Patrons overwhelmed shooter who killed at the least 5 at Colorado Membership

COLORADO SPRINGS — A man shrouded in body armor with an AR-15-style rifle attacked an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs Saturday night in a rampage that killed at least five people and injured at least 25 others.

At least one person at Club Q nightclub attacked and overpowered the gunman, authorities said, helping prevent further bloodshed. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said a man took a pistol from the shooter and then hit him with it and overpowered him. When police burst into the club, the man was still on the shooter and detaining him, Mr Suthers said.

The club’s owners, who viewed the surveillance tape, praised the actions of two guests, whom they said they did not know, but who together overpowered the gunman and held him on the ground until police arrived.

“One customer took out the shooter and was helped by another,” said Matthew Haynes, one of the club’s owners. Referring to the first person to act, Mr. Haynes added: “He saved dozens and dozens of lives. Stopped the man cold. Everyone else ran away and he ran towards him.”

Police officers identified the shooter as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22. He was injured and treated at a hospital. Police seized two guns from the club, Colorado Springs Police Department chief Adrian Vasquez said. Authorities said they were still working to determine who owned the long gun used in the shooting, as well as other weapons found at the scene.

Mr Vasquez said the suspect did not speak to investigators and does not appear to have said anything at the scene. He said the shooting lasted less than a minute.

Local District Attorney Michael J. Allen said in a statement that his office expects “the case to be formally escalated to my office in the coming days” for a charging decision. He said the shooting appeared to have been carried out by a single person. The FBI was also involved in the investigation.

The exact number of injured was uncertain. Some people had driven themselves to get treatment, police officials said, and not all of the injuries were from gunshot wounds. Some may have been injured while fleeing. At least two remained in critical condition as of Sunday morning, doctors from two hospitals said.

The shooting broke out just before midnight as revelers enjoyed a night out at a club considered a safe haven for the LGBTQ community. It was poignantly reminiscent of the 2016 massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others after pledged allegiance to the terrorist group Islamic State.

Recognition…Andrew Miller for the New York Times

Joshua Thurman, who went to Club Q for an early birthday party, thought the first gunshots were part of the music. He stayed on the dance floor, but when he heard more gunfire and saw a flash from the muzzle of a gun, he ran to a dressing room at the back of the club. Staying there with a drag performer and another patron, he described hitting the “Pow! Phew!” of gunshots.

“When we came out of the dressing room, we saw dead bodies,” he recalled Sunday morning, suppressing a sob. “There was broken glass, blood – I lost friends!”

Mr Thurman, 34, spoke to reporters outside the club where he had gone to collect his car from the car park. He said he worked as a go-go dancer at the club and that a bartender he had met over the years was among those killed.

Mr Thurman said Club Q is a “safe place” for its guests: “This is a place we love, a place of peace, a place where we can be ourselves.”

The motive behind the attack on Club Q was still unknown. Mayor Suthers said the shooting “has the appearances of a hate crime,” but he said investigators were still combing the shooter’s story on social media and conducting interviews to determine a motive.

President Biden condemned the apparent targeting of the LGBTQ community.

“Places that should be safe places of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence,” he said in a statement. “We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”

Mr. Biden renewed his call for a federal ban on assault weapons, despite insufficient support in Congress to enact one. “When are we going to decide we’ve had enough?” he asked. “We must address the public health epidemic of gun violence in all its forms.”

A man of the same name and age as the suspected truncheon shooter was arrested in June 2021 after the man’s mother called the police and said she was not with her son and didn’t know where he was but that he had threatened to kill him to injure them with a bomb, ammunition and other weapons. Police negotiators persuaded him to walk out of a home and surrender – but not before police evacuated residents from about 10 nearby homes in a suburb outside Colorado Springs over the bomb threat.

Police have not said if the suspect who shot and the man arrested in 2021 are one and the same.

The man was charged with multiple crimes following that arrest, including felony threats and three kidnappings. It is unclear who was accused of kidnapping.

Recognition…Andrew Miller for the New York Times

The police announced in 2021 that they had not found any explosives. A spokesman for the restaurant The District Attorney declined to say Sunday how the charges were resolved.

The mother of Anderson Aldrich involved in the case had rented a guest room from Leslie Bowman, who said in an interview on Sunday that she was away at the time.

“His mother called me and said, ‘Don’t come home now, there are people looking for Andy,'” Ms Bowman recalled, using the man’s nickname.

On Sunday, after the shooting, Ms Bowman wondered why the man was at large and able to get a gun if he had been accused of the bomb threat.

“Why isn’t he in jail after this happened?” asked Ms Bowman. “After that first day, the police never asked me for more information. I’m a second amendment supporter, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t understand him being out there and having access to guns after this incident.”

Attempts to reach family members of Mr Aldrich, who was arrested in Sunday’s shooting, have been unsuccessful.

Colorado Springs, a city of about 500,000 south of Denver, is a Republican stronghold and for decades a center of conservative Christian efforts to pass legislation restricting gay rights.

But the city, which has long had a small but vibrant LGBTQ community, has become more diverse. It now hosts an annual Pride parade, and its rapid population growth has weakened the influence of far-right conservatives.

Club Q is on a major commercial boulevard, next to a Walgreens drugstore and a Subway sandwich shop. The club first opened in 2002 in an unassuming location behind a shopping center that the founder chose in part because at the time, guests needed an entrance where they could come and go without being seen, said Nic Grzecka, who Co-owner of the Club Club with Mr. Haynes.

The owners said when they reviewed surveillance video of the shooting, they saw the gunman pull up, heavily armed and wearing a military-style flak jacket. Mr Haynes said the shooter entered the nightclub with “enormous firepower” – a rifle and what appeared to be six rounds of ammunition – and started firing.

Recognition…Andrew Miller for the New York Times

Police officers arrived and took the shooter into custody within six minutes of receiving an 911 call about the shooting. Mr. Grzecka and Mr. Haynes got there a few minutes later. “It was chaos,” said Mr. Haynes.

Hours before the shooting, Club Q posted on Facebook a “musical drag brunch” on Sunday morning to mark Transgender Memorial Day, honoring the memory of those who lost their lives to anti-transgender violence.

After the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse, Mr Haynes said he and Mr Grzecka were “vigilant” about security at their club.

“We have worked with the Colorado Springs Police Department and the FBI over the years to respond to various threats,” he said. “But there have been no known recent threats against Club Q.”

After the Pulse shooting, Mr Grzecka said the gay community in Colorado Springs came together “assuming we’d take a stand.”

He added, “We had this vigil, we stood in our parking lot and we never thought this was going to happen in our community.”

Jack Healy reported from Colorado Springs, Mitch Smith from Chicago, Adam Goldman from Washington and Patricia Mazzei from Miami. Reporting was provided by Noel Black, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Charlie Brennan, Emma Bubola, Emily Cochrane, Jill Cowan, Eliza Fawcett, Eduardo Medina, Dave Philipps, Victor Manuel Ramos, April Rubin, Ava Sasani, Mindy Sink, Luke Vander Ploeg, Daniel Victor and Cassandra Vinograd. Alain Delaquérière and Kirsten Noyes made research contributions.

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