Hundreds of people, some holding candles or wiping away tears, turned out at a Colorado Springs park last night to pay tribute to the victims of a mass shooting at a nightclub that for decades was home to the local LGBTQ community.
The vigil Monday came as the suspect, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, remains hospitalized. In the attack on Saturday night, five people were killed and 17 shot before bystanders subdued and beat the assailant. Aldrich is charged with five counts of murder and five counts of bias crimes causing bodily harm, according to court documents.
The Club Q shooting has shocked the LGBTQ community in this conservative city of about 480,000 located about 70 miles (100 kilometers) south of Denver.
At the vigil, attendees embraced and listened in silence as speakers on a dais expressed their anger and grief over the massacre.
Jeremiah Harris, who is 24 years old and gay, recounted that he went to the club a couple of times a month and now realized that one of the victims was the bartender who always served him. He said it was moving to listen to the others during the vigil.
“Gay people have been here as long as everyone else has been here,” Harris said. “To those who oppose that, I say, we are not going anywhere. We will be more active and they will have to get used to that.”
Authorities have not discussed a possible motive for the attack, but Aldrich has been charged with hate crimes, forcing prosecution to try to prove the crime was motivated by bias, such as against actual or perceived sexual orientation. of the victims or their gender identification. The charges against Aldrich, however, are preliminary and the prosecution has not yet filed formal charges in court.
The court documents relating to Aldrich’s arrest are under judicial secrecy at the request of the prosecution. At this time it has not been reported if Aldrich has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
At a Monday news conference, authorities declined to discuss why they filed hate crime charges, saying the investigation is ongoing. Prosecutor Michael Allen noted that murder charges carry the harshest penalty — life in prison — while hate crimes can result in probation.
“But it’s important that the community knows that we will not tolerate bias crimes in this community, that we will stand with communities that have been vilified, harassed, intimidated and abused,” Allen said, adding that more charges may be forthcoming.
More details emerged on Monday about the victims and those who subdued the attacker, preventing further tragedy.
Authorities say the attack was stopped by two club patrons including Richard Fierro, who told reporters that he seized Aldrich’s gun, hit him with it and pinned him to the ground with the help of another patron.
Bedayn is a participant in the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative program. Report for America is a non-profit program that assigns journalists to newsrooms to report on under-reported issues.
Contributing to this story were reporters Haven Daley in Colorado Springs, Colleen Slevin in Denver, Darlene Superville in Washington, Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Jeff McMillan in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, and Rhonda Shafner in New York.
Source: El Nuevo Herald