The mass shooting inside an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where five people were killed and more than a dozen were injured over the weekend is being investigated as a bias-driven crime as survivors grapple with trauma and grief following the attack.
Club Q, known in the Colorado Springs area as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community, turned into a crime scene late Saturday, when a shooter unleashed gunfire at patrons. Five people were killed and 19 were 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 just minutes after the shooting started, police said.
Fierro, a former Army major who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CNN in an emotional interview Monday the violence and trauma experienced during the shooting was akin to that of a warzone.
“My daughter and wife should have never experienced combat in Colorado Springs. And everybody in that building experienced combat that night, not to their own accord, but because they were forced to,” Fierro said through tears. “It’s a lot for any human.”
Fierro was at the nightclub celebrating a birthday with his wife and daughter. His daughter’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, was also there and was killed.
“I’m not a hero. I’m just a guy that wanted to protect his kids and wife, and I still didn’t get to protect her boyfriend,” Fierro said.
Barrett Hudson was also at the club that night and was shot seven times as he tried to flee the gunfire.
“I took off running to the back and I got shot. I knew I got shot a few times. I fell down. He proceeded to shoot me. I got back up. I made it out of the back of the club,” Hudson told CNN.
After taking his first steps since the shooting Monday, he said he’s in disbelief of having survived.
“Seven bullets missed my spine, missed my liver, missed my colon.” Hudson said. “I got really, really lucky.”
He added, “I did not expect to make it. I damn sure did not expect to walk as soon as I’m walking.”
As many others mourn those who didn’t make it out alive and survivors recover from yet another mass shooting in the US, questions linger on the motivation for the attack.
Authorities identified the suspected shooter as Anderson Lee Aldrich, who remained hospitalized Monday after he was taken down 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 docket in El Paso County courts. Michael Allen, district attorney for El Paso County, home to Colorado Springs, said formal charges have not been filed and the ones on the docket are preliminary and may change.
The docket does not reflect whether Aldrich has retained an attorney. Allen said after Aldrich is moved from a medical facility to jail, he will have an initial appearance by video.
“It’s important that if we have enough evidence to support bias-motivated crimes, to charge that. It’s important for this community,” Allen said during a news conference.
Hate crimes in Colorado are referred to as “bias-motivated” crimes, Allen told CNN 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, the US has seen mass shootings unfold at a rate of nearly two per day, for 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 are killed or wounded excluding the shooter.
Loved ones remember the people they lost
As authorities continue their investigation into the shooting, many are focused on grieving 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 anybody could’ve asked for. He made me want to come into work, and he made me want 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 four years old, Aston told his mother he was a boy and a decade later, he came out as transgender, his mother told the newspaper. He thought himself bashful, but that wasn’t the case, she said.
“He had so much more life to give to us, and to all his friends and to himself,” she told the newspaper.
The sister of victim Kelly Loving released a statement Monday, expressing her support for everyone who lost a loved one in the shooting.
“My condolences go out to all the families who lost someone in this tragic event, and to everyone struggling to be accepted in this world. My sister was a good person. She was loving and caring and sweet. Everyone loved her. Kelly was a wonderful person,” Tiffany Loving said in the statement to CNN.
The family of Ashley Pugh 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 Kids Crossing, which aims to help foster children find homes, according to the statement. She was also involved with helping the LGBTQ community find welcoming foster placements.
Derrick Rump was a bartender at Club Q. The venue served as a place where he “found a community of people that he loved really much, and he felt that he could shine there – 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 his coworker, Aston, were polar opposites in many ways, but worked well together.
“They were just amazing, and every bar should have a Daniel and a Derrick,” Kelley said.
Raymond Green Vance, 22, had just gotten a job at a Colorado Springs FedEx distribution center and “was thrilled to have received 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 out with family and friends,” the statement read. “His own family and friends are completely devastated by the sudden loss of a son, grandson, brother, nephew, and cousin loved by so many.”
Vances was “a kind, selfless young adult with his entire life ahead of him. His closest friend describes him as gifted, one-of-a-kind, and willing to go out of his way to help anyone,” his family said.
Suspect had prior run-in with police
Aldrich has not given a statement to law enforcement, police said.
“I haven’t heard that he has not been cooperative, just simply that he has determined not to speak to investigators,” Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez told CNN Monday.
The suspect had a long gun during the attack and two firearms were found at the scene, Vasquez has said.
Two law enforcement sources told CNN records show Aldrich purchased both weapons brought to the attack, an AR-style rifle and a handgun.
Prior to 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 Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the time and his mother’s former landlord.
Two law enforcement sources confirmed 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 by the man’s mother that he was “threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons, and ammunition,” according to the release. Deputies called the suspect, and he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” the release said, leading them to evacuate nearby homes.
Several hours after the initial police call, the sheriff’s crisis negotiations unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the house, and he was arrested. Authorities at the time 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 purchased the firearms also told CNN his arrest over a bomb threat would not have shown up in background checks because the case was never adjudicated, the charges were dropped, and the records were sealed. It is not clear what led to the sealing of the records, they said.
CNN’s Dakin Andone, Amir Vera, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Caroll Alvarado, Amanda Musa, Amanda Watts, Elise Hammond, Sara Weisfeldt, David Williams, Raja Razek and Evan Perez contributed to this report.