol-whipped him with it, Colorado Springs’ mayor said.
The shooting at Club Q lasted less than 10 minutes and became the latest episode of mass violence in Colorado. Authorities are investigating whether it constitutes a hate crime.
The gunman, identified by police as Anderson Lee Aldrich, began shooting immediately after entering the club northeast of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said at a news conference Sunday. The gunman carried a rifle and a handgun, police said.
A man by the same name was arrested in June 2021 on felony menacing and kidnapping charges after a woman called El Paso County authorities to report her son “was threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition,” according to the county sheriff’s office.
A judge dismissed the case because the witnesses, Aldrich’s grandparents and mother, wouldn’t cooperate with the prosecution. The case was then subsequently sealed. “There is absolutely nothing there, the case was dropped, and I’m asking you either remove or update the story,” Aldrich said in a voice message left for an editor at The Colorado Springs Gazette, according to The Associated Press. “The entire case was dismissed.”
Police said Sunday they were investigating Aldrich’s past, declining to elaborate on their previous interactions with him. The suspect was taken to a hospital.
MORE CLUB Q SHOOTING NEWS
The gunman has non-life threatening injuries, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the matter. He was armed with a semi-automatic rifle, similar to an AR-15, according to the source.
The source told The Colorado Sun that law enforcement has collected evidence suggesting the shooting was a hate crime.
The shooter was subdued within five minutes of the police receiving the 911 call thanks to the “incredible” actions of a patron who grabbed a pistol from the shooter, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The Sun as he paid a visit to the growing memorial outside Club Q.
“It appears that one of the patrons took a handgun off of the shooter and used the gun to hit him and disable him,” Suthers said. The patron did not shoot the attacker but rather pistol-whipped him with it, Suthers said.
Jeremiah Griffith, head of security at Club Q, said he was the only security officer at the club Saturday night beyond the person checking IDs at the door. He said he was watching security video footage when he saw the shooter pull up wearing tactical gear.
“I saw something looking like (a weapon),” Griffith told The Sun.
Then all went to “hell in a handbasket,” he said.
“I saw the gunman drive up to the building, get out and I heard the first initial shot. At that time I had to do what I had to do to protect those (elsewhere) in the building,” he said.
The club has cameras inside and outside the building, Griffith said.
Before the shooting, “nothing seemed out of place,” Griffith said. “It was a great vibe, everybody was having fun. There was no drama, everybody was dancing and having drinks, the bartenders were slinging the drinks, the DJs were doing an amazing job like normal.”
Many patrons and others described Club Q as a welcoming place and safe haven for the LGBTQ community in conservative Colorado Springs.
Joshua Thurman, 34, of Colorado Springs said he was on the dance floor when the shooting started. He ran to a club dressing room and took shelter with two others as people were killed and wounded in the club. He saw only a muzzle flashing.
“When I came out of the dressing room, the police didn’t even know we were in there. … At that point, I lost my cool because when I came out there were bodies on the floor, shattered glass, broken cups, people crying,” Thurman told The Colorado Sun, sobbing.
“There was nothing keeping that man from coming in to kill us,” he said.
“Why did this have to happen? Why? Why did people have to lose their lives?”
At first, Thurman said he thought the shots were part of the music.
“We hear the music and then we heard pop pop pop pop pop” — and kept on dancing, he said.
Thurman, who lives near the club, called Club Q an important part of the gay community in Colorado Springs. He said he believes he knows one person who was killed. “We’re welcoming. We’re open. Just why? How?”
Aleana Wyman, 22, lives about a block from Club Q and said she woke up just before midnight to the sound of gunshots. While she isn’t sure how many she heard, it was at least 10, she said. For the next hour, she heard sirens.
“I closed my window and locked it,” she said.
Vasquez said “at least two heroic people inside the club confronted and fought with the suspect and were able to stop the suspect from continuing to kill and harm others.”
Mayor Suthers said at the news conference that the people in the club who fought the gunman “clearly saved lives.”
“We are a strong community that has shown strong resilience in the face of hate and violence in the past, and we will do so again,” Suthers said.
Club Q, which has been open for 21 years, is at 3430 N. Academy Blvd, near Palmer Park. It’s one of the most prominent LGBTQ clubs in Colorado Springs.
