A 22-year-old man was facing murder and potential hate crime charges on Monday after a shooting rampage at an LGBTQ nightclub in the western US city of Colorado Springs that left five people dead and at least 18 others injured.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was overpowered by patrons after opening fire in the club Saturday night, is currently hospitalized while awaiting formal charges, police chief Adrian Vasquez said.
District Attorney Michael Allen said he expects first-degree murder charges to be filed and "if the evidence supports bias-motivated crimes, we will charge that as well."
"There's obviously some evidence," Allen told CNN. "The location is some evidence.
"The fact that these victims were in a specific location that is predominantly frequented by members of the LGBTQ community -- that is evidence that we can use," he said.
John Suthers, the mayor of Colorado Springs, told NBC's "Today" show that while the motive was still under investigation, "it certainly has the trappings of a hate crime."
GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, noted that the shooting at Club Q came on the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors victims of transphobic attacks, and amid an uptick in hostility against the LGBTQ community in the United States.
"You can draw a straight line from the false and vile rhetoric about LGBTQ people spread by extremists and amplified across social media, to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, to the dozens of attacks on our community like this one," GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.
Colorado Representative Brianna Titone, an openly transgender state legislator, also singled out anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
"When politicians and pundits keep perpetuating tropes, insults, and misinformation about the trans and LGBTQ+ community, this is a result," Titone tweeted.
The attack was the deadliest on the LGBTQ community in the United States since a 2016 mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida that claimed 49 lives.
Transgender rights were a hot-button issue in the United States leading up to midterm elections earlier this month, with Republicans putting forward a slew of legislative proposals to restrict them.
- Gunman overpowered -
Suthers said the gunman was overpowered in an "incredible act of heroism" by patrons of the club.
"Two, but primarily one as I understand it, are able to take a handgun that he's got in his possession, take it away from him and use that weapon, not by shooting it, but by hitting him and disabling him," he said.
"That act probably saved a lot of lives, there's no question about that."
Colorado Springs police said five people were killed and 18 injured, 17 with gunshot wounds. Another victim was at the scene with "no visible injuries," according to an official statement.
Police had previously said up to 30 people were injured.
Vasquez, the police chief, told CNN the suspect, who was armed with an "AR-style" rifle and a handgun, was in hospital.
The police chief condemned what he called an "evil act" and pledged to do everything he can to make the community in Colorado Springs feel safe again.
Allen said the suspect was capable of speaking, but would not be drawn on whether he had answered questions, citing his constitutional right to remain silent.
According to police, the suspect entered the club and immediately began shooting.
Police arrived within four minutes of receiving a call about an active shooting.
Bartender Michael Anderson praised the patrons who overpowered the gunman.
"There were some very brave people beating him and kicking him, stopping him from causing more damage," he said. "They saved my life."
- 'It was so scary' -
Joshua Thurman was also in the club.
"It was so scary," Thurman said. "There were bodies on the floor. There was shattered glass, broken cups, people crying.
"It was supposed to be our safe space," he said. "Where are we supposed to go?"
President Joe Biden condemned the attack.
"We must drive out the inequities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hate," he said.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who in 2018 became the first openly gay man elected as a US state governor, called the shooting "horrific, sickening and devastating."
Biden and Polis spoke on Monday, the White House said.
A man with the same name as Aldrich was arrested on June 18 last year after his mother said he had threatened her with a homemade bomb, according to a news release at the time from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
Vasquez, the police chief, said the suspect's mother was not cooperating with the authorities at this time. Allen declined immediate comment on the 2021 incident.