Colorado Springs officials on Monday identified the five people killed in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub over the weekend and hailed the two men who stopped the gunman as heroes — but released few other details about the incident, the suspected shooter or a sealed 2021 criminal case that has drawn intense interest.
The five people killed — Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Green Vance — died after a gunman opened fire at Club Q just before midnight Saturday in an incident that’s being investigated as a hate crime.
Two of the victims, Rump and Aston, worked as bartenders at the beloved nightclub. Others were out to grab a drink or celebrate. Eighteen others were injured.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers praised Thomas James and Richard Fierro, the two men who stopped the shooter.
“He saved a lot of lives,” Suthers said of Fierro.
Colorado Springs police on Monday lowered the number of people injured in the shooting to 18. Seventeen people were shot and one person was injured in another manner, according to a news release. Police on Sunday first had said 18 people were injured, then raised that figure to 25.
The suspect, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, is being held on suspicion of five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of bias-motivated crimes causing bodily injury, court records show. The felony counts are “arrest-only charges,” meaning prosecutors have not officially filed charges and the charges could change.
Prosecutors with the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office requested that the suspect’s arrest affidavit be sealed and hidden from public view because releasing the information would jeopardize the investigation. Magistrate Amanda Philipps granted the request.
District Attorney Michael Allen said he would pursue bias-motivated crime charges in addition to murder charges if the evidence exists.
“It’s important to let the community know that we don’t tolerate bias-motivated crimes in this community,” he said.
Aldrich remained hospitalized Monday, Colorado Springs police Lt. Pam Castro said. No court date has been set for Aldrich, the court records show.
Questions about 2021 case
Officials declined to answer most questions from reporters about the shooting and the suspect at a news conference Monday, citing the ongoing investigation. They did not answer questions about any previous interactions Aldrich had with law enforcement; why investigators believe the shooting is a hate crime; where Aldrich obtained the gun he used; whether there were previous threats to Club Q; whether Aldrich has made any statements to investigators; or whether Aldrich had visited the club previously.
Allen declined to answer questions about the 2021 arrest of a man with the same name and age as Aldrich suspected of making a bomb threat. El Paso County sheriff’s deputies arrested an Anderson Lee Aldrich on suspicion of felony menacing and first-degree kidnapping on June 18, 2021, but no court records exist showing what happened to the case.
The DA would not say whether the man arrested in 2021 was the same as the Club Q shooting suspect. He explained that Colorado law forbids public officials from talking about criminal cases that have been sealed and instructs officials to say “no such public record exists” when asked about sealed cases.
“Hopefully at some point in the near future we can share more about that,” Allen said.
Colorado lawmakers in 2019 passed a bill that automatically seals criminal cases that are dismissed because of acquittal or because the defendant completes a deferred judgment or diversion program.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported it received a voice message from Aldrich in August asking the newspaper to remove a story about the 2021 arrest because the case was dropped. The newspaper added an editor’s note to the story stating prosecutors did not pursue formal charges and the case was sealed.
A coalition of news outlets, including The Denver Post, filed a petition Monday asking that the 2021 case be unsealed. Colorado law allows the public to request a sealed record be made public if “circumstances have come into existence since the original sealing and, as a result, the public interest in disclosure now outweighs the defendant’s interest in privacy.”
“As a result of the defendant’s recent acts, the public interest in disclosure of his prior criminal justice records now greatly outweighs his interest in privacy,” attorney Steve Zansberg wrote in the petition on behalf of the news outlets.
Red flag law not used
Allen declined to speak about whether law enforcement should have pursued an extreme risk protection order against Aldrich, under Colorado’s red flag law, after the 2021 incident. Extreme risk protection orders allow loved ones or law enforcement to petition a judge to take away firearms from someone who is a danger to themselves or others and prevent them from buying new guns while the order is in effect.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office never attempted to file an extreme risk protection order against Aldrich after the 2021 arrest, court records show. The sheriff’s office has not filed a request for such a protection order since the law went into effect Jan. 1, 2020. The Colorado Springs Police Department has filed two requests — one of which was a request to take weapons from a man threatening a detective in the department.
In contrast, the Denver Police Department filed at least 22 requests for an extreme risk protection order in just 2020.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to questions Monday about Aldrich or the agency’s policies regarding extreme risk protection orders.
“Law enforcement agencies in appropriate situations should take advantage of it and utilize it,” Suthers said when asked about the law at the news conference Monday, though he warned against assuming such a petition would be warranted.
Of the people injured at Club Q, seven were sent to Centura Penrose Hospital, according to spokeswoman Lindsay Radford. As of early Monday afternoon, four had been treated and released and three remained in stable condition.
“Everyone who came in did very well and is doing very well from a clinical standpoint,” said Dr. Laura Trujillo, a trauma and critical care surgeon. “They’ve got good support, and it seems like they feel safe here.”
Several of those patients suffered multiple injuries, Trujillo said, though it’s difficult to say precisely how many times they might have been shot.
Investigators are asking anyone who was at Club Q during the shooting or who has information to contact the FBI by calling 1-800-225-5324.
On Monday night, hundreds of people packed into a Denver event hall and adjoining nightclub to memorialize and grieve the five killed in Saturday’s shooting.
Faith and community leaders, along with stream of Colorado politicians, called on citizens and elected officials alike to stand up in the face of rising anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
“I’m angry because of the people culpable that normalize hate so much that someone would go out shoot and kill innocent people,” said Scott Levin, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League. “I am angry at those that normalize hate and those who are culpable.”
Speaker after speaker recalled standing on the same stage six years ago after the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, Fla. They remembered consoling community members after Newtown and Parkland, Highland Park and El Paso.
“Our country has become way too intimate with the violence of mass shootings,” said Nadine Bridges, executive director of One Colorado, “and it has to stop now.”