One of the victims was identified by his parents as Daniel Aston, 28, who worked as a bartender at the club. Police are expected to offer further details and identify other victims at a news conference on Monday.
Seven people hurt in the shooting were taken to Penrose Hospital, at least two of whom remained in critical condition on Sunday morning. Two others were treated for their injuries and released.
Ten victims were taken to Memorial Hospital Central, while two others were taken to Memorial Hospital North.
“We do have patients in critical condition as well,” said Dr. David Steinbruner, chief medical officer for UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central and Memorial Hospital North.
Police said at least one of the victims died at a hospital.
District Attorney Michael Allen said the gunman appeared to be acting alone.
“Actions taken to strike fear in specific communities will not be tolerated in our community,” Allen said.
Lt. Pam Castro, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Springs Police Department, said officers were first called to the scene on reports of an active shooter at 11:56 p.m. “We did get numerous calls on this,” she said.
The first officers were on the scene by midnight and the suspect was detained at 12:02 a.m., Castro said at a news conference Sunday morning. It was not immediately clear how many people were in the club at the time of the shooting.
Police said officers recovered multiple guns at the scene, but they were still trying to determine to whom they belonged.
Castro said no police officers fired a gun during the event. She said she wasn’t sure whether the club had security on the scene Saturday night.
“That will be part of the investigation,” Castro said. “This club is not a problem. We are all shocked and saddened by what has happened.”
Matthew Haynes, a co-owner of Club Q, deferred questions about security at the club to police. “There are certainly protocols at the club,” he said Sunday morning.
At least two men who said they were at Club Q on Saturday night told The Sun that security was just checking for identification at the door before the shooting. Both men said they left minutes before the shooting occurred.
Club Q posted on Facebook early Sunday that it “is devastated by the senseless attack on our community.” The club called the shooting a “hate attack.”
“Our pray(ers) and thoughts are with all the victims and their families and friends,” the post said. “We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”
On Club Q’s website, the nightclub advertises a live DJ and dancing from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every Saturday night, preceded by a drag show earlier in the night.
In two Instagram posts on Saturday prior to the shooting, Club Q announced that Saturday night’s party would include a birthday celebration for a community member. In the second post, it announced that a Sunday brunch and drag show would recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors trans people who have been killed. The drag brunch is a regular event at the club and is billed as being open to people of all ages. Such events have in recent years become focal points for protests by anti-LGBT groups.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay governor, called the shooting “horrific, sickening, and devastating.”
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured, and traumatized in this horrific shooting,” Polis said in a written statement. “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.”
Polis tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, so he was unable to travel to Colorado Springs to be with other state and local officials as they responded to the shooting, though he said he participated in a virtual vigil.
More than 30 firefighters and 11 ambulances responded to the shooting. Ambulances transported three patients at a time to get as many victims to the hospital as fast as possible.
The shooting was declared a mass casualty event just before 12:10 a.m. Sunday, as first responders, who scrambled to Club Q en masse, began surveying the scene, according to emergency dispatch radio traffic archived on Broadcastify.com.
By about 12:15 a.m., first responders had located at least nine victims. A few minutes later, a first responder reported over the emergency radio that they were at a nearby 7-Eleven with “a patient who has been shot seven times.”
A few minutes after that, another first responder reported that they had “multiple criticals,” referring to people wounded in the attack.
Ambulances continued to transport victims to hospitals 30 minutes after the shooting, according to the emergency radio archives reviewed by The Colorado Sun.
Castro said the number of dead and wounded “is subject to change as the investigation continues.”
Photos from outside of Club Q on Saturday night and early Sunday showed a swarm of police vehicles, ambulance and fire trucks. The FBI is assisting Colorado Springs police in their investigation into the shooting. Agents from the federal agency were already on scene Sunday morning, and Colorado’s U.S. Attorney, Cole Finegan, pledged that federal investigators will help local authorities however they can.
“This scene is going to take some time to get through,” Castro said. “We will be here for many, many hours to come.”
A heap of flowers and a sign that read “Love over hate” were part of a growing memorial near the club on Sunday.
Among those at the scene near the night club Sunday morning awaiting more information on the shooting was Carey Dowell, a longtime worker at KingPin bowling alley, which shares a parking lot with Club Q.
