Shooting at LGBTQ+ club will be investigated as a hate crime 1:45
(WABNEWS) — Days after the Club Q shooting, the LGBTQ community of Colorado Springs, Colorado isn’t just grieving for their friends. They are also mourning the violent assault on what many considered their home, their safe space.
Club Q was more than just a place to have a fun night of music, dancing and drag performances, they said. The modest building was one of the few spaces in the city where members of the LGBTQ community could feel safe being themselves.RELATED
Until recently, Club Q was the only LGBTQ club in a city with a reputation for being a conservative stronghold and an anti-gay history.
“In such a dark and angry world, it felt like home in that place,” said Jewels Parks, a drag queen and regular at the club. “We could relax, forget about our problems at work, with the family, with society. Thanks to Club Q, we were able to make friends who became family and we were accepted.”
This Saturday night, a gunman entered Club Q and started a deadly shootout before two patrons managed to get past the attacker.
“The LGBTQIA+ community has already suffered a lot of bigotry and hate,” Parks said. “To have our safe place taken away and lose members of our community is another kind of pain.”
Police identify victims of Colorado nightclub shooting 2:46
The city has a clear anti-LGBTQ history. In the 1990s, the Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian group Colorado for Family Values sponsored Amendment 2, which prevented state and local governments from avoiding discrimination based on sexual orientation. That earned Colorado the nickname “the hate state” and Colorado Springs “was considered a city of hate and bigotry,” according to the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum. The US Supreme Court later struck down the amendment.
Club Q opened up a whole new world for Antonio Taylor when he discovered the venue in 2020, attending his first drag show. Taylor had grown up in Colorado Springs, but often felt like an outsider, he said, receiving hateful glares and comments from people he passed.
But at Club Q, Taylor not only felt safe, but truly loved. It was that community that helped him come out as bisexual, Taylor said.
“The people there made me feel like part of a family. Seeing so many people proud of themselves definitely influenced me to be my true self,” Taylor told WABNEWS.
Lifelong Colorado Springs resident Tiana Nicole Dykes called Club Q “a second home full of chosen families.”
“This space means the world to me. The energy, the people, the message. It’s an incredible place that didn’t deserve this tragedy,” said Dykes, who lost close friends in the shooting and has others seriously injured.
Taylor and other patrons talk about the club in the past tense after the shooting, not because it no longer exists, but because that sense of safety and joy is gone.
Visiting the club for the first time a year ago, Lily Forsell was overjoyed. She had found a space for herself as a member of the LGBTQ community, even though she was not yet 21 years old.
“If you were under 21, they would put these X marks on your hand to make sure no one gave you alcohol,” he said. “It goes without saying that even as a minor, you were welcomed and cared for. They made sure you had a good time while keeping you safe.”
Forsell had just left Club Q after celebrating his 18th birthday when the shooting broke out.
As she was leaving, she remembers the scene on the dance floor: dozens of people laughing, singing, and dancing, as they always did after the night’s drag show.
“I’m going to miss the feeling I got from being in those drag shows,” Forsell said. “Full of joy and support for others. It will not be the same. Still supporting, but in a different way.”
Several people WABNEWS spoke to said they were scared by the shooting.
Cole Danielson worked as a drag king at Club Q when he first moved to Colorado Springs, and last month, he and his wife held their wedding there.
“This space is really the only place in Colorado Springs where the LGBTQ+ community can come together and be themselves,” she said. “Our safety as gay people in Colorado Springs is now in question. I am afraid of being myself as a trans man in this community.”
Saturday’s attack fell on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is celebrated to honor the lives of transgender people lost to violence and hatred against them, and remembers the Pulse massacre in Orlando, in which a attacker killed 49 people at gay nightclub six years ago.
Pulse owner Barbara Poma told WABNEWS’s Kate Bolduan that when she heard about the Colorado Springs shooting, her first thought was “no, again.”
On June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire at the Florida nightclub, killing 49 people at the popular LGBTQ venue’s Latino night in one of the worst mass shootings in US history.
For people in the LGBTQ community, such violence in these spaces is “like home invasion, and it’s something people don’t recover from,” he said.
Years after the massacre, the owner of the Pulse nightclub laments that not much has changed.
Suspected Club Q shooter Anderson Aldrich, 22, faces hate crime and murder charges, court documents show. Colorado enacted its hate crime legislation last year.
“I think it’s fair to say, based on the facts, that it’s very difficult to conceive of a situation where the motive was not generated by hate,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser Weiser told “WABNEWS This Morning.” .
“This was a well-known nightclub that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the LGBTQ community, knew it was a safe place, a place where they could be authentic. And someone came along and took all of that away,” Weiser said Monday.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay governor, ordered flags to be lowered at half-staff at all public buildings in the state for five days to honor the five victims of Club Q. The Pride flag it will also fly at the state Capitol during the same period, he told Jim Acosta. from WABNEWS. on Sunday.
Alex Gallagher was driving home from Club Q when he received a call from a friend who had been hiding outside the club during the shooting.
“There were shots, people screaming. It was just horrible,” he told WABNEWS. “He was crying, he was angry, he was confused… because this person was doing this,” he said.
And he is “fed up” with violence toward the LGBTQ community, he said.
“We will not tolerate this hate anymore. We are tired [de] being left out and harassed and hurt and killed because people just don’t like the way we are,” he said. “We are not going to be excluded,” she said. “We’re going to be here no matter what they do.”
WABNEWS’s Melissa Alonso and Jennifer Marnowski contributed to this report.