COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The man suspected of opening fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs was being held on murder and hate crime charges Monday, two days after the attack that killed five people and left 17 others with gunshot wounds.
Online court records showed that 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich faced five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury in Saturday night's attack at Club Q. He remained hospitalized with unspecified injuries, police said.
The charges were preliminary, and prosecutors had not filed them in court. The hate crime charges would require proving that the gunman was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
The attack was halted when a patron grabbed a handgun from Aldrich, hit him with it and pinned him down until police arrived minutes later.
A man who said he helped subdue the gunman told The Associated Press that he was at the club with his family when the attack happened.
Richard Fierro injured his hands, knees and ankle while stopping the shooter, according to a Facebook post Monday by the brewery that Fierro operates with his wife. Fierro's daughter hurt her knee as she ran for cover, and her boyfriend was killed, the post said.
“I’m OK. There are others who aren’t,” Fierro said.
Court documents laying out what led to Aldrich’s arrest have been sealed at the request of prosecutors, who said releasing details could jeopardize the investigation. Information on whether Aldrich had a lawyer was not immediately available.
A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon, and a handgun and additional ammunition magazines also were recovered. The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Officials on Monday clarified that 18 people were hurt in the attack, not 25 as they said originally. Among them was one person whose injury was not a gunshot wound. Another victim had no visible injuries, they said.
Thirteen people remained hospitalized Monday, officials said. Five people have been treated and released.
Mayor John Suthers said there was “reason to hope” all of the hospitalized victims would recover.
The assault quickly raisedquestions about why authorities did not seek to take Aldrich’s guns away from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported he threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.
Though authorities at the time said no explosives were found, gun-control advocates have asked why police didn’t use Colorado’s “red flag” laws to seize the weapons his mother says he had. There’s no public record prosecutors ever moved forward with felony kidnapping and menacing charges against Aldrich.
The shooting rekindled memories of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people. Colorado has experienced several mass killings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a Boulder supermarket last year.
It was the sixth mass killing this month, and it came in a year when the nation was shaken by the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
The violence pierced the cozy confines of an entertainment venue long cherished as a safe spot for the LGBTQ community in the conservative-leaning city.
A makeshift memorial that sprang up in the hours after the attack continued to grow Monday, as a steady stream of mourners brought flowers and left messages in support of the LGBTQ community. The shooting site remained cordoned off.
“It’s a reminder that love and acceptance still have a long way to go,” Colorado Springs resident Mary Nikkel said at the site. “This growing monument to people is saying that it matters what happened to you … We’re just not letting it go.”
The club was one of few nightspots for the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs, residents said.
Detectives were examining whether anyone had helped the suspect before the attack. Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said patrons who intervened were “heroic” and prevented more deaths.
Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that features a drag show on Saturdays, according to its website. Club Q’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” preceding a birthday dance party, with a Sunday all-ages drag brunch.
Drag events have recently become a focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests as opponents, including politicians, have proposed banning children from them, falsely claiming that they are used to “groom” children.
The shooting came during Transgender Awareness Week and just at the start of Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, when events around the world are held to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence.
First lady Jill Biden said Monday that she and President Joe Biden were “heartbroken, just like the rest of America” by the shooting.
Any time "these tragedies happen, you just think ‘When will it end and when will it stop?'" Biden said following the arrival of the official Christmas tree at the White House.
Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000, is 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Denver.
In 2015, three people were killed and eight wounded at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the city when a gunman targeted the clinic because it performed abortions.
Since 2006, there have been 523 mass killings and 2,727 deaths as of Nov. 19, according to The Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the U.S.
Bedayn is a corps member for 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 undercovered issues.
By THOMAS PEIPERT and JESSE BEDAYN Associated Press
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 news researcher Rhonda Shafner from New York contributed.
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