COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The man suspected of opening fire at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub was being held on Monday for murder and a hate crime, while hundreds of people gathered to honor the five people killed and 17 injured in the attack on a place that for decades has been a sanctuary for the local LGBTQ community.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, faces five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily harm in Saturday night’s attack at Club Q, online court records showed.
Authorities said the attack was stopped by two club patrons, including Richard Fierro, who told reporters on Monday night that he took a handgun from Aldrich.hit him with it and pinned him to the ground with the help of another person.
Fierro, a 15-year U.S. Army veteran who owns a local brewery, said he was celebrating a birthday with family members when the suspect “came to shoot.” Fierro said that during a lull in the shooting, he ran up to the suspect, who was wearing some sort of armor plate, and pulled him down before beating him severely until he arrived. the police.
“I tried to save people and it didn’t work for five of them,” he said. “They are all good people. … I am not a hero. I’m just a guy.
Fierro’s daughter’s longtime boyfriend Raymond Green Vance, 22, was killed, while his daughter injured his knee while running for cover. Fierro injured his hands, knees and ankle stopping the shooter.
The suspect remained hospitalized with unspecified injuries, but is expected to make his first court appearance in the coming days after doctors cleared him of the hospital.
The charges against Aldrich were preliminary, and prosecutors had yet to file formal charges in court. Hate crime charges would require proof that the shooter was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Local and federal officials at a Monday news conference declined to answer questions about why hate crime charges are being considered, citing the ongoing investigation. District Attorney Michael Allen noted that murder charges would carry the harshest sentence — life in prison — while bias crimes are eligible for probation.
“But it’s important to let the community know that we don’t condone bias-motivated crimes in this community, that we support communities that have been slandered, harassed, bullied and abused,” Allen said. “And that’s one way of doing it, showing that we’ll put the money where our mouth is, basically, and make sure we try it that way.”
Additional charges are possible as the investigation continues, he said.
About 200 people gathered Monday evening in the cold in a city park for a community vigil for the victims of the shootings. People held candles, hugged each other and listened to speakers on a stage express both their rage and sadness over the shooting.
Jeremiah Harris, 24, a gay man, said he went to Club Q a few times a month and recognized one of the victims as the bartender who had always served him. He said hearing others speak at the vigil was galvanizing after the attack on what for more than 20 years had been considered a safe place for LGBTQ people in the conservative-leaning city.
“Gays have been here as long as people have been here,” Harris said. “To anyone who’s against it…we’re not going anywhere. We’re getting louder and louder and you have to deal with that.
The other victims have been identified by authorities and family members like Ashley Paugh, 35, a mother who helped find homes for adopted children; Daniel Aston, 28, who had worked at the club as a bartender and entertainer; Kelly Loving, 40, who her sister described as “caring and sweet”; and Derrick Rump, 38, another bartender at the club who was known for his quick wit and adopting friends as family.
Vance’s family said in a statement that the Colorado Springs native is adored by his family and recently got a job at FedEx, where he hopes to save enough money to get his own apartment.
Thomas James was identified by authorities as the other customer who intervened to arrest the shooter. Fierro said a third person also helped – a club performer who Fierro said kicked the suspect in the head as she ran.
Court documents establishing Aldrich’s arrest were sealed at the request of prosecutors. Information on whether Aldrich had an attorney was not immediately available.
A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15 type semi-automatic weapon. A handgun and additional ammunition magazines were also recovered. The official could not publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Thirteen victims remained hospitalized on Monday, officials said. Five people had been treated and released.
Officials said on Monday that 18 people were injured in the attack, not 25 as they originally said. Among them was a person whose wound was not a gunshot wound. Another victim had no visible injuries, they said.
Colorado Springs, a city of approximately 480,000 people, is 110 kilometers south of Denver. Mayor John Suthers said there was “reason to hope” that all of the hospitalized victims would recover.
The assault quickly raised questions why authorities didn’t seek to take Aldrich’s guns away from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported he threatened her with a pipe bomb and other weapons.
Although authorities at the time said no explosives were found, gun control advocates have questioned why police did not use Colorado’s “red flag” laws to seize the weapons that his mother says she has in her possession. There are no public record prosecutors ever advanced with kidnapping and threatening charges against Aldrich.
It was the sixth massacre this month, and it came a year when the nation was rocked by the deaths of 21 people in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.. It also brought back memories of the 2016 massacre at gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people.
President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Colorado Governor Jared Polis and will continue to press Congress for an assault weapons ban “because thoughts and prayers just aren’t enough,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.
A makeshift memorial that sprung up in the hours after the attack continued to grow on Monday as a stream of mourners brought flowers and left messages of support for the LGBTQ community. The firing site remained cordoned off.
“It’s a reminder that love and acceptance still have a long way to go,” Colorado Springs resident Mary Nikkel told the site.
Since 2006, there have been 523 mass killings and 2,727 deaths as of November 19, according to the Associated Press/USA Today database of mass killings in the United States.
Bedayn is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.
Associated Press reporters Haven Daley in Colorado Springs, Colleen Slevin in Denver, Darlene Superville in Washington, Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Jeff McMillan in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, and researcher in news Rhonda Shafner from New York contributed.