A weekly drag show on Saturday night (November 19) descended into terror when a gunman opened fire at an LGBTQ+ Club in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The tragedy occurred on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance — an annual commemoration that honors the lives of trans and gender-nonconforming people who have lost their lives to anti-trans violence.
The attack occurred at Club Q- an establishment opened in 2002 and, until recently, the only LGBTQ+ club in Colorado Springs. During a press briefing on Sunday, law enforcement officials described the club as a “haven” in the heart of the LGBTQ+ community in the city.
Five people were killed, and another 25 were injured during the shooting. The deceased victims have been identified as Daniel Aston, 28; Derrick Rump, 38; Raymond Green Vance, 22; Kelly Loving, 40; and Ashley Paugh, 35; Aston and Rump staff members at Club Q. Of the injured, 17 were treated for gunshot wounds.
The suspect has been identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich (whose lawyers have stated that they use they/them pronouns), who carried a rifle and two other firearms into the club. Upon entering at around 11:55 pm on Saturday, Aldrich began shooting until club patrons overpowered them within a few minutes. Following this, police managed to apprehend them just after midnight.
Authorities have identified Richard Fierro and Thomas James as two people who took down the shooter. As the shooting began, Fierro, a U.S. Army Veteran who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, pulled Aldrich to the floor and instructed James to kick away the rifle once it had fallen out of the shooter’s grasp. Aldrich then reached for one of their pistols which Fierro managed to grapple out of their hands and use to hit them over the head.
In addition, another patron at the bar stomped on the shooter’s face with her high heels, allowing Fierro to overpower the shooter. This patron has been incorrectly reported as a drag queen. However, a victim’s account of the incident on Twitter has identified her as a trans woman.
After the incident, Fierro told CNN the violence and trauma experienced during the shooting were like that of a warzone. When police officers arrived at the club, they mistakenly apprehended Fierro, who had to spend over an hour in a police car until he was finally released.
According to online docket records from El Paso County Courts obtained Monday, Aldrich faces five murder charges. The motive behind the mass shooting is still under investigation, although Aldrich remains in custody, they are being held on bias-motivated crime charges. The club owners posted a statement on their Facebook page the following day identifying the crime as a hate attack:
A makeshift memorial has been erected near the nightclub following the attack, and other vigils are planned throughout the week across Colorado. As the community mourns the tragedy, families and friends of the injured victims are left working to raise money for medical expenses. Albert Reliford, a friend of Manuel Garcia, has started a crowdfunding page to help raise medical funds for a collapsed lung and broken jaw Garcia sustained during the shooting from a gunshot to the back.
In a statement on Sunday (November 20), President Joe Biden issued a report on the shooting:
“While no motive in this attack is clear, the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years. Gun violence continues to have a devastating and particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation, and threats of violence are increasing.”
The Colorado Springs shooting stands as one of many gun attacks across the US that have targeted the LGBTQ+ community. In a speech marking Transgender Day of Remembrance, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, identified the rise of right-wing extremism as one of the greatest threats to the safety of transgender Americans. Pelosi specifically mentioned Ex-President Donald Trump's Make America Great Again movement, and its spread of propaganda and hatred that frequently targets LGBTQ+ individuals and communities:
“That fight remains more urgent than ever, as right-wing extremists target transgender Americans’ fundamental rights and freedoms. Whether spouting dangerous rhetoric from cable news desks or openly bullying schoolchildren from the halls of power, MAGA Republicans are cruelly undermining the safety and well-being of our transgender community.”
Over the past few years, LGBTQ+ communities have endured attacks on a federal level, as former US President Trump rolled back LGBTQ+ protections and repeatedly cited homophobia and transphobia to garner public support. Hardly a coincidence, homophobic and transphobic hate crimes have seen a rise in recent years.
Shelby Chestnut, director of policy at the Transgender Law Centre, emphasizes that “What queer people need now as they mourn those lost in the Colorado Springs shooting is for politicians to step up. To end violence against trans and queer people, we need more humane policies that send the message that our community is inherently valuable.”
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