TW: Gun violence, queerphobia
On Saturday, 19 November 2022, a gunman entered Club Q, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, US, and opened fire, killing at least 5 and injuring 25. Of the 25, at least 7 are in critical condition. Officials are still in the process of identifying the victims. The club was hosting a ‘Drag Divas’ event on the day of the incident.
The suspect was identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich by Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez at a news conference Sunday morning. As per reports, Aldrich entered the club and opened fire. Thanks to the heroic efforts of at least two customers who confronted and fought with the gunman, the culprit was subdued, following which he was arrested. The first 911 call came in at 11:56 PM on Saturday. The first officer arrived at midnight and the suspect was detained by 12:02 AM. At least two guns were recovered from the scene, police said. Aldrich, who was injured at the scene, is being treated at the hospital.
While the motive behind Saturday’s shooting was not immediately known, for many it brought back memories of the massacre at the 2016 Pulse nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people. The shooting is now being investigated as a hate crime. Nic Grzecka, the owner of Club Q, said to reporters that they did not recognize the suspect and believed that the suspect was targeting the LGBTQ community. Active shooter protocol, which has been in place since the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, was activated during the incident.
The shooting took place during Transgender Awareness Week and mere minutes before the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence.
This is not Aldrich’s first tryst with the law. In June 2022, Aldrich was arrested after the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was alerted that he owned a homemade bomb. He was charged with two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping, but no explosives were found in his home, as per reports.
In a statement on social media, Club Q said it was “devastated by the senseless attack on our community” and thanked “the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, the first openly gay governor in the US, tweeted that he is “horrific, sickened, and devastated” to hear about the attack. “My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured, and traumatized in this terrible shooting,” he said, before thanking the first responders who “responded swiftly” to the shooting. He also ordered flags lowered to half-staff at all public buildings statewide to honor the victims of the mass shooting beginning Monday until Saturday, according to a news release from his office. “To further honor and remember the victims and those injured in this tragedy, the Polis-Primavera administration will also be flying the Pride flag at the Colorado state capitol for the next five days,” the release read.
President Joe Biden stated in the wake of the shooting, that “the LGBTQI+ community has been subject to horrific hate violence in recent years,” and that places that are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration are often turned into “places of terror and violence.” Inequities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people should be driven out, Biden said, before adding, “We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”