“They have their events. They fill up the parking lot,” Dowell said. “But we’ve never had any problems.”
Kelsey Fauser, pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, described Club Q as a place “for safety, love and security,” and where people in the LGBTQ community could celebrate themselves and “just be.”
“It’s hard when you hear about news like this because it isn’t just some distant place or a news headline, but rather you know the color of the walls. You know how it smells and what it is like and the atmosphere on a Saturday night. So when those news reports start coming, it is much more enfleshed in your body because you’ve been there,” said Fauser, who is part of a LGBTQ league with drag queens and kings who perform at the nightclub.
Hundreds of people sat and stood shoulder to shoulder Sunday afternoon inside All Souls Unitarian Church in downtown Colorado Springs with dozens of others gathered outside along the sidewalk.
Haynes, one of the club’s owners, told churchgoers that he arrived at Club Q less than 10 minutes after the shooting.
“I see over 20 years of people who grew up in Club Q, that changed Club Q, made their group of friends in Club Q. That may have walked into Club Q without a home, thinking that they were different and they found their friends and community there,” Haynes said. “Last night, one man went into our home and murdered five of our community.”
From the back of the church, a woman sobbed.
“Club Q doesn’t have employees. Club Q doesn’t have customers. Club Q has friends and community,” Haynes said.
Colorado Springs and Colorado have experienced a long list of mass shootings dating back to the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton.
The Club Q shooting is the worst mass shooting in Colorado since a gunman killed 10 people at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder in March 2021.
The last mass shooting in Colorado Springs happened in May 2021, when a gunman opened fire at a birthday party, killing six people and himself. The gunman was the boyfriend of one of the victims.
In 2015, a gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Three were killed, including a police officer.
A few weeks before the Planned Parenthood shooting, a man walking near downtown Colorado Springs killed three people with a rifle, seemingly at random.
The shooting at Club Q is also the latest in a history of attacks on LGBT clubs nationally. In 2016, a gunman killed 49 people at an attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
The Pulse shooting forced LGBTQ nightclubs across the U.S. to reevaluate their security, including at Club Q.
“Not just at LGBT clubs, but any nightclub needs to re-evaluate their processes and make sure they have the right steps in place,” Nic Grzecka, co-owner of Club Q, told The Gazette in 2016 in the wake of the Pulse shooting.
Suthers said he believes people will be impressed with how Colorado Springs rallies around the Club Q victims.
“This doesn’t speak for our community any more than the shootings in Orlando spoke for their community,” he said.
As Colorado leaders awoke to the news of the shooting, many expressed their grief on social media. State Rep. Leslie Herod, the first openly gay Black woman elected to the state House of Representatives, wrote in a tweet that Club Q “is a place of refuge for so many, including myself.” Herod, who represents a district in Denver, attended high school in Colorado Springs, and calls it her hometown.
“I am both devastated and infuriated,” she wrote.
Sen. Michael Bennet issued a statement that he was “devastated” to hear about the shooting.
“I’m thinking of their families and loved ones, and sending strength to those who were injured, the survivors, and Colorado’s LGBTQ community,” he said. “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.”
One Colorado, an advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Coloradans and their families, issued a statement from executive director Nadine Bridges: “There are no words that will undo the horror that continues to devastate our communities. Our safe spaces continue to become places of grief, trauma, and sorrow due to gun violence, mass shootings, and the general disrespect for our human condition.”
The White House issued a statement from President Joe Biden: “While no motive in 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 particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation and threats of violence are increasing.”
The statement added that “yet another community in America has been torn apart by gun violence.” Biden renewed his calls for a ban on assault weapons.
“When will we decide weve had enough? We must address the public health epidemic of gun violence in all of its forms.”
CORRECTION: This story was updated at 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022 to correct a source’s error about the outcome of the 2021 case against Anderson Aldrich. The case was dismissed by an El Paso County judge because witnesses, Aldrich’s grandparents and mother, wouldn’t cooperate with the prosecution.
CORRECTION: This story was updated at 10:04 p.m. Nov. 22, 2022, to correct the number of people who were killed in a 2015 attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. The story and photo captions were updated at 4:27 p.m. Nov. 21, 2022, to reflect that Colorado Springs police have revised downward the number of wounded victims to 17.