The suspect believed to have killed five and injured 25 in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado is in custody, according to police.
The attacker’s motive isn’t yet clear, but it is being investigated as a hate crime.
The gunman, who was identified by police as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, opened fire at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., just before midnight Saturday, police said.
He was quickly subdued by patrons at the club and taken into custody when police arrived a few minutes after receiving a call, authorities said.
“At least two heroic people” confronted the gunman and stopped the shooting, said Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez, adding: “We owe them a great debt of thanks.”
One of the people in the bar took a handgun from the shooter and hit him with it, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said in an interview with CNN.
Suthers called it an “incredible act of heroism”.
Of the 25 people injured in the melee, 19 have gun shot wounds, Suthers said. None of those are “deemed truly critical”, the mayor said.
Two firearms, including a “long rifle,” were found at the scene, according to Vasquez.
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured and traumatized in this horrific shooting,” said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected governor in 2018. He called the shooting “sickening.”
On Sunday afternoon, groups of friends and couples walked up to the entrance of the club’s parking lot, placing flowers near a sign that read, “Love over hate.”
Emily Paduch, 26, who identifies as bisexual, lives just down the street and said the club had been a sanctuary for local LGBTQ people and others. “It was like the one safe spot for everyone. It didn’t matter who you were,” Paduch said through tears.
Bucky Baldwin, 57, and his wife Lisa, 58, brought flowers to show their respects. Baldwin works in the music industry and the couple have lots of gay friends, they said. Hatred toward LGBTQ people must be confronted, they said.
“There has to be a tolerance movement. There’s an intolerance that has festered,” he said. “People just have to be more accepting.”
“How do you stop hate through generations?” His wife wondered.
The attack was over within minutes. Police received numerous 911 calls starting at 11:56 p.m., and an officer arrived at midnight. The suspect was detained at 12:02 a.m., police said.
Several of the 18 people injured are in critical condition with gunshot wounds, officials said.
The suspect was being treated at a hospital, police said, adding that officers did not shoot at him.
In a statement, Club Q termed the shooting a hate attack.
“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community,” the club posted on its Facebook page. It said its prayers were with victims and families, adding: “We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”
The attack was the sixth mass killing in the U.S. this month and comes seven months after the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
There have been 523 mass killings in the U.S. since 2006 resulting in 2,727 deaths as of Nov. 19, according to the Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the U.S.
President Joe Biden and other political leaders have offered statements of support and condolence on social media.
“While no motive in this attack is yet clear, we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years,” Biden wrote in a statement. “Gun violence continues to have a devastating and particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation and threats of violence are increasing.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, suggested an alarming rise in hate speech and anti-gay legislation inspires such violence.
“You can draw a straight line from the false and vile rhetoric about LGBTQ people spread by extremists and amplified across social media, to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, to the dozens of attacks on our community like this one,” Ellis wrote.
“This unspeakable attack has robbed countless people of their friends and family and an entire community’s sense of safety,” Ellis added.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said the department is adding patrols and increasing “visibility” noting that today is Trans Day of Remembrance. “America grieves over yet another mass shooting,” he said.
For years, Club Q was the only gay club in Colorado Springs. “The whole idea of this place (Club Q) is to have a safe place,” co-owner Nic Grzecka said in a 2020 interview with Colorado Springs Indy.