(WABNEWS) — Michael Anderson was making drinks at Club Q in Colorado Springs Saturday night when he heard pops amid loud, blaring music.
At first he didn’t care. The explosions resembled some popular sound effects at LGBTQ clubs, the bartender told WABNEWS’s Don Lemon. He then looked up and a figure appeared on his horizon, wielding a weapon.
“I saw the silhouette of a man with a rifle at the entrance of the club,” he said.RELATED
Confused and suddenly terrified, he ducked behind the bar. Around him there was a chaotic mix of gunshots, screams and breaking glass.
“Crystals started flying everywhere around me,” he said. “I realized that this was happening in real life, to me and my friends… I was afraid that I would not make it out of that club alive. I have never prayed so sincerely and promptly in my life as at that moment.”
Anderson kept her head down until the gunfire stopped, then ran out of the building to safety. Others did not.
Colorado Springs police said they received the first 911 call at 11:56 p.m. In less than a minute, they had dispatched officers to the nightclub. At 12:02 a.m., the shooter was in custody.
six minutes. Some people stuck in Club Q said it seemed like forever.
Those agonizing minutes left five people dead: Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, Derrick Rump and Raymond Green Vance. Another 19 were injured.
In those six minutes, the club’s reputation as a safe haven for LGBTQ people in Colorado Springs was shattered. The attack stunned the community and was reminiscent of the 2016 massacre that left 49 dead at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando.
He was ordering a drink when he was shot
Club Q is located on a busy commercial street in suburban Colorado Springs, surrounded by shopping malls and apartment complexes. Nearby there is a Walgreen’s, a Subway, a bowling alley and a mobile phone repair shop.
It is a very fun place, with frequent drag shows and funny names for dishes, such as the “Gayoli Fries,” French fries smothered in garlic aioli, and the “Death by Rainbow Flight,” a caramel-flavored six-shot. “No one has fun like Club Q,” reads the club’s Facebook page.
That same night, the club had had a punk-themed drag show put on by an artist named Del Lusional. Next, a DJ started playing. A promotional flyer for the club promised to “dance until 2am”. Admission was $7.
The first shots rang out shortly before midnight.
Ed Sanders, 63, was ordering a drink at the bar when the bullets struck him.
It all happened so fast that he barely realized what was happening until he was shot again, this time in the leg, he told WABNEWS in an interview from a nearby hospital.
“I got hit in the back, and I turned around and saw him (the attacker), and it was very fast,” Sanders said. “The second bullet hit me in the leg and I went down. Everybody went down, more or less.”
Next to him, on the ground, was an injured woman.
“I put my coat on him. He was shaking and not breathing very well,” he said. Sanders remembers hearing people trying to help other shooting victims with tourniquets.
He fled to the dressing room, turned off the lights and called 911.
Past the bar and down a ramp, Club Q regular Joshua Thurman was on the dance floor when he heard what sounded like gunshots.
I thought it was the music Thurman told reporters the next morning. “I didn’t hear any screaming or anything like that.” So she kept dancing.
But then Thurman said he heard another round of gunshots.
“I turned around and I didn’t see the gun… but the light coming from the gun,” he said. The muzzle flashes continued, followed by more popping sounds.
Thurman and another patron ran to the club’s dressing room, where they were met by a stripper. They closed the door, turned off the lights, got on the ground, and called 911.
“While we were on the phone telling the police to hurry up, we heard more shots, people screaming. I heard shots, glass breaking…” he told reporters before covering his face with his hands and sobbing.
Thurman said the few minutes in the locker room seemed like forever. He thought of his mother and all his loved ones, and prayed that he would make it out alive so that he could make amends for whoever he might have hurt.
“How, why? As a black guy, it’s taboo to be gay. This is one of the first places I’ve ever felt accepted for who I am,” he said of Club Q. “What are we supposed to do? do? Where are we supposed to go? How are we supposed to feel safe?”
He heard so many shots that he thought there were several attackers
Gil Rodríguez was in the club with his friend, Felicia Juvera, when the shots started. Juvera’s friend was working in the DJ booth.
Rodríguez told WABNEWS’s Erin Burnett that so many shots were fired that at first he thought there were multiple attackers.
“I remember the sounds. Honestly, I thought it was the music until I smelled the actual gunpowder,” Juvera told WABNEWS. “The smell is what got to me.”