Suspect in LGBTQ+ bar shooting faces murder, hate crime charges

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A man suspected of killing five people and injuring others at an LGBTQ+ bar in Colorado Springs has been charged with murder and a hate crime, according to online court records obtained by Monday.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, faces five counts of murder and five counts of bias-motivated assault causing bodily harm, records show.

A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-type semi-automatic weapon in the attack Saturday night, but a handgun and additional magazines of ammunition were also recovered. The official could not publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Information about an attorney who may represent Aldrich was not available Monday.

The Q Club took to its Facebook page to thank the “quick response of heroic customers who subdued the gunman and stopped this hate-motivated attack”.

already questions were raised about why authorities didn’t try to take away 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 guns that according to his mother, he had There is also no public record that prosecutors ever filed kidnapping or menacing charges against Aldrich.

Mayor John Suthers said on NBC’s “Today” that the district attorney will file motions in court Monday to allow law enforcement to talk more about any criminal history “this man may have had.”

Of the 25 injured at Club Q, at least seven are in critical condition, authorities said. Some were wounded while trying to escape, and it was unclear if all of them had been shot, a police spokesman said. Suthers told The Associated Press that there is “reason to hope” that all those hospitalized will recover.

The shooting revived memories of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse gay club in Orlando, Florida. 49 people died. Colorado has seen several mass shootings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, at a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012, and at a Boulder supermarket last year.

It was the sixth mass killing this month in a year that has rocked the country 21 people have died in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

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 at a club with about two dozen other people dancing when the shots started. At first he thought it was part of the music until he heard another shot and said he saw the flash of a gun muzzle.

Thurman, 34, said he ran with another man into the dressing room, where someone was already hiding. They locked the door, turned off the lights and lay on the floor, but could hear the violence unfolding, including the gunman who was subdued, he added.

“I could lose my life – for what? What was the purpose?” he said as tears streamed down his cheeks. “We were just enjoying ourselves. We did not harm anyone. We were in our space, our community, our home, enjoying ourselves like everyone else.”

Detectives were investigating whether anyone helped the suspect before the attack, Police Chief Adrian Vazquez said. He said bystanders who intervened during the attack were “heroic” and prevented more deaths.

Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that hosts a drag show on Saturdays, according to its website. Club Q’s Facebook page says planned entertainment includes a “punk and alternative show” before a birthday dance party with an all-ages Sunday brunch.

Events began to drag anti-LGBTQ focus rhetoric and protests recently, when opponents, including politicians, proposed banning children from using them, falsely claiming that they were used to “care” for children.

The hate crime charge against Aldrich requires proof that he was motivated by the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

President Joe Biden said that while the motive for the shootings is still unclear, “we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate-motivated violence in recent years.”

“Places that should be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never become places of terror and violence,” he said. “We cannot and must not tolerate hatred.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay U.S. governor in 2018, called the shooting “disgusting.”

“My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who were killed, injured and traumatized,” Polis said.

A makeshift memorial sprung up outside the club Sunday with flowers, a stuffed animal, candles and a sign reading “Love Before Hate” next to a rainbow heart.

Seth Stang was buying flowers for a memorial when he was told the two dead were his friends. The 34-year-old trans man said it was like “having a bucket of hot water poured on you”. … I’m just tired of not having enough places where we can exist safely.”

Ryan Johnson, who lives near the club and was there last month, said it is one of two LGBTQ night spots in Colorado Springs. “It’s like coming out to Pride,” the 26-year-old said of the club.

Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 people located 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Denver, is home to the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic Training Center, as well as Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry that lobbies against the LGBTQ Right. The group condemned the shooting and said 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 targeted the clinic because it provided abortions.

The shooting happened during Transgender Awareness Week and only at the beginning of Sunday Transgender Day of Remembrancewhen events are held around the world to commemorate transgender people who have died as a result of violence.

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