First opening its doors in 2002, Club Q had long been known as a fun, safe spot for the LGBTQ community in conservative Colorado Springs.
For decades, fundamentalist Christian groups in the city, such as Focus on the Family, have spread disinformation and propaganda about LGBTQ people — all while stridently opposing same-sex marriage and fighting to limit workplace protections for queer community members.
One of the club’s owners told the New York Times that, because of the hostile climate in Colorado Springs, Club Q’s location was meant to be inconspicuous, with an entrance people could use without being seen.
“Our community is shattered,” club patron Joshua Thurman told the Associated Press Sunday morning at a vigil near the club. “This is the only LGBTQIA+ space we have in the city of Colorado Springs. Where are we gonna go?”
Thurman said he was on the dance floor when the attack unfolded late Saturday night, just a few minutes before midnight.
Barely six minutes after the alleged gunman entered the building, police had 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich in custody.
The suspect can reportedly be seen in surveillance footage prior to the assault, moving across the parking lot clad in body armor. Police recovered an AR-15 style assault rifle, a handgun and other unidentified weapons from the scene.
A longtime bartender was among those killed. Officials have not released names of any of the victims.
Authorities credit a patron with saving perhaps dozens of lives by grabbing a handgun from the perpetrator, striking him with it and, along with another patron, subduing him until police arrived.
Speaking at a press conference early Sunday morning, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said Club Q had been a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community to gather.
“Every citizen has the right to feel safe and secure in our city, to go about our beautiful city without fear of being harmed or treated poorly,” Vasquez said. “I’m so terribly saddened and heartbroken.”
Michael Allen, the district attorney for the fourth judicial district which includes Colorado Springs, said Sunday morning that the case is being investigated as a bias-motivated or hate crime.
“The current bias-motivated crime statute in the State of Colorado provides some elevation,” Allen said, “but will not elevate beyond what will likely be charges in this case, which will likely include first-degree murder, extreme indifference murder, those types of charges, which are all class one felony murder charges.”
Thurman, the club-goer who was able to flee the dance floor and shelter in a dressing room during the shooting, told the Associated Press that he doesn’t know what’s next for the gay community in Colorado Springs.
“How can we now do anything knowing something like this can happen?”
This story from KDNK was shared with us via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. including KHOL.
Rocky Mountain Community Radio Managing Editor Maeve Conran contributed to this report.