A Colorado man was under arrest on Monday after police said he fatally shot five people and injured 25 others inside an LGBTQ nightclub over the weekend before two “heroes” rushed him and stopped the attack.
Colorado Springs police identified the suspect as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, who was taken into custody early Sunday after the attack at Club Q, a night spot patronized by gay, lesbian and transgender people in Colorado’s second-largest city. Police said they had yet to determine a motive for the shooting.
A state judge sealed court records related to the arrest until prosecutors finish the investigation, according to a court filing in El Paso County, where Colorado Springs is located.
Local media reported that Aldrich was charged with counts of first-degree murder and bias crimes but a court official said that formal charges had yet to be filed.
Aldrich was hospitalized and has not made any statements to investigators, Colorado Springs Deputy Police Chief Adrian Vasquez told CNN on Monday. Police will hold a news briefing by noon local time (1900 GMT).
Multiple firearms were found at the scene of the brief attack, according to police, who said Aldrich used a “long rifle” to shoot his victims.
The shooting – which Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said “had all the appearances of being a hate crime” – recalled the 2016 Pulse club massacre when a gunman killed 49 people at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, before he was fatally shot by police.
Aldrich was known to law enforcement before the nightclub shooting. He was arrested in June 2021 after his mother reported to authorities that he had threatened to detonate a bomb and harm her with multiple weapons, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office in El Paso County.
Sheriff’s deputies evacuated about 10 nearby homes until Aldrich eventually surrendered. They found no explosives but Aldrich was booked into the county jail on two counts of “felony menacing” and three counts of “first-degree kidnapping,” the press release said. It was unclear when and how he was released.
Leslie Bowman, 41, an account manager in Colorado Springs who rented out the room where Aldrich’s mother was living at the time of the 2021 incident, said those charges against Aldrich had not been pursued.
Bowman described Aldrich as a heavy-set man, more than six feet tall, who rarely smiled and had an imposing air.
“When I heard it was him who did the shooting, I was surprised but not surprised at the same time – just knowing what he did before,” she told Reuters in a phone interview on Monday.
Police said at least two people in Club Q subdued the gunman shortly after he burst in just before midnight on Saturday, preventing further carnage, but did not identify them.
One of the patrons grabbed a handgun from the shooter and pistol-whipped him with it, and was still on top of the suspect, pinning him down, when police arrived, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The New York Times.
“It was quite something. It happened quite quickly. This individual was totally disabled by 12:02. That had a lot to do with the intervention of these patrons,” Suthers told the Times.
One of the two patrons who subdued the suspect suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was hospitalized, according to Vasquez. The other person was not injured, he said.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser in an interview on CNN on Monday noted that the shooting took place on Transgender Remembrance Day and said he hoped Aldrich would give investigators answers.
“He was taken alive and there will be a full investigation, and law enforcement authorities are going to be working to make sure to bring justice to honor the victims,” Weiser said.
Ashley Paugh, 35, of La Junta, Colorado, was one of the five killed at the club. She was capping off a day trip to Colorado Springs with a friend, her sister Stephanie Clark told NBC News. She leaves behind a husband and 11-year-old daughter,
Paugh, who was not part of the LGBTQ community, had been shopping and had dinner and expected to see a stand-up comedian perform at the club, her sister said.
Another victim was identified as Daniel Aston, 28, a transgender man and bartender at the club who also performed in shows as a dancer, according to a Colorado Public Radio interview with his mother, Sabrina Aston.
“He was the happiest he had ever been,” Sabrina Aston said. “He was thriving and having fun and having friends. It’s just unbelievable. He had so much more life to give to us and to all to his friends and to himself.”
Anxiety within many LGBTQ communities in the United States has risen amid a divisive political climate and after a string of threats and violent incidents targeting LGBTQ people and events in recent months.
Colorado has a grim history of mass violence, including the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, a 2012 rampage inside a movie theater in a Denver suburb and a supermarket attack that killed 10 people last year.
Colorado Springs suffered a mass shooting in 2015 when an anti-abortion gunman killed three people and injured nine at a Planned Parenthood facility.