Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

Several patrons are credited with saving countless lives during a mass shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In the shooting that took place on Saturday night in Club Q, five people lost their lives and dozens were injured. But quick thinking by clubgoers saved many more lives, authorities say.

At least one patron confronted the suspect and grabbed his gun before hitting him with it and pinning him down until police arrived minutes later, The Associated Press reported.

RJ Lewis, center, attends a vigil at All Souls Unitarian Church with others, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo., following the deadly shooting at gay nightclub Club Q late the night before.

RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post via AP)

That customer was one of at least two people who city officials say stopped the gunman and managed to limit further bloodshed.

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“Had that person not intervened, this could have been exponentially more tragic,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told the AP.

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“It’s an incredible act of heroism,” the mayor said Monday on NBC Today.

On the Club Q Facebook page, the nightclub thanked the “quick reactions of heroic patrons who subdued the attacker and ended this hateful attack”.

The suspect entered the club a few minutes before midnight Saturday and “immediately started shooting at people as he walked in,” Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez told reporters during a news conference Sunday morning. The attack lasted several minutes before the attacker was caught and the police arrived at the scene.

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The suspected gunman, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, is in custody and is being treated for his injuries.

Vasquez said they found two firearms in the club.

“I can confirm that the suspect used a long rifle during this shooting,” Vasquez said, and an anonymous source told the AP that a handgun and an additional magazine of ammunition were also found at the scene.

Winston Yellen rests his head on his knees as he pays his respects at a makeshift memorial near Club Q on November 20, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Helen H. Richardson / MediaNews Group / The Denver Post via Getty Images

Although no motive for the attack has been released, Suthers told The New York Times that the shooting “looks like a hate crime by all accounts.”

Among the injured, several are still in critical condition, hospital officials told reporters on Sunday.

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The shooting brought to mind the 2016 Pulse massacre, when a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, before being fatally shot by police.

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Club Q, a long-standing venue in a modest shopping center, has been described by many as a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community.

One of the victims was identified as Daniel Aston, 28, a transgender man and bartender at the club who also performed on shows as a dancer, according to a Colorado Public Radio interview with his mother, Sabrina Aston.

“He was the happiest he’d ever been,” Sabrina Aston said. “He was successful, had fun and had friends. It’s just amazing. He still had a lot of life to give to us and all his friends and himself.”

Alex Clemons, left, and his daughter Epifania, 11, hug as they pay their respects at a makeshift memorial near Club Q on Nov. 20, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Helen H. Richardson / MediaNews Group / The Denver Post via Getty Images

NBC identified another victim as Ashley Paugh, a woman from a nearby town in Colorado who had traveled to Colorado Springs for a day of fun with a friend.

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“Nothing will ever be the same without her,” her sister Stephanie Clark told the newspaper. “I don’t want to laugh right now. She was a loving, caring person who would do anything for anyone. We will miss him very much.”

Matthew Haynes, one of the club’s owners, told the New York Times that Club Q has an active shooter protocol, which was “followed to the letter” on Saturday night.

Haynes would not reveal the details of what he saw after the shooting, but credited “a lot of mini-heroes who were taking people home, making sure people were safe.”

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He told the newspaper that he did not believe the killer had already visited the nightclub.

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Questions are already being raised about why authorities didn’t try to confiscate Aldrich’s guns in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported he had threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.

Although authorities said at the time that no explosives were found, gun control advocates questioned why police did not try to invoke Colorado’s “red flag” law, which would have allowed authorities to seize the weapons his mother said he had. There is also no public record that prosecutors ever pursued kidnapping and menacing charges against Aldrich.

People link themselves in a chain at a memorial near Club Q where a 22-year-old gunman walked into the LGBTQ nightclub killing at least five people and injuring 25 others on November 20, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

RJ Sangosti / MediaNews Group / The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado has seen several mass killings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012 and a supermarket in Boulder last year.

It was the sixth mass killing this month and came in a year when the nation was rocked by the deaths of 21 people in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

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People took to social media over the weekend to applaud those who stopped the Colorado Spring shooter, but also criticized the hundreds of armed police officers who failed to stop the Uvalde shooting.

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President Joe Biden issued a statement on Sunday, saying “we must drive out the inequalities that contribute to violence” against the LGBTQ+ community.

“While no motive for this attack is yet clear, we know that the (LGBTQ) community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years,” Biden said. “Gun violence continues to have a devastating and particular impact on (LGBTQ) communities across our nation, and threats of violence are on the rise.”

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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