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Friday, December 8, 2023

Colorado Springs Attack Stresses the Threat to LGBTQI+ Communities and Venues

Multiple law enforcement agencies are responding and cooperating on the investigation. Investigators said they are considering Aldrich’s motives and whether the attack constitutes a hate crime. Club Q had been known as a safe haven for the Colorado Springs LGBTQI+ community since opening in 2002.

Five people are dead and 25 injured after a shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs at 3430 North Academy. 

Colorado Springs Police Department officers were dispatched to the location at 11:57 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19 after receiving a 911 call at 11:56:57 p.m. Officers arrived at 12:00 a.m. and the suspect was taken into custody at 12:02 a.m. The suspect has been identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was also injured. Multiple firearms were found at the scene. Law enforcement is still working to identify who the firearms belonged to. The suspect used a long rifle during the shooting.

Multiple law enforcement agencies are responding and cooperating on the investigation. Investigators said they are considering Aldrich’s motives and whether the attack constitutes a hate crime. Club Q had been known as a safe haven for the Colorado Springs LGBTQI+ community since opening in 2002. On its Facebook page, Club Q thanked “the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.” It is widely reported that one or more customers managed to wrestle the gun from Aldrich and hit him with it to disable him until law enforcement arrived on the scene.

Several reports say the attacker was already known to the police and had been previously arrested for making bomb threats. For example, the New York Times says a man with the same name and age as the club shooting suspect was arrested in June 2021 after police negotiators managed to persuade him to walk out of a house and surrender — but not before the police had evacuated residents from about 10 nearby houses in a suburban neighborhood just outside of Colorado Springs, because of the possible bomb threat. Police have neither confirmed nor denied these reports.

The attack occurred the night before Transgender Day of Remembrance, which occurs annually on Nov. 20 to honor victims of anti-trans violence.

“While no motive in this attack is yet clear, we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years,” President Biden said in a White House statement. “Gun violence continues to have a devastating and particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation and threats of violence are increasing. We saw it six years ago in Orlando, when our nation suffered the deadliest attack affecting the LGBTQI+ community in American history. We continue to see it in the epidemic of violence and murder against transgender women – especially transgender women of color. And tragically, we saw it last night in this devastating attack by a gunman wielding a long rifle at an LGBTQI+ nightclub in Colorado Springs. Places that are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence. Yet it happens far too often. We must drive out the inequities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”

Club Q becomes the latest member of a club nobody wants to belong to as more and more LGBTQI+ venues become targets. In February, Robert Fehring pleaded guilty to mailing more than 20 letters threatening to assault, shoot, and bomb LGBTQ+ affiliated individuals, organizations and businesses. Fehring threatened the 2021 New York City Pride March with “firepower” that would “make the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk”. And in May, Kalvinn Garcia pleaded guilty to one count of committing a hate crime for the Feb. 24, 2020, arson at Queer/Bar, a nightclub and event space in Seattle, Washington. Garcia told a stranger that his intent in setting the fire was to trap and hurt the people inside.

In addition to countless attacks across the United States, the threat to the LGBTQI+ community is also growing in Europe. A man was charged with murder, attempted murder and terrorist acts following an attack on a gay bar in Oslo in June. Two people were killed and several injured after the gunman opened fire as Oslo prepared to host its annual Pride parade. Just last month a gunman opened fire outside the Teplaren bar in Slovakia’s capital Bratislava, killing two people and wounding a third. Investigators classified the shooting as a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred of the LGBTQI+ community. The gunman cited the Buffalo supermarket shooter as “the final nail in the coffin” who compelled him to commit extremist violence.

“This is horrific, sickening, and devastating,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis of the Club Q attack. “My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured, and traumatized in this horrific shooting. I have spoken with Mayor Suthers and made it clear that every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs. We are eternally grateful for the brave individuals who blocked the gunman likely saving lives in the process and for the first responders who responded swiftly to this horrific shooting. Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn together.”

Flags will be lowered to half-staff on all public buildings statewide until sunset on Nov. 26, 2022, to honor and remember the victims of the horrific shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs. Flags will be lowered for five days to remember each of the five individuals who lost their lives. To further honor and remember the victims and those injured in the tragedy, the Pride flag will fly at the Colorado state capitol for the next five days. 

The Colorado Springs Police Department is asking anyone in the community who might have seen something, has information about this incident or has video to please contact the non-emergency line at 719-444-7000. The public may visit ColoradoSprings.gov/ClubQ for information about resources and services.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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