A gunman entered a Colorado Springs LGBTQ club and immediately began firing with a long rifle late Saturday, killing at least five people and injuring 18, police said.
Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez praised “at least two heroic people” inside Club Q who, he said, “confronted and fought with the suspect and were able to stop the suspect from continuing to kill and harm others.
“We owe them a great debt of thanks,” Vasquez said at a news conference Sunday morning.
“Their actions clearly saved lives,” Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, said later at the news conference.
Follow along for live coverage of the shooting.
The suspected shooter, who officials identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was injured in the attack, apprehended and hospitalized, Sgt. Pamela Castro, the Colorado Springs Police Department spokeswoman, said at an earlier briefing.
“We have numerous people transported to multiple local hospitals via ambulance and police cruisers. The hospitals are helping us to notify family who have been injured,” Castro said.
Patients are being treated at three different hospitals, Colorado Springs Fire Chief Randy Royal said at the news conference.
Penrose Hospital is treating seven patients, two of whom remain in critical condition; the other five “mainly had extremity injuries,” the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer William Plauth said Sunday, adding that two of those five patients have already been treated and released.
Memorial Hospital Central received 10 patients, Chief Medical Officer David Steinbruner said. Those injuries included “multiple gunshot wounds” and “several people” in the ICU, Steinbruner added.
He said that patients’ conditions are “a moving target.”
Memorial Hospital North received two patients, officials said.
Castro said she expected the number of casualties to change as the investigation unfolded. She added that there were “some injuries that were a result of people fleeing” the scene.
“We will be here for many many hours to come,” Castro said.
The FBI was assisting on the scene, she said.
“We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack,” the nightclub, Club Q, posted on its Facebook page.
Vasquez said “at least two firearms were found at the scene” and that officials “are still working to identify the firearms and who they belong to,” but reiterated that the shooter used a long rifle.
District Attorney Michael Allen said that there is “no ongoing threat that we are aware of” and that the case will be officially transferred to his office in the coming days.
“Every person, regardless of who they are, has a right to be secure from fear and physical harm, and actions taken to strike fear in specific communities will not be tolerated in our community,” Allen said.
‘A safe haven for our LGBTQ citizens’
Police responded to initial calls at 11:57 p.m. local time (1:57 a.m. Sunday ET). Social media footage from across the street and verified by NBC News showed dozens of police vehicles and a fire truck deployed near the club.
The first officer arrived on the scene at midnight, and the suspect was detained two minutes later, officials said at a news conference Sunday morning.
Club Q was hosting a “Drag Divas” show followed by a DJ night on Saturday, according to its Facebook page.
Vasquez called Club Q “a safe haven for our LGBTQ citizens.”
Officials are investigating whether the shooting was a hate crime.
While the motive of the attack was not immediately known it comes amid what President Joe Biden earlier this year called “rising hate and violence” against LGBTQ people.
In 2016, a massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, left 49 people dead and dozens injured.
“We must rise against hate in the strongest possible terms, we must stand together in solidarity and love with our LGBTQ+ family in Colorado Springs and demand an end to this epidemic of gun violence,” the Human Rights Campaign’s incoming president, Kelley Robinson, said in a statement Sunday. “From Pulse to Colorado Springs to so many other lives stolen from us— this has occurred for far too long. HRC mourns the lives taken at Club Q last night and extends our deepest strength, love and condolences to the loved ones impacted.”
Robinson added that Sunday is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance since 1999 that honors the memory of transgender people killed in acts of anti-trans violence, according to GLAAD.
So far this year, at least 32 transgender people have been shot or killed, according to the Human Rights Campaign, though that count does not appear to include the Colorado Springs victims.
Local leaders react
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who in 2018 was the first openly gay man elected governor and is currently quarantining with Covid, called the shooting “horrific, sickening, and devastating” in a statement released Sunday morning.
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured, and traumatized in this horrific shooting,” he said, adding that “every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs.”
“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,” Polis, a Democrat, said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn together.”
“We have to protect LGBTQ lives from this hate,” Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., tweeted.
“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,” Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said on Twitter.
Other local leaders also shared their outrage and condolences on Sunday.
“We have so much work to do to stop this from happening again,” Rep. Judy Amabile, a Colorado state lawmaker who represents Boulder said on Twitter.
“My heart is with our LGBTQ+ community as we all reel from this violence,” Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., wrote in a tweet.
Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., one of the first gay Black men elected to Congress, tweeted that he was “outraged” by the shooting.
“Members of the LGBTQ community deserve to live full lives,” Jones tweeted.
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