The mass shooting inside an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., where five people were killed and more than a dozen injured over the weekend is being investigated as a bias-motivated crime as survivors they deal with trauma and pain after the attack.
Club Q, known in the Colorado Springs area as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community, turned into a crime scene Saturday afternoon when a shooter opened fire on patrons. Five people were killed and 19 injured, including 17 people with gunshot wounds, police said.
Officials identified the people who were killed as Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump.
Two people inside the nightclub, Richard Fierro and Thomas James, subdued the attacker before officers arrived minutes after the shooting began, police said.
Fierro, a former Army commander who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CNN in an emotional interview Monday that the violence and trauma experienced during the shooting was similar to that of a war zone.
“My daughter and my wife should never have experienced combat in Colorado Springs. And everyone in that building experienced combat that night, not on their own, but because they were forced to,” Fierro said between tears “It’s a lot for any human.”
Fierro was at the nightclub celebrating a birthday with his wife and daughter. Her daughter’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, was also there and was killed.
“I’m not a hero. I’m just a guy who wanted to protect his kids and his wife, and I still couldn’t protect his boyfriend,” Fierro said.
Barrett Hudson was also at the club that night and was shot seven times while trying to run from the gunfire.
“I ran out the back and they shot me. I knew I was shot a few times. I went down. He proceeded to shoot me. I got back up. I ran out the back of the club,” he Hudson told CNN.
After taking her first steps since the shooting Monday, she said she doesn’t believe she survived.
“Seven bullets missed my spine, liver and colon.” Hudson said. “I’ve been very, very lucky.”
He added: “I didn’t expect to get there. I certainly didn’t expect to walk as fast as I was walking.”
As many others mourn those who didn’t make it out alive and survivors recover from yet another mass shooting in the United States, questions linger about the motivation behind the attack.
Authorities identified the suspected shooter as Anderson Lee Aldrich, who remained hospitalized Monday after being shot by Fierro and James. Fierro said he hit the suspect with one of his guns while others kicked him in the head.
Aldrich, 22, faces five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury, according to an online El Paso County court filing. Michael Allen, district attorney for El Paso County, based in Colorado Springs, said no formal charges have been filed and those in the docket are preliminary and subject to change.
The filing does not reflect whether Aldrich has retained an attorney. Allen said that after Aldrich is transferred from a medical facility to the jail, he will have an initial appearance by video.
“It’s important that if we have enough evidence to support bias crimes, we charge it. It’s important to this community,” Allen said during a news conference.
Hate crimes in Colorado are known as “bias-motivated” crimes, Allen told CNN on Monday.
Saturday’s shooting is one of several high-profile mass shootings that have occurred in Colorado, including the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School. Last year in Colorado Springs, a mass shooting at a birthday party left six dead.
So far this year, mass shootings have occurred in the United States at a rate of nearly two per day, with a total of at least 605, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Both CNN and the archive define a mass shooting as one in which four or more people, other than the shooter, are killed or injured.
As authorities continue to investigate the shooting, many are focused on mourning the lives lost.
Daniel Aston, 28, was a bar supervisor at Club Q, according to friend and bartender Michael Anderson.
“He was the best supervisor anyone could have asked for. He made me want to work and wanted to be a part of the positive culture we were trying to create there,” Anderson said.
Aston moved to Colorado Springs two years ago to be closer to his mother and father, his parents Jeff and Sabrina Aston told The Denver Post.
At age four, Aston told his mother he was a boy and a decade later, he came out as transgender, his mother told the newspaper. He was considered shy, but that wasn’t the case, he said.
“He had a lot more life to give to us, to all his friends and to himself,” she told the newspaper.
The victim’s sister Kelly Loving released a statement Monday, expressing her support for all those who lost a loved one in the shooting.
“My condolences to all the families who lost someone in this tragic event, and to all who struggle to be accepted in this world. My sister was a good person. She was loving and caring and sweet. Everyone loved her. Kelly she was a wonderful person,” Tiffany Loving said in a statement to CNN.
Ashley Pugh’s family said they were absolutely devastated by her loss and that her daughter Ryleigh “was her whole world”.
“She meant everything to this family, and we can’t even begin to understand what it will mean to not have her in our lives,” the family said in a statement.
Pugh worked at the nonprofit organization Kids Crossing, which aims to help foster children find homes, according to the release. He was also involved in helping the LGBTQ community find welcoming shelters.
Derrick Rump was a bartender at Club Q. The place served as a place where he “found a community of people that he really loved and felt like he could shine, and he did,” his sister, Julia Kissling, CNN. affiliate WFMZ.
“He made a difference in so many people’s lives, and that’s where he wanted to be,” she said.
Tiara Kelley, who performed at the club the night before the shooting, told CNN that Rump and her co-worker, Aston, were polar opposites in many ways, but they worked well together.
“They were amazing, and every bar should have a Daniel and a Derrick,” Kelley said.
Raymond Green Vance, 22, had just found work at a FedEx distribution center in Colorado Springs and was “thrilled to receive his first paycheck,” his family said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, he never left the club. Raymond was the victim of a man who unleashed terror on innocent people with family and friends,” the statement said. “His own family and friends are completely devastated by the sudden loss of a son, grandson, beloved brother, nephew and cousin to so many.”
Vance was “a kind, selfless young adult with his whole life ahead of him. His closest friend describes him as gifted, unique and willing to go out of his way to help anyone,” his family said.
Aldrich has not made a statement to law enforcement, police said.
“I haven’t heard that he’s been uncooperative, just that he’s decided not to talk to investigators,” Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez told CNN on Monday.
The suspect was carrying a long gun during the attack and two firearms were found at the scene, Vásquez said.
Two law enforcement sources told CNN records show Aldrich bought the two weapons used in the attack, an AR-style rifle and a handgun.
Before Saturday’s shooting, the suspect was arrested in June 2021 in connection with a bomb threat that led to a standoff at his mother’s home, according to a news release from the El County Sheriff’s Office. Paso at that time and the former owner of his mother.
Two law enforcement sources confirmed that the suspect in Saturday’s shooting and the bomb threat were the same person based on his name and date of birth.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report from the man’s mother who was “threatening to harm him with a homemade bomb, multiple guns and ammunition,” according to the release. Deputies called the suspect and he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” the release said, prompting them to evacuate nearby homes.
Several hours after the initial police call, the sheriff’s crisis negotiation unit got Aldrich to leave the house and he was arrested. At the time, authorities did not find any explosives in the home.
Attempts by CNN to reach Aldrich’s mother for comment were unsuccessful.
The two law enforcement sources who said the suspect bought the firearms also told CNN that his arrest for a bomb threat would not have shown up in background checks because the case was never solved, the charges they withdrew and the records were sealed. It is unclear what prompted the sealing of the records, they said.