The mayor of Colorado Springs has said that a gun attack on a LGBTQ nightclub in his city that left five dead and at least 25 injured has “the trappings of a hate crime”.
John Suthers spoke on Monday of the “tragic darkness” that descended on the community, as detectives continued piecing together a motive for the murders, and residents honored those who lost their lives.
“The actions of this single individual, whatever his motivations, don’t reflect the city of Colorado Springs,” Suthers told ABC’s Good Morning America.
“It has the trappings of a hate crime, but we are going to have to see what the investigation shows in terms of social media and things like that, to make a clear determination exactly what the motive was.
“We have all been impacted by the tragic darkness.”
Authorities arrested 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich for the Saturday night rampage at Club Q.
He is facing murder and hate crime charges, according to online court records obtained on Monday.
Aldrich faces five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury, the records show.
A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon in Saturday night’s attack, but a handgun and additional ammunition magazines also were recovered.
The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The attack ended when the suspect was confronted by a club-goer described by witnesses as a hero.
“He saved dozens and dozens of lives,” one of the club’s owners, Matthew Haynes, said at a Sunday vigil for the victims, according to the New York Times.
“Stopped the man cold. Everyone else was running away, and he ran toward him.”
Another patron helped to subdue the gunman, who was reported to be wearing full body armor, until police arrived, Haynes said.
Lt Pamela Castro, spokesperson for the Colorado Springs police department, said the first 911 call was received at 11.56pm Saturday, and officers were on the scene within four minutes. The suspect was detained at two minutes past midnight, she said, and two weapons, including an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle, were recovered.
Suthers also praised the club’s patrons for halting the gunman and preventing greater loss of life.
“That’s largely because of the intervention of at least one, possibly two, very heroic individuals who subdued this guy,” he told CNN.
“[They] appear to have taken his handgun … and used it to disable him … not shoot him, but hit him with the gun. It could have been much, much worse but for these heroic actors.”
Adrian Vasquez, chief of police in Colorado Springs, told a Sunday news conference that Aldrich was treated in hospital for injuries he sustained.
Details, meanwhile, were beginning to emerge on Monday about the victims of the Club Q attack. One of two barmen killed, Daniel Aston, a 28-year-old transgender man, called himself the “master of silly business” for his entertaining performances at the club.
Of the injured, 19 were treated for gunshot wounds, and several remained in critical condition late on Sunday, hospital officials said.
Prosecutors are weighing what charges to bring against Aldrich, and an initial court hearing is expected as early as today. Phil Weiser, the Colorado attorney general, told CNN on Monday that it was “hard to imagine” the gunman was not driven by hate.
“We’re living in a time of rising hate and rising demonization,” he said.
FBI agents are assisting local authorities in the investigation into how the gunman acquired the weapons used in the attack, and why he chose that particular nightclub.
In June 2021, authorities said, Aldrich allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb, forcing neighbors in surrounding homes to evacuate while the bomb squad and crisis negotiators talked him into surrendering.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that there was no public record of prosecutors moving forward with felony kidnapping and menacing charges against Aldrich, or that police or relatives tried to trigger Colorado’s “red flag” law that would have allowed authorities to seize the weapons and ammunition his mother says he had with him.
Suthers said on NBC’s Today that the district attorney would file motions in court on Monday to allow law enforcement to talk more about any criminal history “that this individual might have had”.
CNN on Monday posted a report including video footage of Aldrich surrendering to a Swat team after that incident.
Club Q’s other owner, Nic Grzecka, told ABC News that he did not recognize the suspect and had not seen him at the nightclub before. He said he also believed the attack was directed at the LGBTQ community.
Grzecka said the club had enacted an active shooter protocol following the 2016 gun attack on Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, in which a shooter took 49 lives.
Joe Biden issued a statement on Sunday in which the president said “we must drive out the inequities that contribute to violence” against the LGBTQ community.
“While no motive in 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 increasing.”
The club’s owners posted a statement on its Facebook page calling it a hate attack.
“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community. Our prayers and thoughts are with all the victims and their families and friends. We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack,” it said.
Of the 25 to 30 people Suthers said were injured at Club Q, at least seven were in critical condition, authorities noted. Some were hurt trying to flee, and it was unclear if all of them were shot, a police spokesperson said.