Anger and sadness honor the victims of the Colorado club shooting

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Hundreds of people, many holding candles and wiping away tears, gathered in a Colorado Springs park Monday night to pay tribute to those killed and wounded when a gunman opened fire on a decades-old nightlife destination. was a haven for the local LGBTQ community.

The vigil came as the suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, remained in hospital after the attack on Saturday night, in which five people were killed and 17 others were shot and wounded before patrons tackled and beat the suspect into submission. Aldrich faces five counts of murder and five counts of bias-motivated assault causing bodily harm, online court records showed.

The attack at Club Q shocked the LGBTQ community in this largely conservative city of about 480,000 people, located 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Denver. At Monday night’s vigil, people hugged and listened as speakers on stage expressed both anger and sadness over the shootings.

Jeremiah Harris, who is 24 and gay, said he went to the club a couple of times a month and recognized one of the victims as a bartender who always served him. He said hearing others speak at the vigil brought him life after the attack.

“Gay people have been here as long as people,” Harris said. “To everyone else who is against this… we’re not going anywhere. We just get louder and you have to deal with it.”

Authorities have not yet released a motive for the attack, but the charges against Aldrich include hate crimes that require proving the gunman was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The charges against Aldrich are preliminary and prosecutors have yet to file formal charges in court.

Court documents on Aldrich’s arrest were sealed at the request of prosecutors. Information on whether Aldrich had an attorney was not immediately available.

Local and federal authorities declined to answer questions during a briefing Monday about why the hate crime allegations were being investigated, citing the ongoing investigation. District Attorney Michael Allen noted that the murder charges would carry the maximum penalty of life in prison, while the first-degree felony charge would be eligible for probation.

“But it’s important to let the community know that we do not tolerate bias crimes in this community, that we support communities that have been defamed, harassed, intimidated and abused,” Allen said, adding that more charges are possible.

More details emerged Monday about those killed and those credited with stopping the shooting.

Authorities said the attack was stopped by two clubgoers, including Richard Fiera, who told reporters he took Aldrich’s gun, hit him and pinned him down with the help of another man.

Fiera, a 15-year U.S. Army veteran who owns a local brewery, said he was celebrating a birthday with family members when the suspect “went in shooting.” Fierro said he lunged at the suspect, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, and pulled him down before beating him severely until police arrived.

Although his actions saved lives, Fiera said the deaths — including that of his daughter’s boyfriend, 22-year-old Raymond Greene Vance — were a tragedy both personally and for the community at large.

“There are five people I couldn’t help. And one of them was family to me, he said as his brother placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

Vance’s family said in a statement that the Colorado Springs native was adored by his family and had recently taken a job at FedEx, where he hoped to save enough money to get his own apartment.

The other victims were identified by authorities and family members as Ashley Pau, 35, a mother who helped find homes for foster children; Daniel Aston, 28, who worked as a bartender and entertainer at the club; Kelly Loving, 40, whose sister described her as “caring and sweet”; and Derrick Rump, 38, another club bartender who was known for his wit and for treating his friends as family.

Thomas James was identified by authorities as the second patron who intervened to stop the shooter. Fierro said a third person also helped — a performer at the club, who Fierro said kicked the suspect in the head.

Thirteen victims remained hospitalized Monday, officials said. Five people were treated and released.

A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon. A pistol and additional magazines with cartridges were also found. The official could not publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

The attack quickly raised questions about why authorities didn’t try to take away Aldrich’s guns in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported he had threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.

Although authorities said at the time that no explosives were found, gun control advocates questioned why police didn’t use Colorado’s “red flag” law to seize the weapon the mother said was in his possession. There is no public record that prosecutors ever filed kidnapping or menacing charges against Aldrich.

It was the sixth mass killing this month, and it comes in a year when the country was rocked by the death of 21 people in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. It also brought back memories of the massacre at Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 dead.

According to the Associated Press/USA Today database of mass murders in the United States, there have been 523 mass murders and 2,727 deaths since 2006 as of November 19.

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Bedine is a member of The Associated Press Corporation/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Reporting for America is a nonprofit national outreach program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported issues.

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Associated Press reporters Haven Daly in Colorado Springs, Colin Slevin in Denver, Darlene Superville in Washington, Steven Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Jeff McMillan in Scranton, Pa., Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, and news researcher Rhonda Schaffner of New York contributed.

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