A 22-year-old man has been charged with hate crimes for allegedly killing five people and injuring 25 others in a mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado, officials said.
The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, allegedly began shooting with a long rifle as soon as he entered Club Q in Colorado Springs late Saturday night, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said.
At least two people, whom authorities described as heroes, then confronted and fought with Aldrich, saving more lives, police said.
Aldrich faces five counts of murder and five counts of prejudice-motivated crimes causing bodily harm, which is Colorado’s hate crimes statute.
At least two firearms, including a long gun, were found at the scene, police said.
Aldrich was injured and remains hospitalized, police said. Castro said his release would be decided by medical staff.
The first 911 call came in at 11:56 p.m. Saturday and an officer was dispatched to the scene seconds later, Lt. Colorado Springs Police Department spokeswoman Pamela Castro told reporters. The first officer arrived at midnight and the suspect was arrested at 12:02 a.m., Castro said.
Bartender Michael Anderson told ABC News he heard popping noises, and when he looks up he sees “the shadow of a grown man with a gun.”
Club Q owner Nic Grzecka told ABC News they didn’t recognize the suspect and had never seen him in their store.
The active shooter protocol has also been activated, Grzecka said, which Club Q has implemented since the 2016 Pulse nightclub shoot in Orlando.
Club Q hosts a weekly drag show and live DJ on Saturday nights, according to its website. The club described the shooting as a “hate attack” and said they were “devastated by the senseless attack on our community”.
The club is a safe haven for the LGBTQ community, Vasquez said, adding he was saddened and heartbroken by the attack that took place there.
Aldrich was arrested in a June 2021 bomb threat after the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was warned that he was in possession of a homemade bomb, police officers briefed on the investigation told ABC News.
He was charged with two counts of felony threats and three counts of first-degree kidnapping, but no explosives were found in his home, Colorado Springs radio station KRDO reported.
Colorado’s Red Flag law, which went into effect in 2020, allows relatives, household members and law enforcement officials to request a judge to order the confiscation of a gun owner’s guns if that owner is believed to pose a risk to themselves or others.
It’s unclear if the law would have stopped the suspect from targeting the club, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder told ABC News.
Elder did not recall the circumstances of Aldrich’s arrest in 2021, he said.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis tweeted that he was “devastated.”
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those who were lost, injured and traumatized in this horrific shooting,” he said.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with all the victims and their families and friends,” the club said in a statement published on Facebook. “Thank you to the quick responses of heroic customers who overwhelmed the shooter and ended this hate attack.”
The shooting took place on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that “the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years,” drawing comparisons to the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.
“Places that should be safe places of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence. And yet it happens far too often,” Biden said. “We must address the injustices that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hatred.”
Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper tweeted that the LGBTQ community needs to be protected from “this hate.”
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet tweeted that he was “sending strength to the injured, the survivors and the LGBTQ community in Colorado.”
“As we seek justice for this unimaginable act, we must do more to protect the LGBTQ community and stand up against discrimination and hatred in all its forms,” Bennett said.
“Our hearts are broken for the victims of the terrible tragedy in Colorado Springs and their families.” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement Sunday. “This unspeakable attack has deprived countless people of their friends and family and the sense of security of an entire community. One can draw a direct line from the false and vile rhetoric about LGBTQ people propagated by extremists and amplified on social media, to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills launched this year, to dozens of attacks our community like this.”
ABC News’ Matt Gutman, Jenna Harrison, Ahmad Hemingway, Amanda Morris, Molly Nagle, Alyssa Pone, Robert Zepeda, and Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report.