Prosecutors pursue hate crime charges in Colorado LGBTQ nightclub shooting

The suspect in the shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs is being held by police on murder and hate crimes charges. Anderson Aldrich is accused of killing five people and wounding nearly 20 others. Stephanie Sy reports on the investigation and speaks with Nadine Bridges of the LGBTQ advocacy group One Colorado.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The suspect in the shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs is being held by police on preliminary murder and hate crimes charges.

    Anderson Aldrich is accused of killing five people and wounding nearly 20 others on Saturday night.

    Stephanie Sy begins our coverage.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Police have so far released few details about the shooting. The suspected gunman is a 22-year-old who was said to have previously threatened his mother and neighborhood with a bomb in 2021. There were no records of Colorado's red flag laws being triggered, which would have allowed authorities to temporarily seize his weapons.

    Among the victims, Daniel Aston, a 28-year-old transgender man who worked as a bartender at Club Q, Derrick Rump, a 38-year-old bartender and Club Q co-owner, Kelly Loving, a 40-year-old transgender woman visiting from her home in Denver, 22-year-old Raymond Green Vance, and 35-year-old Ashley Paugh.

    At least 18 others were injured, some of whom remain in critical condition. Witnesses recalled hearing gunshots thinking at first they were a part of the music, before the reality of the situation hit.

  • Joshua Thurman, Witness:

    We saw bodies. It was horrible.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Police started receiving 911 calls around 11:57 p.m. The gunman entered the club and immediately opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle. He had multiple firearms. At least one patron fought and disarmed the shooter, subduing him until officers arrived just minutes later.

    Today, the mayor of Colorado Springs praised that bravery.

    John Suthers (R), Mayor of Colorado Springs, Colorado: It's an incredible act of heroism. And I think, when you look at this and the time frame, that act probably saved a lot of lives. There's no question about that.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Saturday was the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day meant to memorialize trans victims loss to hate crimes. For Colorado Springs, the day now marks an unthinkable tragedy that happened in a space that was supposed to be safe.

  • Joshua Thurman:

    Our community is shattered. This is the only LGBTQIA+ space we have in the city of Colorado Springs. Where are we going to go?

  • Stephanie Sy:

    For residents of Colorado Springs mourning those they have lost, the pain is still fresh and remains a grim reminder of violence aimed at LGBTQ Americans

    During a press conference moments ago, prosecutor said the preliminary charges could change during the course of the investigation. But police did not release any major new details about the case or the motive.

    I want to get some reaction now to the shooting and the fear and anger clearly many are feeling.

    Nadine Bridges is the executive director of One Colorado, a leading advocacy group in the state working to advance equality for LGBTQ individuals.

    Nadine Bridges, thank you for joining the "NewsHour" during what must be a very difficult day for you and your community.

    When you learned about the location of this mass shooting, the fact that it was in Colorado Springs, that that club was hosting a drag show to commemorate Trans Day of Remembrance the next day, what was your initial reaction?

  • Nadine Bridges, Executive Director, One Colorado:

    I was shocked.

    I received a message from one of our partner organizations in Oklahoma at 6:15 in the morning. And I have very — I work very closely with some of the LGBTQ+ leaders in Colorado Springs, and I was absolutely heartbroken. I'm devastated. We all are.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    And I know you were actually at the vigil last night in Colorado Springs. You have been to other vigils. You have been meeting with members of the community.

    What is the response shaping up to look like from members of the community? What do they want to do now?

  • Nadine Bridges:

    Yes, we were — I was at the vigil yesterday afternoon.

    And I think, at this point, it's only been 36 hours, and our community is really just trying to come together to ensure that all of our members who have been harmed, who are dealing with grief, that they have the resources that they need. We want them to know that we care for them and that we love them.

    You know, for those local leaders, like Jessie Pocock, the executive director of Inside Out in Colorado Springs, which is the only youth center in the area, we have provided them with the resources they need and the support that they need to just kind of get through in these next weeks and months.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    We still don't know the motivations of the shooter, Nadine, but investigators, they say, are looking at this through the lens of it possibly being a hate crime.

    As you learn the scant details that we know, is there any other way for you to see this attack?

  • Nadine Bridges:

    No, I mean, I don't know the motives. And I most certainly don't want to make assumptions.

    But what I do know is that there's a lot of attacks on our community. There has been a lot of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric for political gain. We know that there are folks, leaders in the community who have made it a point to harm our transgender, nonbinary and gender-expansive youth in the community.

    And when you have this type of rhetoric, and you don't provide support to communities who may feel lonely, it breeds hate. And so there's no doubt in my mind that whether this is deemed as a hate crime is — I don't know.

    But what I do know that, when you have to kill five people and harm 20 other people and potentially could have killed them many more, that's hate. And that's motivated by hate.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The last mass shooting targeting a gay nightclub was in Florida several years ago; 49 people were killed. But I also understand that gay and trans people are killed every year.

    In fact, there was a report out just a few days ago from the Human Rights Campaign that at least 32 trans people have been violently killed already this year. Was what happened this weekend a wakeup call?

  • Nadine Bridges:

    I wish I could say that it was a wakeup call.

    We do Transgender Day of Remembrance every year, when we talk about the transgender women, in particular, trans women of color who are murdered in our communities, and yet we still have folks who think it's a — it's OK to say harmful things and to make our community a butt of their jokes.

    We know that they are attacking our drag queen story times, saying negative things about youth who are just trying to be themselves. And I wish I could say that this is a wakeup call, you know, but I don't know.

    What I do know is that our community is beautiful and strong, and they will continue to support each other. We're not going to hide from this. We're going to continue to push until our community members and our political leaders do what they need to do to protect our communities.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    And I should add that your community members showed great bravery and heroism as well over the weekend.

  • Nadine Bridges:

    Absolutely.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Nadine Bridges, the executive director of One Colorado, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour" tonight.

  • Nadine Bridges:

    Thank you for having me.

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