The FBI is assisting with the investigation, which officials said is in its early stages.
As of Sunday morning, local and federal officials were trying to piece together details about the attack, including what may have led the gunman to the club, the suspect’s criminal history, and how he allegedly came to possess the weapon officials say was used in the attack.
I never thought this would happen to me and my bar.
I don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t stop hearing the shots.#clubq
— Del Lusional (@UnluckyBanshee) November 20, 2022
The assault inside the club unfolded with blinding speed.
Around 11:57 p.m. Saturday, police received a call about a shooting at Club Q on N. Academy Blvd., Lt. Pamela Castro, a spokesperson for the Colorado Springs police, told reporters. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said that the first officer arrived on the scene “within three minutes after being dispatched” and the suspect “was subdued within two minutes after that.”
At least two of the victims on Sunday were being treated for life-threatening injuries, said Penrose Hospital chief medical officer Bill Plauth. Five other victims had injuries to their extremities, and two of them have been released, he said.
Officials did not identify the victims, pending notification of family and next of kin.
“Colorado Springs is once again in mourning,” Suthers told reporters. He also praised the “one or more patrons” who “heroically intervened to subdue the suspect,” because “their actions clearly saved lives.”
Aldrich appears to have been known to local law enforcement officials and to have had at least one episode in which he allegedly threatened deadly violence.
A person with the same name, address and date of birth as the suspect was arrested in June 2021 and charged in connection with making a bomb threat in the Lorson Ranch community, a suburb of modest single-family homes on the southeastern outskirts of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, according to a sheriff’s office report at the time.
A woman had called the sheriff’s office to say her son was threatening to hurt her with a homemade bomb and other weapons, according to the report. After a nearly one-hour standoff, Aldrich surrendered without incident and no bomb was found, according to the sheriff’s office.
The attack this weekend in Colorado Springs, about 70 miles south of Denver, is the latest in a string of mass shootings in the state and comes just six years after 49 people were killed after a gunman opened fire inside Pulse nightclub, a popular establishment for the gay community in Orlando.
Club Q was hosting a punk alternative musical show Saturday night and was scheduled to host an “All Ages Musical Drag Brunch” on Sunday, according to its Facebook page.
After the shooting, the club said it is “devastated by the senseless attack on our community” and thankful for the “heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”
Gov. Jared Polis (D) said in a statement that “Colorado stands with our LGBTQ Community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn.”
President Biden said in a statement Sunday that although the motive is not yet clear, “we know that gun violence has a particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation.” He added, “We must address the public health epidemic of gun violence in all forms,” and said that “we must drive out the inequities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people.”
Even Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who in July accused LGBT supporters of “grooming” children and in August criticized kid-friendly drag shows as a “depravity,” wrote on Twitter on Sunday that the shooting was “absolutely awful,” adding, “This lawless violence needs to end and end quickly.”
The shooting comes amid a rapid rise in anti-LGBTQ activity, which includes demonstrations and attacks. From 2020 to 2021 the number of demonstrations and attacks targeting LGBT people have increased more than four times, from 15 incidents to 61, according to the global nonprofit conflict-monitoring group ACLED.
As of early June, ACLED counted 33 anti-LGBTQ incidents so far this year, indicating an even bleaker 2022.
Trans people have been particularly targeted. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, said there has been record violence against transgender and gender-nonconforming people this past year. Women of color, especially Black trans women, were the most frequent targets.
Some Colorado officials have sought to prevent people who are considered dangerous from legally buying and possessing guns, but the approach has not been fully embraced throughout the state.
In April 2019, Polis signed a red-flag law that gave citizens and police departments, the following year, the ability to petition a judge to have a Colorado resident’s weapons confiscated if the petitioner demonstrates that person is a danger to themselves or others. But Sheriff Bill Elder of El Paso County — which includes Colorado Springs — said that year that his department would not file any of those petitions.
The measure, Elder said at the time, failed to address what he believed is the real problem behind American gun violence: mental health. The new law focused “on the tool instead of the crisis that brings the thing before the judge,” he said.
As of Sept. 28, there have been 348 red-flag cases in Colorado, the majority filed by police departments. The El Paso Sheriff’s Office told The Washington Post that it has not filed for a single Extreme Risk Protection Order since the bill was signed into law.
The Colorado Springs Police Department has filed two petitions during that time. Neither department advertises the petitions on their websites.
Legally obtained weapons have been frequently stolen in the area, according to law enforcement records. Over 7,000 firearms have been stolen since 2017 in Colorado Springs, according to police department data. That is more than 20 times the national rate of firearm thefts, according to Justice Department statistics. One of those stolen guns was used to shoot a Colorado Springs officer in the head in 2018. He survived.
Among Colorado counties, El Paso has seen the largest increase in concealed carry permit holders in the past decade, with more than 50,000 residents holding permits. The sheriff’s office celebrated it last December by tweeting a photo of a man resembling Santa Claus applying for a permit, three days after four Michigan teens died in a school shooting.
And in 2016 a school district in the rural southeast corner of El Paso County voted to allow teachers to carry guns.
The shooting on Sunday is the latest high-profile mass shooting event in the state in recent years.
In 1999, two students shot and killed 12 classmates and a teacher at Columbine High School. Twenty others were injured before the gunmen killed themselves. That shooting led many schools across the country to develop protocols for dealing with active shooters.
In 2001, a gunman opened fire at an RV park and a grocery store frequented by Mexican immigrants, killing four people and injuring three more before he surrendered to the police. In 2007, a gunman killed four people and injured five at a Christian missionary training center in Arvada before killing two more at a megachurch in Colorado Springs. The gunman later killed himself.
In 2012, a shooter opened fire at a packed movie theater in Aurora, killing 12 and injuring 58 people, the largest number of casualties of any mass shooting at the time. In 2015 a gunman killed three people and injured nine others at a reproductive health clinic.
In March 2021, a gunman shot and killed 10 people outside a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder before entering the establishment and continuing his attack. He was later taken into custody. In July 2021 another gunman killed five people in a shooting rampage in the Denver area before he was fatally shot by a police officer.
Paybarah reported from New York and Somasundaram from Washington. Leo Sands and Ellen Francis in London; Ben Brasch in Atlanta; Joby Warrick in Washington; and Hannah Allam and Robert Klemko in Colorado Springs contributed to this report.