Colorado Springs’ Club Q was the only ‘safe space’ in hometown to anti-gay right

Joshua Thurman, of Colorado Springs, reacts the morning after a mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on November 20, 2022. (Photo by JASON CONNOLLY/AFP via Getty Images)

“This is our only safe space here in the Springs,” Joshua Thurman, a survivor of the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, said in an interview.

22-year-old alleged gunman Anderson Lee Aldrich was taken into custody early Sunday morning after opening fire inside the nightclub. The mass shooting spree took five lives and injured 18 more.

“What are we going to do now?” Joshua told KRDO Network. “Where are we going to go? Yeah, we can rebuild and come together. But what about those people who lost their lives for no reason? The other 18 that were injured? I could have been one of them. How are we going to feel safe in our city? This was the only LGBTQIA+ space in the entire city of Colorado Springs.”

The shooting, yet to be deemed a hate crime, occurred minutes to midnight on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance. The club was preparing for a drag brunch to commemorate the day, but instead, Club Q announced that it will remain closed until further notice as millions across the globe grieve another act of senseless gun violence.

Club Q was a safe haven for the LGBTQ community in a town that for decades has been home to many religious alt-right groups, including the vicious hate group Focus on the Family.

Matthew Haynes launched Club Q two decades ago to shelter the community from the onslaught of anti-gay rhetoric slung by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson as well as other right-wing leaders in the area.

Haynes mused that Club Q had become more than a club where people celebrated: It was a de facto community center.

“There have been so many happy stories from Club Q,” he told The Colorado Sun on Sunday morning. “People meeting and relationships being born. So many celebrations there. We’re a family of people more than a place to have a drink and dance and leave.”

More gun violence?

Witness reports say the alleged shooter “immediately” began shooting people upon entering the nightclub. At least two “heroic” patrons confronted and fought the gunman, according to Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez. The horrific mass shooting brought back haunting memories of the June 12, 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre, which left 49 dead.

Law enforcement officials said Aldrich’s “interactions with law enforcement” are part of the broader investigation.

Sources link Aldrich to an arrest in June 2021, when a man with the same name and age threatened his mother with “a homemade bomb, multiple weapons, and ammunition.”

President Biden and Governor Polis respond to the mass shooting

In a statement from the White House, President Biden, a champion of queer equality, said, “While no motive in this attack is yet clear, we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years. Gun violence continues to have a devastating and particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation and threats of violence are increasing.” 

President Biden continued, “Places that are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence. Yet it happens far too often. We must drive out the inequities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”

In a statement on Facebook, Club Q said it was “devastated by the senseless attack on our community.”

“Our prayers and thoughts are with all the victims, their families, and friends. We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”

While authorities are not clear on the shooter’s motive, many have called for more tolerant public policy and stricter gun laws. Police are still determining whether the attack is a hate crime, but the local district attorney, Michael Allen, said it will be investigated with “that lens.” The FBI is also on the scene to assist in the investigation.

“This is horrific, sickening, and devastating,” Governor Jared Polis said in a statement. “My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured and traumatized in this horrific shooting. I have spoken with Mayor Suthers and made it clear that every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs. We are eternally grateful for the brave individuals who blocked the gunman likely saving lives in the process and for the first responders who responded swiftly to this horrific shooting. Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn together.”

RELATED: Colorado Springs comes together to mourn victims of Club Q shooting