“Heroic” clubgoers fought and stopped a gunman shortly after he opened fire inside a LGBTQ nightclub in the US city of Colorado Springs, killing at least five people and injuring 18 others, said police.
Police identified the suspect as Anderson Lee Aldrich, a 22-year-old man, who shot at patrons with a long rifle, a powerful weapon that can inflict devastating wounds.
The suspect was taken into police custody shortly after the shooting, and was being treated for injuries, according to officials. Several of the injured were in critical condition and being treated at local hospitals.
The club also said the suspect was subdued by patrons.
Authorities received a report of a shooting at Club Q at 23:57 local time (07:57 CET) and responded within minutes, said police.
Club Q, which describes itself as an adult-oriented gay and lesbian nightclub, called Saturday night’s events a “hate attack” in a statement on its Facebook page. Authorities said they were investigating whether the attack was motivated by hate.
Two firearms were found at the scene at Club Q, Colorado Springs Police Department Chief Adrian Vasquez said at a press conference on Sunday morning, .
“Club Q is a safe haven for our LGBTQ citizens,” he said. “I’m so terribly saddened and heartbroken.”
The latest incident occurred as anti-gay rhetoric has intensified in the United States, and in a statement, Club Q termed the shooting a hate attack.
“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community,” the club posted on its Facebook page.
It said its prayers were with victims and families, adding: “We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who in 2018 became the first openly gay man in the country to be elected governor, commended the “brave individuals who blocked the gunman” in a statement released on Twitter in which he called the shooting “horrific, sickening, and devastating.”
The violence is the sixth mass killing this month and comes in a year when the nation was shaken by the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
The US Justice Department said Attorney General Merrick Garland has been briefed on the shooting, and the FBI said it was providing assistance to Colorado Springs police, but said the police department was leading the investigation.
Colorado Springs is a city of about 480,000 located about 112 kilometres south of Denver that is home to the US Air Force Academy, as well as Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry.