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‘All the trappings of a hate crime’: Police seek motive in deadly shooting at Colorado gay nightclub

Crime scene tape and police lights. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Authorities on Monday were seeking a motive in the attack on a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs that left five people dead and more than 20 injured.

The gunman, who was identified by police as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, opened fire at Club Q just before midnight Saturday, police said. He was quickly taken into custody when police arrived a few minutes after receiving a call, authorities said.

Investigators are continuing to search for a possible motive, city officials said in TV interviews Monday morning, adding that the investigation is still in the early stages.

“We’re looking at this as a bias-motivated or hate crime type of incident,” Michael Allen, district attorney for the fourth judicial district in Colorado Springs, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday. “And we will learn more as this investigation progresses.”

“By all accounts,” Aldrich is currently the only suspect, Allen said.

In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show on Monday morning, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said the motive is still under investigation, but “it has “all the trappings of a hate crime.”

“We need to look at social media, we need to look at all kinds of other information that we’re gathering from people that knew the individual, before we make any definitive conclusions about a motivation,” he said.

“At least two heroic people” confronted the gunman and stopped the shooting, said Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez, adding: “We owe them a great debt of thanks.”

One of the people in the bar took a handgun from the shooter and hit him with it, Suthers said in an interview with CNN.

Suthers called it an “incredible act of heroism.”

Of the 25 people injured, 19 have gunshot wounds, Suthers said. None of those is “deemed truly critical,” the mayor said.

A patron who was in the bar told local station KRDO-TV Channel 13: “As I was dancing on the dance floor, I heard shots fired. I thought it was the music because there were no screams. There was no, ‘Help, help.’”

When he realized what was going on, he ran into a dressing room where he and others locked the door, turned out the lights and got on the floor.

“We heard everything. We heard more shots fired. We heard the assailant being beat up by someone that I assume had tackled him. We heard the police come in, we heard them yelling at him,” the patron said.

“All I could think about is everything, my life,” he said before breaking down in tears.

Keoni Moore, 20, who identifies as nonbinary, is a DJ who worked at Club Q before recently moving to another club just across the street.

He was at work Saturday night and realized something was terribly wrong when he heard sirens and saw ambulances arriving at Club Q.

“Who is in there? Who’s going to get out? Who am I not going to see anymore?” he wondered.

As of Sunday afternoon, he had heard that two friends and former co-workers had been killed.

He said they were warm, welcoming and funny — and helped make Club Q what it was.

“It was very welcoming,” he said. “Every time you came in, whether you were new or had been there for so long, there was never a stuck-up feeling like you don’t belong.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who in 2018 became the first out gay man in the United States to be elected governor, said, “My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured and traumatized in this horrific shooting.”

The gunman used an AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon in the shooting, the Associated Press reported. A handgun and ammunition magazines were also recovered at the scene, authorities said.

Investigators are looking into whether the suspect purchased the AR-15-style rifle himself legally.

Polis ordered all flags on all public buildings in Colorado to be flown at half-staff for five days, beginning at sunrise Monday until sunset Saturday, to honor each of the five who died.

© 2022 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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