Steamboat Springs mourns victims of Colorado Springs night club shooting
Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A somber gathering in downtown Steamboat Springs on Monday night, Nov. 21, was meant to mourn the five people killed and 18 wounded two days earlier when a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, but it also came with a call for help.
The suspected shooter, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, faces five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury in Saturday night’s attack at Club Q. He remained hospitalized with unspecified injuries, police said.
In Steamboat, more than three dozen people including local law enforcement officials amassed Monday outside the old Routt County Courthouse for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the latest mass shooting, their families and show support for the LGBTQ community.
“Club Q was regarded as a safe space, a hub for queer people in an often hostile community,” said Chelsie Holmes as she offered brief remarks during the ceremony. “This safe space has been robbed of them.”
Holmes serves as the confidential services program director at Advocates of Routt County, which advocates for members of the LGBTQ community. On Monday, Holmes emphasized that Colorado Springs isn’t very far from Steamboat Springs, and she said many people here either know someone who has been directly affected by the shooting or has been personally affected themselves.
“This serves as a reminder that queer people, in particularly trans people, are not only victimized by hate when there is a mass shooting at a queer night club,“ Holmes continued. “Thirty-four trans people have been killed by anti-trans hate in the United States this year.”
She then read the names of the five victims before holding a moment of silence for them and finally asking everyone in the crowd for help.
“It‘s important to hold space for our grief and our sadness. It is also important to create space for outrage,” Holmes said. “This is not how the world needs to be. This is not inevitable. LGBTQ people are beautiful and deserving of lives full of joy, and love, and safety and abundance.“
Holmes expressed hope at seeing so many people gathered in support of the LGBTQ community. However, she said she also sees hate in abundance, especially in social media comments in community forums on local news posts, and she asked for help standing up against it.
“This tragedy happened because hateful rhetoric has become the norm. It‘s been allowed to fester and recruit people, and I‘m afraid to live here when I see hate speech on our local forums and no response to it or an inadequate response to it,” Holmes said. “It might seem silly, but it’s not. This is how this is spreading, on social media. Please, stand up for us every opportunity you get, all the time. We have a chance to make this a community where anti-LGBTQ hatred is not tolerated.“
The charges against Aldrich were preliminary, and prosecutors had not filed them in court. The hate crime charges would require proving that the gunman was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
The attack was halted when a patron grabbed a handgun from Aldrich, hit him with it and pinned him down until police arrived minutes later. A man who said he helped subdue the gunman told The Associated Press that he was at the club with his family when the attack happened.
Richard Fierro injured his hands, knees and ankle while stopping the shooter, according to a Facebook post Monday by the brewery that Fierro operates with his wife. Fierro’s daughter hurt her knee as she ran for cover, and her boyfriend was killed, the post said.
“I’m OK. There are others who aren’t,” Fierro said.
Court documents laying out what led to Aldrich’s arrest have been sealed at the request of prosecutors, who said releasing details could jeopardize the investigation. Information on whether Aldrich had a lawyer was not immediately available.
A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon, and a handgun and additional ammunition magazines also were recovered. The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Officials on Monday clarified that 18 people were hurt in the attack, not 25 as they said originally. Among them was one person whose injury was not a gunshot wound. Another victim had no visible injuries, they said.
Thirteen people remained hospitalized Monday, officials said. Five people have been treated and released.
Mayor John Suthers said there was “reason to hope” all of the hospitalized victims would recover.
The assault quickly raised questions about why authorities did not seek to take Aldrich’s guns away from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported he threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.
Though authorities at the time said no explosives were found, gun-control advocates have asked why police didn’t use Colorado’s “red flag” laws to seize the weapons his mother says he had. There’s no public record prosecutors ever moved forward with felony kidnapping and menacing charges against Aldrich.
The shooting rekindled memories of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people. Colorado has experienced several mass killings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a Boulder supermarket last year.
It was the sixth mass killing this month, and it came in a year when the nation was shaken by the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
The violence pierced the cozy confines of an entertainment venue long cherished as a safe spot for the LGBTQ community in the conservative-leaning city.
A makeshift memorial that sprang up in the hours after the attack continued to grow Monday, as a steady stream of mourners brought flowers and left messages in support of the LGBTQ community. The shooting site remained cordoned off.
“It’s a reminder that love and acceptance still have a long way to go,” Colorado Springs resident Mary Nikkel said at the site. “This growing monument to people is saying that it matters what happened to you … We’re just not letting it go.”
Thomas Peipert and Jesse Bedayn of The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story is from SteamboatPilot.com.
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