During the Club Q, Colorado Springs shooting that injured 25, killed 5, patrons hit the gunman with their own weapon.

As bullets ripped through a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring many more, one partygoer rushed into action, grabbing a handgun from the suspect, hitting him with it, and pinning him down until police arrived minutes later.

He was one of at least two customers credited by police and city officials with stopping the gunman and limiting the bloodshed at Club Q on Saturday night. The violence pierced the cozy confines of an entertainment venue that has long been a cherished safe haven for the city’s LGBTQ community.

“Had that individual not intervened this could have been exponentially more tragic,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The Associated Press.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was identified as the alleged gunman by police and was being treated for his injuries.

The suspect used an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon in the attack, according to a law enforcement official, but a handgun and additional ammunition magazines were also recovered. The official could not discuss the investigation’s specifics publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Club Q thanked “quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.” on its Facebook page. El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen said investigators were still determining a motive and whether to charge it as a hate crime. According to him, the suspect will most likely face first-degree murder charges.

Already, questions were being raised about why authorities did not seek to seize Aldrich’s guns when he was arrested in 2021 after his mother reported he threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons. Though authorities said no explosives were found at the time, gun control advocates are questioning why police did not use Colorado’s “red flag” law, which would have allowed authorities to seize the weapons his mother claims he had. There’s also no evidence that prosecutors ever pursued felony kidnapping and menacing charges against Aldrich.

Authorities said that at least seven of the 25 people injured at Club Q were in critical condition. Some were injured while fleeing, and it was unclear whether all of them were shot, according to a police spokesperson. Suthers stated that there was “reason to hope” that all of those admitted to the hospital would recover.

The shooting brought back memories of the 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub, which killed 49 people. Colorado has seen a number of mass shootings, including one at Columbine High School in 1999, another at a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012, and another at a Boulder supermarket last year.

It was the sixth mass killing this month, and it came just a year after the deaths of 21 people in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The first officer arrived at Club Q at midnight after authorities were called at 11:57 p.m. Saturday with a report of a shooting.

Joshua Thurman said he was dancing in the club with about a dozen other people when the shots started. He initially mistook it for music until he heard another shot and saw the flash of a gun muzzle.

Thurman, 34, claimed he and another person dashed to a dressing room where someone was already hiding. They locked the door, turned off the lights, and sat on the floor, but they could hear the gunman being beaten up, he added.

“What could I have lost my life for? What was the goal? “As tears streamed down his cheeks, he said. “We were simply having fun. We weren’t out to hurt anyone. We were in our space, our community, our home, having fun like everyone else.”

Detectives were looking into whether anyone had assisted the suspect prior to the attack, according to Police Chief Adrian Vasquez. Patrons who intervened during the attack, he said, were “heroic” and saved more lives.

According to its website, Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub with a drag show on Saturdays. According to Club Q’s Facebook page, planned entertainment includes a “punk and alternative show” before a birthday dance party, as well as a Sunday all-ages drag brunch.

Drag events have recently become a focal point of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests, with opponents, including politicians, proposing banning children from attending, falsely claiming they are used to “groom” children.

Prosecutors would have to prove that Aldrich was motivated by the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in order to substantiate a hate-crime charge against him. According to an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the suspect has not been cooperative in interviews with investigators and has not yet provided clear insight into the motivation for the attack.

While the motive for the shootings was not immediately clear, President Joe Biden stated, “we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years.”

“Places that are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence,” he said. “We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who became the country’s first openly gay governor in 2018, called the shooting “sickening.”

“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured and traumatized,” Polis said.

A makeshift memorial appeared near the club on Sunday, complete with flowers, a stuffed animal, candles, and a sign reading “Love over hate” next to a rainbow-colored heart.

Seth Stang was on his way to buy flowers for the memorial when he learned that two of the deceased were his friends. The 34-year-old transgender man described it as “having a bucket of hot water dumped on you.” “I’m just tired of running out of places where we can exist safely,” he said.

Ryan Johnson, who lives nearby and was there last month, said it was one of only two LGBTQ nightspots in Colorado Springs. The club is “It’s kind of the go-to for pride,” the 26-year-old said.

Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 people located about 70 miles south of Denver, is home to the United States Air Force Academy, the United States Olympic Training Center, and Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry that opposes LGBTQ rights. The shooting, according to the group, “exposes the evil and wickedness inside the human heart.”

Three people were killed and eight were injured at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the city in November 2015, when authorities say a gunman targeted the clinic because it performed abortions.

The shooting occurred during Transgender Awareness Week, just before the start of Sunday’s International Transgender Day of Remembrance, when events are held around the world to mourn and remember transgender people who have died as a result of violence.

According to The Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the United States, there have been 523 mass killings and 2,727 deaths since 2006.

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