“Heroic” clubgoers fought and stopped a gunman shortly after he opened fire inside a LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing at least five people and injuring 18 others, police said on Sunday.
Police identified the suspect as Anderson Lee Aldrich, a 22-year-old man, who shot at patrons with a long rifle, a powerful weapon that can inflict devastating wounds.
The suspect was taken into police custody shortly after the shooting broke out and was being treated for injuries, according to officials.
Club Q, which describes itself as an adult-oriented gay and lesbian nightclub, called Saturday night’s events a “hate attack” in a statement on its Facebook page. Authorities said they were investigating whether the attack was motivated by hate.
Two firearms were found at the scene at Club Q, Colorado Springs Police Department Chief Adrian Vasquez said at a press conference on Sunday morning, .
“Club Q is a safe haven for our LGBTQ citizens,” he said. “I’m so terribly saddened and heartbroken.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who in 2018 became the first openly gay man in the country to be elected governor, commended the “brave individuals who blocked the gunman” in a statement released on Twitter in which he called the shooting “horrific, sickening, and devastating.”
Several of the injured were in critical condition and being treated at local hospitals, authorities said.
Police said the initial phone call came just before midnight about the shooting, and that the suspect was apprehended within minutes.
Images of the scene after the shooting showed security and emergency vehicles with flashing blinkers parked on a street near the venue.
By 4 a.m. local time (1100 GMT), police had taped off the area around the club, which is located in a strip mall on the outskirts of Colorado Springs.
The city is home to just over 480,000 people and is located roughly 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Denver. Colorado has a grim history of mass violence, including the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School and a rampage at a movie theater that rocked Denver in 2012.
The shooting at Club Q was reminiscent of the 2016 Pulse club massacre when a gunman killed 49 people at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, before he was shot dead by police. At the time, it was the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history until a shooter killed 60 people at a music festival in Las Vegas in 2017.
The events in Colorado Springs unfolded as LGBTQ communities and allies around the world prepared to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual recurrence to honor victims of transphobia.
It also comes amid a divisive political climate that has heightened anxiety among many LGBTQ communities and after a string of threats and violent incidents targeting LGBTQ people and events in recent months.
“The attack on Club Q, which fell on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, is despicable — further shattering the sense of safety of LGBTQ Americans across the country,” the Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.