A torrent of grief over the killing of five people at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub has led to mounting questions over whether the weekend massacre could have been averted.
At least 19 others were injured Saturday night at Club Q – a longtime safe haven for the LGBTQ community and now another crime scene in a country that has suffered an average of two mass shootings every day this year.
Authorities have revealed more about the suspect, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, who faces preliminary charges of five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of a bias-motivated crime – known elsewhere as hate crime – causing bodily injury.
Authorities have not formally charged Aldrich, who was hospitalized after being subdued by two “heroic” people at the club who police credit for preventing even more tragedy.
The suspect was transferred to the custody of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the jail, Colorado Springs Police said Tuesday. Aldrich was also listed in the online roster of the county jail.
When asked by CNN on Tuesday if the suspect was cooperating with authorities, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez told CNN, “We haven’t received information from him.”
It’s not yet clear whether Aldrich has an attorney. He is scheduled to have his first court hearing on Wednesday in Colorado Springs.
According to investigators:
- The suspect brought an AR-style weapon and a handgun to Club Q on Saturday night, but mainly used the assault-style rifle to carry out the massacre, Vasquez said.
- While Colorado has a red flag law aimed at temporarily removing gun access from those deemed a danger to themselves or others, it might not have been applied to Aldrich if his 2021 case had never been adjudicated or if no one ever pursued the intervention.
Analyst: Mass shootings have increased since the assault rifle ban was lifted
The United States had an assault-style weapons ban that was implemented in 1994 and expired in 2004.
That ban, while not perfect, “had the effect of limiting the number of high-capacity semi-automatic weapons … that were in circulation,” CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe said.
“We saw a great decline in mass shooting events and deaths during that time,” said McCabe, a former deputy director for the FBI. “This is not even really debatable.”
Questions emerge over why previous charges were dropped
It’s not clear why the felony charges against Aldrich were dropped following the 2021 report of a bomb threat.
Video obtained by CNN showed Aldrich apparently ranting about the police and challenging them to breach his mother’s home, where he was holed up.
“I’ve got the f**king sh*theads outside, look at that, they’ve got a bead on me,” Aldrich says on the video, pointing the camera at a window with blinds covering it. “You see that right there? F**king sh*theads got their f**king rifles out.”
Later in the video, Aldrich says, “If they breach, I’mma f**king blow it to holy hell.”
He ends the video with what seems like a message to law enforcement outside: “So, uh, go ahead and come on in, boys! Let’s f**king see it!”
The video does not actually show any officers outside the house and it’s not clear from the video whether Aldrich had any weapons in the house.
Several hours after the initial police call, the local sheriff department’s crisis negotiations unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the house. Authorities did not find any explosives in the home, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said.
Alrich was arrested and booked into the El Paso County Jail on two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping, according to a 2021 news release from the sheriff’s office.
It was not immediately clear how the bomb threat case was resolved, but the Colorado Springs Gazette reported the district attorney’s office said no formal charges were pursued in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.
Aldrich purchased the two weapons brought to Club Q on Saturday night, law enforcement sources told CNN this week. But it’s not clear whether the AR-style rifle and handgun were purchased before or after the 2021 case.
Aldrich’s arrest in connection to the 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’s unclear what prompted the sealing of the records.
A red flag law ‘was not perfect in this circumstance’
In 2019, Colorado passed a controversial red flag law that allows family members, a roommate or law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily seize a person’s firearms if they are deemed a risk.
When asked Monday why the red flag law wasn’t used in Aldrich’s case, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said it was “too early” to say.
“I don’t have enough information to know exactly what the officers knew,” Weiser said.
One caveat with Colorado’s red flag law is that it requires family members, police or others to actively start the process of trying to temporarily remove gun access from someone who might cause harm.
“The Colorado red flag law works when a family member or a cohabitant or a police officer proactively files the requisite paperwork and go before a judge and make the argument that someone should not have access to a weapon,” McCabe said.
“There’s nothing that I’m aware of that requires a red flag law kind of inquiry anytime someone is brought in” to law enforcement, he said.
“It is not clear to me from this situation whether (the suspect) was subjected to a temporary restraining order or any sort of mental health evaluation. Even if he was, it is not clear that there is a requirement of red flag consideration when there is a TRO or mental health evaluation. It’s entirely voluntary.”
Sen. John Hickenlooper, a former Colorado governor, said he believes there are imperfections with the red flag law.
“Obviously, the implementation was not perfect in this circumstance,” Hickenlooper said Tuesday. “Far less than perfect. It was a failure by any measure.”
5 more victims join hundreds of others lost to mass shootings this year
Officials identified the slain victims as Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump.
So far this year, the US has recorded at least 605 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which like CNN tallies incidents in which four or more people are killed or wounded, excluding the shooter.
Barrett Hudson survived the massacre despite being shot seven times as he tried to flee the gunfire.
“Seven bullets missed my spine, missed my liver, missed my colon,” Hudson told CNN. “I got really, really lucky.”
But Hudson and other victims who survived are marred by grief over the five lives lost.
Ashley Paugh leaves behind her daughter Ryleigh, who “was her whole world,” Paugh’s family said in a statement.
“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,” her family said.
Paugh worked at the nonprofit Kids Crossing, which aims to help foster children find homes, the family said. She was also involved with helping the LGBTQ community find welcoming foster placements.
Derrick Rump was a bartender at Club Q. The venue was 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.
Kelly Loving’s sister offered her condolences to the other families in mourning as she grappled with her own grief.
“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,” Tiffany Loving said in the statement to CNN.
“My sister was a good person. She was loving and caring and sweet. Everyone loved her. Kelly was a wonderful person.”
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.
“His own family and friends are completely devastated by the sudden loss of a son, grandson, brother, nephew, and cousin loved by so many,” his family said.
An Army veteran used the gunman’s own weapon to attack him
The carnage could have been even worse if not for the bravery of two people inside the club who fought the gunman, police said.
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, said he took a gun from the assailant and used it to hit him.
The violence and trauma at the club Saturday night was akin to that of a war zone, the veteran said.
Fierro was at the nightclub celebrating a birthday with his wife and daughter. His daughter’s boyfriend, Vance, was also there but did not survive.
He became emotional talking about Vance and the others who were killed.
“I’m not a hero,” Fierro said. “I’m just a guy that wanted to protect his kids and wife, and I still didn’t get to protect her boyfriend.”
CNN’s Patricia DiCarlo, Ji Min Lee, 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.