COLORADO SPRINGS, (NewsNation) — Authorities in Colorado Monday are searching for the possible motive after a suspect killed at least five people and injured 25 people at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.
Officials said the alleged 22-year-old suspect, who police identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich, opened fire with an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon inside Club Q sometime shortly before midnight Sunday. Police said he was also carrying a handgun and additional ammunition magazines.
Investigators were still determining a motive and whether to prosecute it as a hate crime, El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen said to NewsNation on-air Monday morning.
“We’re looking at also hate crime potentially if there’s any bias-motivated aspects of this. There’s obviously some evidence of that based on the fact of where this occurred,” Allen said. “We’re going to be looking closely at that and any statements that he may have made prior to coming down here to commit this horrible act.”
Allen told NewsNation that the suspect should be released from the hospital Monday, and he could appear in court Monday or Tuesday. Charges against the suspect will likely include first-degree murder, he said.
Colorado Springs Police are expected to hold a press conference with the latest developments at 1 p.m. central Monday.
One victim killed in the shooting, Daniel Aston, a 28-year-old transgender man and the self-proclaimed “Master of Silly Business,” was remembered by his mother in an interview with NewsNation affiliate KDVR Sunday night. . Aston had performed and bartended at Club Q, a place his mother said allowed Aston to be himself.
The attack ended when a patron grabbed a handgun from the suspect and hit him with it, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The Associated Press. The person who hit the gunman had him pinned down when police arrived, Suthers said.
Witnesses described a harrowing two minutes where Aldrich allegedly worked his way through the club firing his rifle into the crowd while guests ducked for cover or ran for the doors.
Of the 25 injured, at least seven were in critical condition, authorities said. Some were hurt trying to flee, and it was unclear if all of the victims were shot, a police spokesperson said. Among them was the DJ performing that night and an 80-year-old man, who was described as a regular at Club Q.
Suthers said there was “reason to hope” that all of those hospitalized would recover.
Joshua Thurman said he was in the club with about two dozen other people and was dancing when the shots began. He initially thought it was part of the music until he heard another shot and said he saw the flash of a gun muzzle.
Thurman, 34, said he ran with another person to a dressing room where someone already was hiding. They locked the door, turned off the lights, and got on the floor but could hear the violence unfolding, including the gunman getting beaten up, he added.
“There was nothing stopping that man from coming through those doors, the doors were locked but they weren’t bolted. There was nothing stopping it from coming through and ending us all.”
At least two people are now being called heroes, credited with charging Aldrich, grabbing his gun, hitting him with it, and pinning him down until the first police officers arrived three minutes later. Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said their quick thinking saved countless lives.
Detectives also were examining whether anyone had helped Aldrich before the attack, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said. He said patrons who intervened during the attack were “heroic” and owed a debt of gratitude for preventing 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.
Suthers noted that the club had operated for 21 years and had not reported any threats before Saturday’s attack.
NewsNation affiliate KDVR and The Associated Press contributed to this report.