A man suspected of killing five people and wounding 17 others at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub will face multiple murder and hate crime charges, court records show.
Police have identified the deceased victims as Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump.
According to the online docket in El Paso County Court, Anderson Aldrich is facing five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of bias-motivated felony causing bodily injury. El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen said formal charges have not been filed and the charges on the docket are preliminary and could change.
Aldrich, who remains hospitalized, is being held without bail, court records show. The docket does not reflect whether Aldrich has retained an attorney. Allen said that after Aldrich is moved from the medical facility to the jail, he will make an initial appearance via video.
While police have not released further details about the motive, the massacre at Club Q — a longtime safe haven for the local LGBTQ community — shattered a sense of security.
What started as a fun night of laughter and dancing on Saturday night turned into a scene of terror when a gunman walked into the club and immediately opened fire.
“I looked up and saw a man with a rifle at the entrance of the club — maybe about 15 feet away from me,” said Michael Anderson, who was bartending late Saturday night at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“I ducked behind the bar, and as I did, glass began to erupt all around me.”
Within seconds, his friend and bar supervisor Daniel Aston was fatally wounded.
Survivor Ed Sanders said he saw the gunman, but could not make out the words the man uttered as he opened the door.
“It looked like he was shooting from his waist, but it was happening so fast, I didn’t really realize what was happening until I got shot in the leg,” Sanders told CNN.
Four other people were killed and 19 others – 17 of them with gunshot wounds – required medical treatment after the rampage evoked memories of the 2016 Pulse massacre in Orlando, in which 49 people were killed at that LGBTQ nightclub.
Anderson said it took him a while to process the horror. When he did, he thought his life was over. “There was a moment in time where I was afraid I wasn’t going to make it out of that club alive. I’ve never prayed so fervently and so quickly in my life, because I was expecting that outcome and dreading that outcome,” Anderson told CNN on Monday. .
“While I was praying … the shooting stopped.”
Two brave people managed to subdue the gunman, Anderson said, preventing an even bigger tragedy.
“I saw what I believe was probably the gunman lying on the ground, being beaten and kicked and yelled at by two very brave people,” Anderson said.
He said he did not know the identity of the people who stopped the shooting.
“But I hope to find out one day, because I truly believe those two people saved my life,” he said.
Daniel Aston’s parents told The Denver Post that their son was killed Saturday while bartending at Club Q.
Jeff and Sabrina Aston told the Post that their son moved to Colorado Springs two years ago to be closer to them and got a job at the club, which is minutes from their home.
Anderson, a bartender who survived the attack, said Aston wasn’t just his boss – he was a friend for years.
“He was the best supervisor anyone could ask for. It made me want to come to work, and it made me want to be a part of the positive culture they were trying to create there,” Anderson said.
“He was an amazing person. He was the light of my life. It’s still surreal that we’re still talking about him in the past tense.
Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said police rushed to the scene around midnight and found the gunman subdued.
The tragedy occurred on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance – an observance to honor the lives of trans people lost to trans-trans violence and hate.
Aldrich faces bias-motivated charges after Colorado enacts its bias-motivated crime law in 2021.
According to the law, “If a person commits a prejudice-motivated crime, if that person commits a prejudice-motivated crime because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, race, national origin, intent to intimidate or harass another person, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation. ”
Colorado Springs, the state’s second-most populous city with just under 500,000 residents, is home to military bases and the headquarters of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group that says homosexuality and same-sex marriage are sins.
And until recently, Club Q was the only LGBTQ club in town.
“This place is really the only place in Colorado Springs where the LGBTQ+ community can come together and be ourselves,” said Cole Danielson, who worked as a drag king at Club Q.
Danielson and his wife celebrated their wedding there just last month.
But now, “our safety as queer people in Colorado Springs is now in question,” Danielson said. “I feel scared myself as a trans man in this community.”
Tiana Nicole Dykes, a lifelong Colorado Springs resident, called Club Q “a second home filled with a loving family.”
“This place means the world to me,” said Dykes, who has close friends who were killed or seriously injured in the shooting.
“The energy, the people, the message. It’s a wonderful place that doesn’t deserve this tragedy.”
Drag queen and Colorado Springs resident Antonio Taylor said Club Q’s welcoming community helped him prepare to come out.
“This was one of those places where I didn’t have to worry about looks or people hating me for who I am,” they said, adding, “I’m sick to my stomach that a place where I knew I was safe. has been rendered unsafe.”
Taylor was set to perform at the club’s musical drag brunch on Sunday. But the mass shooting forced Club Q to close indefinitely.
Police have identified the suspect as Anderson Lee Aldrich. He had a long gun with him during the attack and two weapons were recovered at the scene, Vasquez said.
Two law enforcement sources told CNN Records that Aldrich bought both weapons brought in for the attack, an AR-style rifle and a handgun.
Despite opening fire soon after entering the club, the chief said, the gunman’s rampage ended within minutes as witnesses subdued him.
“At least two brave people inside the club confronted and fought the suspect and were able to restrain the suspect,” Vasquez said. “We thank them.”
While Aldrich remains hospitalized, questions have been raised about earlier encounters with law enforcement — and whether anything could have been done to help stop the bloodshed.
In June 2021, according to a news release from her mother’s former landlord and the local El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, Aldrich was arrested in connection with a bomb threat that caused a barricade at her mother’s home.
Two law enforcement sources confirmed the suspect in the nightclub shooting and the bomb threat were the same person based on name and date of birth.
In the 2021 incident, sheriff’s deputies responded to the man’s mother’s report that he was “threatening to harm her with a homemade bomb, multiple firearms and ammunition,” according to the release.
Deputies called for the suspect, but he “refused to comply with commands to surrender,” the release said, leading them to evacuate nearby homes.
Several hours after the initial police call, the sheriff’s emergency negotiation unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the home he was in, and he was arrested after exiting the front door. Officers found no explosives in the home.
Attempts by CNN to reach Aldrich’s mother for comment were unsuccessful.
Two law enforcement sources who said the suspect purchased the firearms also told CNN that his arrest for the bomb threat would not have shown up in a background check because the case was never decided, charges were dropped and records were sealed. were It was not clear what led to the sealing of the records, they said.
In 2019, Colorado passed a controversial red flag law that allows family members, roommates or law enforcement to petition a judge to confiscate a person’s firearms if they pose a threat.
When asked why the red flag law was not used in Aldrich’s case, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said it was “too early to make any decisions” about the case.
“I don’t have enough information to know what the officials knew,” he said. “What we can do is make sure we take this as a call to action to better educate about the law to make sure law enforcement understands it and is able to use it to protect lives.”