[Breaking news update, published at 1:06 p.m. ET]
The man suspected in the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, faces multiple murder and hate crime charges, court records show.
Anderson Aldrich faces five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of aggravated assault causing bodily harm, according to an online filing in the El Paso courts. The Colorado Springs police chief told CNN on Monday that Aldrich remains in the hospital after suffering injuries sustained in the incident and that no charges have been filed.
[Previous story, published at 12:30 p.m. ET]
What started as a fun night of laughter and dancing turned into a scene of horror when a gunman walked into an LGBTQ club and immediately opened fire.
“I looked up and I saw a picture of a man with a rifle in the entrance of the club – maybe about 15 feet away from me,” said Michael Anderson, who was bartending at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Saturday night.
“I ducked behind the bar and when I did, the glass flew around me.”
Within seconds, his friend and bar supervisor Daniel Aston was fatally wounded.
Four others were killed and 25 others injured in the shooting, which evoked memories of the 2016 Pulse massacre in Orlando, where 49 people were killed at an LGBTQ nightclub.
Anderson said it took a moment to process the horror. When he did, he thought his life was over.
“There was a moment when I was afraid that I would not be able to leave the club alive. I’ve never prayed so fervently and so quickly in my life because I was expecting this outcome and I was afraid of this outcome,” Anderson told CNN on Monday.
“As I was praying … the shooting stopped.”
Two brave men managed to subdue the shooter Anderson and prevent an even bigger tragedy.
“I saw what I believe was probably the shooter laying on the ground, beating and kicking and screaming at two very brave people,” Anderson said.
He said that he does not know the identity of the people who stopped shooting.
“But I hope one day I will understand, because I truly believe that these two people saved my life,” she said.
Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vazquez said police rushed to the scene around midnight and found at least two gunmen dead.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said in addition to the five dead, 25 others were injured, including 19 by gunshots.
No information was given on the motives of the attack.
A 22-year-old suspect is in custody and was being treated at a hospital Sunday, but officers did not shoot him, police said.
Vasquez said investigators are still working to determine a motive, including whether the shooting was a hate crime.
The brutal attack came on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors the lives of transgender people lost to anti-trans violence and hate.
While police have not identified any victims, Daniel Aston’s parents told The Denver Post that their son was killed while bartending at Club Q on Saturday.
Jeff and Sabrina Aston told the Post their son moved to Colorado Springs two years ago to be closer to them and got a job at a club just minutes from their home.
Anderson, a bartender who survived the attack, said Aston was not only his boss, but also his friend for many years.
“He was the best supervisor anyone could ask for. He made me want to go to work and made me want to just be a part of the positive culture that we were trying to create there,” Anderson said.
“He was an amazing person. He was the light in my life. It’s still surreal that we’re even talking about him in the past tense.”
Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city with fewer than 500,000 residents, is home to military bases and the headquarters of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group that condemns homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
And until recently, Club Q was the only LGBTQ club in town.
“This space 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 queen at Club Q.
Just last month, Danielson and his wife celebrated their wedding there.
But now, “our safety as queer people in Colorado Springs is now in question,” Danielson said. “I’m afraid to be myself as a trans man in this community.”
Colorado Springs resident Tiana Nicole Dykes called Club Q “a full second home for a select family.”
“This space means the world to me,” said Dykes, who has close friends killed or seriously injured in the shooting.
“Energy, people, message. This is a wonderful place that did not deserve this tragedy.”
Antonio Taylor, a drag queen and Colorado Springs resident, said Club Q’s welcoming community helped them feel ready to come out.
“It was one of those places where I didn’t have to worry about how I looked or people hating me for who I am,” they said, adding: “I’m in my stomach, which is the only place I know I’m safe. It’s dangerous. done.”
Taylor was scheduled to perform at the Musical Drag Brunch on Sunday. But the mass shooting forced Club Q to close indefinitely.
Jewels Parks, who has been on the Colorado drag scene for over a year, often performs at Club Q under her drag name Dezzy Dazzles, and sees the venue as a space where the cruelty of the outside world was not welcome.
“Club Q, along with all other LGBTQIA+ bars, represents a safe space for a community that has felt unsafe and rejected for most of its life,” Parks told CNN.
“To have our safe place ripped away and to lose members of our community is a different kind of pain,” Parks said. “Now we have to love each other a little more and be kind to each other.”
Police identified the suspect as Anderson Lee Aldrich. Vasquez said he was carrying a long rifle during the attack and two firearms were found at the scene.
Despite opening fire immediately after entering the club, the gunman’s attack ended within minutes as witnesses overpowered him, the chief said.
“At least two individuals inside the club confronted the suspect, fought and were able to detain the suspect,” Vazquez said. “We owe them a huge debt.”
While Aldrich remains hospitalized, questions have been raised about the earlier encounter with law enforcement and whether anything could have been done to prevent the bloodshed.
Aldrich was arrested in June 2021 in connection with a bomb threat that led to an altercation at his mother’s home, according to his mother’s ex-husband and a news release from the local El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
Two law enforcement sources have confirmed the suspect in the nightclub shooting and bomb threat is the same person based on his name and date of birth.
In the 2021 incident, sheriff’s deputies responded to a report from the man’s mother that he was “threatening to harm her with his homemade bomb, weapons and ammunition,” according to the affidavit.
Deputies called the suspect, but he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” the release said, leading them to evacuate nearby homes.
Hours after the initial call to police, the Sheriff’s Crisis Negotiation Unit was able to get Aldrich out of the home he was in, and he was arrested after walking out the front door. Authorities did not find any explosives in the house.
CNN’s attempts to reach Aldrich’s mother for comment were unsuccessful.
It’s unclear how the bomb threat was resolved, but the Colorado Springs newspaper reported that the district attorney’s office said no formal charges have been filed in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Aldrich also called the paper to try to get an earlier story about the 2021 event removed from its website, the paper reported. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, the case has been closed and I am asking you to delete or update this story,” Aldrich said in the voicemail, according to the newspaper.
In 2019, Colorado passed a controversial red flag law that allows family members, roommates, or law enforcement to ask a judge to deem a person’s firearm dangerous.
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 in this case.”
“We are working hard to educate and raise awareness about the red flag law,” Weiser said.
“I don’t have enough information to know what the officers knew,” he said. “What we can do is take this as a call to action to better educate ourselves about this law to make sure law enforcement understands it and can use it to protect lives. ”