COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The man suspected of killing five people and injuring others at a Colorado Springs gay bar faces murder and hate crime charges, according to online court records obtained Monday.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, faces five counts of murder and five counts of committing a bias-motivated crime that caused bodily harm, the files show.
A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon in Saturday night’s attack, but a handgun and extra ammunition magazines were also recovered. The official was unable to discuss the details of the investigation publicly and spoke to The UK Time News on condition of anonymity.
Information about an attorney who could speak on Aldrich’s behalf was not immediately available Monday.
On its Facebook page, Club Q thanked the “quick responses from heroic customers that calmed the gunman and ended this hate attack”.
Questions were already being raised about why authorities didn’t try to take Aldrich’s guns from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported threatening her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.
While authorities said no explosives were found at the time, gun control advocates wonder why police failed to try to enact Colorado’s “red flag” law, which would allow authorities to confiscate the guns that are mother says he had. There are also no prosecutors who have ever taken action on felony kidnapping and threatened charges against Aldrich.
Mayor John Suthers said on NBC’s “Today” that the district attorney would file motions with the court on Monday to allow law enforcement officers to talk more about any criminal history “this person may have had.”
Of the 25 injured at Club Q, at least seven are in critical condition, authorities said. Some were injured as they tried to flee, and it is unclear if all were shot, a police spokesman said. Suthers told The UK Time News there was “reason to hope” that all those hospitalized would recover.
The shooting brought back memories of the 2016 massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead. Colorado has experienced several mass murders, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012, and last year at a Boulder grocery store.
It was the sixth mass murder this month and came in a year when the nation was rocked by the death of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
RELATED: Colorado’s Tragic History of Mass Shootings from Columbine to King Soopers
Authorities were called to Club Q at 11:57 p.m. Saturday with a report of a shooting, and the first officer arrived at midnight.
Joshua Thurman said he was in the club with about two dozen other people and dancing when the shots started. He initially thought it was part of the music until he heard another shot and said he saw the flash of a gun barrel.
Thurman, 34, said he ran with another person to a locker room where someone was already hiding. They locked the door, turned off the lights and lay down on the floor, but could hear the violence unfold, including the gunman being suppressed, he added.
“I could have lost my life – for what? What was the purpose?” he said as tears streamed down his cheeks. “We were just enjoying ourselves. We weren’t out to harm anyone. We were in our space, our community, our home, and enjoying ourselves like everyone else does.”
Detectives were investigating whether anyone helped the suspect before the attack, police chief Adrian Vasquez said. He said patrons who intervened during the attack were “heroic” and prevented more deaths.
Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub with a Saturday drag show, according to the website. Club Q’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” ahead of a birthday party, with a Sunday drag brunch for all ages.
Drag events have recently become a focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests as opponents, including politicians, have proposed banning children from them, falsely claiming they are used to “grooming” children.
A hate crime charge against Aldrich requires evidence that he was motivated by the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims.
President Joe Biden said that while the motive for the shootings was not yet clear, “we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been the victim of horrific hate violence in recent years.”
“Places that should be safe places of acceptance and celebration should never turn into places of terror and violence,” he said. “We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who in 2018 became the first openly gay man elected U.S. governor, called the shooting “sickening.”
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those who are lost, injured and traumatized,” Polis said.
A makeshift memorial rose near the club on Sunday, featuring flowers, a stuffed animal, candles and a sign reading “Love over hate” next to a rainbow-colored heart.
Seth Stang bought flowers for the memorial when he was told two of the dead were his friends. The 34-year-old transgender man said it was like “a bucket of hot water was dumped on you. … I’m just tired of not having places where we can safely exist.”
Ryan Johnson, who lives near the club and was there last month, said it was one of only two nightlife venues for Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ community. “It’s kind of a go-to for Pride,” the 26-year-old said of the club.
Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 people 70 miles south of Denver, is home to the US Air Force Academy and the US Olympic Training Center, as well as Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry that lobbies against LGBTQ people. rights. The group condemned the shooting, saying it “exposes the evil and wickedness in the human heart”.
In November 2015, three people were killed and eight injured at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the city when authorities said a gunman was targeted by the clinic for performing abortions.
The shooting occurred during Transgender Awareness Week and just at the start of Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday, when events are held around the world to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence.
Since 2006, there have been 523 mass murders and 2,727 deaths on November 19, according to The UK Time News/USA Today database of mass murders in the US.
Bedayn is a member of the Corps of The UK Time News/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues.
UK Time News reporters Colleen Slevin in Denver, Michael Balsamo in Washington, Jamie Stengle in Dallas, Jeff McMillan in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana contributed.
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